ntiWar.com & Reuters & Al Jazeera America – 2016-01-18 01:35:51
Syrian Observatory: 40 Civilians Killed
In Strikes on ISIS Capital of Raqqa
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(January 17, 2016) — The civilian death toll of the ISIS war continues to rise precipitously, with a series of Saturday airstrikes against the ISIS caliphate’s capital city of Raqqa having killed at least 40 civilians, including eight children, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Initial reports on Saturday put the death toll of the strikes at 16, with a large number wounded, after the airstrikes hit a number of shops and restaurants in the business district. The observatory raised the toll today, suggesting many of the wounded didn’t survive.
As of yet there are no indications if the airstrikes were launched by the US or Russia, as neither has mentioned such strikes in their daily accounting of the attacks. Some rebel groups were quick to blame Russia, though there’s been no confirmation.
It is not uncommon for both Russia and the US coalition to deny responsibility when they do kill civilians, and that means in all likelihood neither is going to be quick to admit to the weekend attacks. The civilian death toll in the air war is growing significantly in recent months, with both sides looking to get more aggressive against ISIS.
Monitor: Death Toll from Air Strikes
In Syrian City of Raqqa Reaches 40
BEIRUT (January 17, 2016) — The death toll from Saturday’s air strikes on the Syrian city of Raqqa, de facto capital of the Islamic State group, has risen to 40 civilians, including eight children, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Sunday.
The group, which monitors the conflict in Syria through a wide network of local sources, said it remained unclear whether the warplanes which carried out the strikes were Russian or from the U.S.-led coalition.
The Observatory, which on Saturday had put the death toll from the strikes at 16 people, said they had hit shops and small restaurants in Raqqa.
Russian Strikes Blamed for Deaths in Syria’s Raqqa
Activists say children among more than 40 killed in ISIL stronghold, a day after reports of massacre in Deir Az Zor
Diana Al Rifai / Al Jazeera America
(January 17, 2016) — At least 42 people have been killed in suspected Russian air strikes in Syria’s Raqqa province, activists and a monitoring group say.
Raqqa, a city that currently has at least 300,000 residents, became a stronghold of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group and its self-declared capital in early 2014.
“The areas targeted by the Russian air strikes on Saturday were mostly residential areas and not for ISIL,” Ghareb al-Omawi, a media activist from the Sound and Picture group, told Al Jazeera on Sunday.
“Two hospitals were also hit in the air strikes in addition to public places. Several people were also injured and have been taken to hospitals in the suburbs.”
Sound and Picture comprises activists who document and report on the situation in Raqqa and Deir Az Zor. They also provide images and infographics on the humanitarian situation on the ground.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at 40, adding that eight of those killed were children. Restaurants and shops were targeted in the air strikes, the monitor said.
Russia’s official news agency, TASS, did not mention or report on these air strikes, but did release a statement that says at least 5,662 sorties on ISIL targets in the Middle East.
“Since September 30, the Russian Aerospace Forces in Syria have made 5,622 sorties, including 145 sorties made by strategic missile and long-range bomber aviation, the Russian military have also carried out 97 launches of sea-based and air-based missiles,” Sergei Rudskoy, of the Russian general staff, said on Friday.
In another development, ISIL has been accused of carrying out a massacre in Syrian government-held districts in the eastern city of Deir Az Zor, with the Syrian Observatory saying that more than 130 people were killed.
It said on Saturday that at least 80 of those killed were pro-government militia members and the rest were civilians when ISIL reportedly captured the northern suburb of al-Baghaliyeh.
The Syrian Observatory said at least 400 civilians, including families of pro-government fighters, were abducted. Sound and Picture, however, denied that 400 civilians were taken and could only document the abduction of 15 civilians.
ISIL ‘Massacre’ Reported in Syria’s Deir Az Zor
Reports say hundreds of people, including pro-government fighters and their families, have been abducted or killed
Al Jazeera America
(January 17, 2016) — The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group has been accused of carrying out a massacre in Syrian government-held districts in the eastern city of Deir Az Zor with a monitoring group saying more than 130 people were killed.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday that at least 80 of those killed were pro-government militiamen and the rest were civilians, as the armed group captured the northern suburb of al-Baghaliyeh.
The Observatory added that at least 400 civilians, including families of pro-government fighters, were abducted. “There is genuine fear for their lives, there is a fear that the group might execute them as it has done before in other areas,” said the Observatory’s head Rami Abdurrahman.
The state news agency SANA said ISIL fighters committed “a massacre”, killing “around 300 civilians, most of them women, children, and elderly people” in Baghaliyeh. The reports could not be independently confirmed.
The advance in the northern tip of Deir Az Zor puts ISIL in control of about 60 percent of the city with the regime holding the rest, according to the observatory, which monitors violence in Syria through a wide network of local sources. The monitor also said Russian warplanes were carrying out heavy air strikes in support of Syrian forces as they sought to repel the fighters.
Deir Az Zor is the capital of the oil-rich province with the same name. The province links ISIL’s de facto capital in the Syrian city of Raqqa with territory controlled by the group in neighbouring Iraq.
The Syrian conflict started as a largely peaceful uprising against President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011, but morphed into a full-blown civil war that has killed more than 250,000 people and turned about 4.3 million others into refugees, according to the UN.
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