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Daesh kills 45 pro-regime fighters in east Syria assault — monitor

By AFP - Jun 05,2018 - Last updated at Jun 05,2018

Vehicles from the US-led coalition battling the Daesh group patrol the town of Rmelane in Syria’s Hasakeh province on Tuesday (AFP photo)

BEIRUT — An offensive by the Daesh militant group in eastern Syria has left at least 45 pro-regime fighters dead, a monitoring group said on Tuesday.

Daesh fighters launched the operation on Sunday against Euphrates Valley villages seized last year by government forces and their allies, and have retaken four of them, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The villages are located on the road between the provincial capital of Deir Ezzor and the city of Albu Kamal, which lies further south on the border with Iraq.

Near those villages is the small town of Hajin, the single largest populated hub still under the control of Daesh extremists.

Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said at least 26 Daesh fighters were also killed since “fierce” fighting started on Sunday.

He said there had not yet been any intervention by Russian aircraft supporting pro-government forces in the area.

The observatory said the casualties on the pro-regime side were mostly fighters from Shiite militias present in the area, including groups from Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon’s Hizbollah.

The small pockets controlled by Daesh in that area are the last dregs of the sprawling self-styled caliphate the group proclaimed over large parts of Syria and Iraq in 2014.

A series of victories by Russian-backed regime troops and US-backed Kurdish forces have shattered the caliphate, but thousands of surviving militants are holding out in remote parts of the Euphrates Valley.

Separately on Tuesday, an air strike on an area in northeastern Syria still held by Daesh killed at least 11 civilians, the observatory said. 

The Britain-based monitor said the strike was conducted early on Monday in the south of Hasakeh province by the US-led coalition, which has been battling Daesh militants in the region since 2014.

There was no immediate confirmation by the coalition of the strike, the latest in a series to have reportedly caused civilian casualties in the area in recent weeks.

The strike “resulted in the death of 11 civilians, including five children”, observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP. “The bodies were only pulled out on Tuesday due to continuous bombardment.”

He said the area targeted was near the village of Jizaa, one of the very last pockets still controlled by Daesh in eastern Syria’s Euphrates Valley.

Kurdish-dominated forces backed by the US-led coalition are spearheading the ground offensive in the area.

The observatory, which relies on a network of sources inside Syria, says it determines whose planes carried out raids according to type, location, flight patterns and munitions used.

The coalition assesses some reports of civilian deaths resulting from its air strikes, and releases updated figures on the casualties it admits to often weeks or months later.

On Friday, the coalition admitted to nine more civilian deaths over a period of a year, bringing the total since the start of its intervention in Iraq and Syria to 892.

Monitoring group Airwars says the number acknowledged by the coalition is well below the true toll of the bombing campaign, estimating that at least 6,259 civilians have lost their lives in both countries.

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