Syria activists: Strikes kill at least 20 near IS stronghold

Syria activists: Strikes kill at least 20 near IS stronghold

BEIRUT — At least 20 civilians, including some children, were killed in suspected U.S.-coalition airstrikes on a village east of the Islamic State group’s de-facto capital in Syria, activists reported Thursday.

The report comes as the militants come under mounting pressure by rival U.S.-backed and Russian-backed forces working to seize the capital, Raqqa.

Also on Thursday, engineers restored two water pumping stations that feed water to the country’s largest city, Aleppo, in territory captured by the Syrian government from IS militants this week, state media reported.

Aleppo, once Syria’s industrial capital, suffered for years from severe water shortages as the government and opposition fighters contested the city and the Islamic State group controlled its upstream source — the pumping stations at the town of Khafseh on the Euphrates River.

Pro-government forces defeated the rebels in the city just before the new year and took Khafseh from IS militants earlier this week.

Residents in Aleppo have depended on wells and water deliveries arranged by the government, charities and the U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF.

Imad al-Khal, 64, a resident of al-Aziziyeh neighbourhood in Aleppo, told The Associated Press that municipal water hasn’t reached her home in nine weeks.

In the area east of Raqqa, the activist group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently reported at least 20 civilians were killed in airstrikes Wednesday night on Matab Village.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, however, said the strikes occurred before dawn Tuesday and killed 23 people, including eight children.

It was not possible to reconcile the two accounts — the Islamic State group maintains a tight grip on communications from its territory. The Observatory and RBSS get their information from closely guarded local contacts.

Russian and Syrian aircraft are not known to operate in the area, according to the Observatory. The group said U.S.-led coalition aircraft were believed to behind the attack.

The coalition did not confirm the strikes and there was no immediate indication which nation’s aircraft were involved.

U.S. officials said Wednesday that a couple hundred Marines have deployed into Syria with heavy artillery guns, as part of preparations for the fight to oust IS from Raqqa.


Associated Press writer Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria contributed to this report.

Philip Issa, The Associated Press

Canadian Press