Russian, US tensions flare as coalition forces bomb Syrian Army, killing dozens of Putin backed forces
Syria’s army general command said the strike was “conclusive evidence” that the US and its allies support the Islamic State jihadist organization.
BEIRUT/MOSCOW – US-led coalition air strikes killed dozens of Syrian soldiers on Saturday, Russia and a monitoring group said, putting a US-Russian brokered ceasefire in jeopardy and prompting an emergency UN Security Council meeting.
The United States military said the coalition stopped the attacks against what it had believed to be Islamic State positions in northeast Syria after Russia informed it that Syrian military personnel and vehicles may have been hit.
A US military official said he was “pretty sure” targets mistakenly hit in the strikes were Syrian forces.
Russia called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council after the incident, and diplomats said the 15-member body was due to meet behind closed doors at 7:30 p.m. ET (2330 GMT).
Moscow cited the strikes, which allowed Islamic State fighters to briefly overrun a Syrian army position near Deir al-Zor airport, as evidence that the United States was helping the jihadist militants.
“We are reaching a really terrifying conclusion for the whole world: That the White House is defending Islamic State. Now there can be no doubts about that,” the RIA Novosti news agency quoted Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova as saying.
She said the strikes threatened to undermine the ceasefire in Syria brokered by Russia, which has been aiding Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in the civil war, and the United States, which has backed some rebel groups.
The Russian Defence Ministry said US jets had killed more than 60 Syrian soldiers in four air strikes by two F-16s and two A-10s coming from the direction of Iraq.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based monitoring group with contacts across Syria, cited a military source at Deir al-Zor airport as saying at least 80 Syrian soldiers had been killed.
The ceasefire, which took effect on Monday, is the most significant peacemaking effort in Syria for months, but has been undermined by repeated accusations of violations on both sides and by a failure to bring humanitarian aid to besieged areas.
Apart from the US and Russian involvement, Assad is supported by Iran and Arab Shi’ite militias, while Sunni rebels seeking
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