BEIRUT: The Syrian regime has protested to the UN about an airstrike by the US-led coalition against Daesh which it said killed 26 civilians in Hajjin in the eastern Deir Ezzor region, pro-Assad media reported on Saturday.
Asked about reports of airstrikes in that area on Friday, the coalition’s spokesman said it had “successfully struck and destroyed a Daesh observation post and staging area in Hajjin, void of civilians at the time.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 41 people, including 17 children, had been killed in two waves of coalition airstrikes on Friday in Hajjin and the nearby village of Al-Shafa on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River.
It said the casualties were mostly Iraqi and family members of Daesh fighters.
The coalition is supporting the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in an attempt to defeat Daesh in the area it controls near the border with Iraq.
Syrian regime media said the Foreign Ministry had written to the UN secretary general and the president of the security council about “the crime” in Hajjin.
Col. Sean Ryan, the coalition spokesman, said: “Our team looks into all strikes to determine the credibility of any civilian casualty claims they see in open media.”
The Observatory said earlier that militants had killed at least eight Syrian regime troops near a planned buffer zone around the country’s last major rebel bastion.
The Observatory said the attack took place late on Friday in the north of Hama province near the planned buffer zone around opposition-held territory in neighboring Idlib.
The attack was led by fighters of Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, an alliance led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda branch which is the dominant force in Idlib, the monitoring group said.
“An assault by HTS targeted a Syrian regime position on the outskirts of the de-militarized zone” and was followed by clashes in which eight regime forces were killed, Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said. Two militants also died.
The de-militarized zone was announced by Ankara and Moscow in September to separate regime troops from rebel fighters in Idlib and adjacent areas.
Under the deal, the militants were supposed to have removed all heavy weapons from the buffer zone by Oct. 10 but skirmishes have continued to pit regime forces against militants and other insurgents on the ground.
Aid organizations had warned that a fully-fledged offensive on Idlib could spark the worst humanitarian catastrophe of the civil war so far.
Militant factions have said they withdrew their heavy weapons from the zone but HTS and other hard-line groups have refused to pull out their fighters.
The deadly militant assault came hours after regime troops killed 23 fighters of a formerly US-backed group inside the planned buffer zone.
On Sunday, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said they were resuming their offensive against Daesh in eastern Syria.
The (SDF), joint Arab-Kurdish units, had announced a suspension to their operation on Oct. 31 after Turkey shelled Kurdish militia posts in northern Syria.
The SDF said the resumption followed “intensive contacts” with the international coalition.