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7 kids among 16 dead in US-led strike on last Syrian holdout of IS

7 kids among 16 dead in US-led strike on last Syrian holdout of IS

AFP
Beirut
US-led coalition air strikes on the last militant pocket in Syria on Monday killed 16 civilians, including at least seven children, a war monitor said.
Eight women and one elderly man were also among the civilians killed while trying to flee towards the Iraqi border, said Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The coalition was not immediately available for comment, but has repeatedly said it does its utmost to avoid targeting civilians.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Saturday announced the final push to expel hundreds of diehard militants from their last patch of territory in eastern Syria on the Iraq border.
The SDF estimates that up to 600 IS fighters could still remain inside, most of them foreigners.
Nineteen IS fighters were killed in clashes with the SDF on Monday, the monitor said.
The Kurdish-led force lost nine fighters during battles with militants, the Observatory said.
The US-led coalition maintained a steady beat of bombings on the last IS pocket on Monday after an early morning IS counterattack caused several SDF casualties.
“IS launched a counterattack on our forces and we are now responding with rockets, air strikes and direct clashes,” SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali said. The sound of bombs echoed dozens of kilometres (miles) away and columns of dark grey smoke could be seen from SDF territory.
Bali said there were “dozens of SDF hostages held by IS” inside their last foothold, but denied reports of executions. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, said the alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters had pressed on Monday morning in the face of tough obstacles.
“The SDF are advancing slowly in what remains of the IS pocket” on the edges of the village of Baghouz, Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.
But landmines, IS snipers, and tunnels the extremists have dug out for their defence are hindering the advance, he said.
Backed by coalition air strikes, the SDF alliance has been battling to oust the militants from the eastern province of Deir Ezzor since September.
Since December, tens of thousands of people, most women and children related to IS fighters, have fled to SDF territory.
US-backed forces have screened the new arrivals, weeding out potential militants for questioning.
On Monday, dozens of coalition and SDF fighters were stationed at a screening point for new arrivals from IS areas.
Coalition forces stood over about 20 men who were crouching on the ground.
Some 600 people were able to reach SDF territory on Sunday after fleeing the fighting, the Observatory said.

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