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Syria: Nearly 40 civilians killed in Russian air raid

Ⓒ AFP – Ayham al-Mohammad – | Syrians from Deir Ezzor, the last province controlled almost entirely by the Islamic State group, where the IA recently imposed compulsory recruitment, in a camp for displaced people near Aricha, on 13 August 2017

Nearly 40 civilians, including women and children, died Wednesday in a Russian air raid in Syria as they attempted to cross a river to flee the fighting in Deir Ezzor province, an NGO said.

The forces of the Bashar al-Assad regime, supported by the Russian Air Force, are currently engaged in the west of the province of Deir Ezzor, diagonally cut by the Euphrates, where they seek to take over from the Islamic State (EI) the eponymous capital.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH), thirty-eight civilians, including nine children, were killed in the raid as they attempted to cross the Euphrates river from west to east on barges. An Iraqi family is among the victims.

A previous report found 20 dead.

Deir Ezzor province in eastern Syria borders Iraq and Iraqis have found refuge there after fleeing fighting against the IA in their country.

The 38 civilians killed in the Russian raid sought to flee the fierce fighting between regime forces and jihadists, added the OSDH.

The NGO uses sources that identify the perpetrators of air strikes according to the type of aircraft, their location and the type of ammunition used.

The Russian army has been repeatedly accused of causing civilian casualties in its strikes, but it regularly denies, targeting “terrorists”, in reference to jihadists.

In addition to the regime’s forces, an alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters, backed by Washington’s international coalition aircraft, is conducting an offensive against the jihadists in Deir Ezzor province, but on the eastern bank of the Euphrates.

According to the OSDH, hundreds of civilians perished in the EI offensive in Deir Ezzor and Raqa, a north-western town, the scene of an offensive by the Arab-Kurdish alliance.

On Tuesday, the NGO claimed that 18 civilians were killed in raids by the international coalition in Raqa.

At the end of September, the coalition acknowledged that it was responsible for the deaths of 735 civilians in strikes in Syria and neighboring Iraq since 2014, claiming to do everything possible to avoid civilian casualties. But organizations consider this figure largely underestimated.

Initiated in 2011 by government repression of peaceful protests, the conflict in Syria has become more complex with the involvement of foreign countries and jihadist groups in an increasingly fragmented territory. It has caused more than 330,000 deaths and millions of displaced and refugees.

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