Civilian casualties mount as Kurdish forces resume IS offensive in eastern Syria

Civilian casualties mount as Kurdish forces resume IS offensive in eastern Syria
A US-backed Kurdish-led militia has resumed their offensive against the Islamic State group in eastern Syria.
3 min read
13 November, 2018
Syrian Kurdish women mourn SDF fighters killed by IS in Deir ez-Zour [Getty]
Seven civilians were killed and others injured after a car bomb exploded north of Deir az-Zour town in eastern Syria on Monday.

It follows an escalation in fighting since a Kurdish-led militia resumed their offensive against the Islamic State group in Syria's eastern province.

News network Deir az-Zour 24 reported that a device strapped to a car exploded in the village of Maizila, north of Deir az-Zour town.

The owner of the vehicle was not identified, but it is suspected that IS carried out the attack, who have a lingering presence in the desert region.

Ten IS members were killed in an airstrike by the US-led international coalition, which targeted a truck transporting members of the organisation in rural Deir az-Zour province near al-Tanak oil field, according to sources from the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), also known as al-Qasd militia.

The US-backed SDF announced on Sunday that its military operations against IS in the town of Hajin and the surrounding areas were being resumed, after a month-long pause due to Turkish bombardments on the areas north of the Euphrates river.

The group said the Turkish shelling was jeopardising its efforts to defeat IS, which are surrounded in a small patch of desert in Syria's east.

The SDF said in a statement that the decision to resume the fighting came after threats from Turkey against the Kurdish-led force dropped following diplomatic efforts to end the crisis.

The SDF has been targeting the villages of Hajin and al-Shaafa, part of a last pocket under IS control in Syria's southeastern corner near the border with Iraq.

Reports from the IS' Amaq news agency and Syrian state media said that a coalition airstrike on Sunday night al-Shaafa and Kashba east of Deir az-Zour killed dozens of civilians, however, these reports have not been verified by independent media outlets.

US-led coalition airstrikes on the Hajin and Al-Shaafa killed 26 civilians, including 14 children on Friday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The civilians are thought to have been family members of IS militants.

"Twenty-six IS family members including 14 children and 9 women were killed in coalition air strikes on Friday morning on the town of Hajin," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The coalition bombing forms part of its support for the SDF to oust the remaining members of the organisation in Hajin and its surrounding districts.

Four SDF fighters were also killed in attack in Manbij in Aleppo province early Tuesday morning, which IS claimed responsibility.

Meanwhile, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the hardline rebel group present in Idlib province, claimed it killed ten pro-Assad forces who launched an offensive on their territories in northwestern Syria.

Syrian regime forces are threatening to begin a large-scale military operation on rebel-held northern Hama and southern Idlib in the coming days, according to Russian government media.

"If the attacks continue on our sites, we will start military action in the next few days," the source told pro-Moscow Sputnik news.

A planned regime offensive on Idlib province earlier this year was averted following diplomatic efforts by Turkey - a supporter of the rebels - and Russia, a key ally of President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Agencies contributed to this report.