An emergency U.N. Security Council meeting was conducted later on Saturday after the U.S.-led coalition airstrikes reportedly killed dozens of Assad regime’s soldiers near Deir Ezzor in Syria.
U.S.-led coalition jets bombed a position for Assad regime forces at Jebel Tharda near Deir Ezzor airport on Saturday, killing dozens of Assad regime’s soldiers, Russia and a war monitor said, paving the way for Islamic State to briefly overrun it.
The strike was in an area the coalition had attacked in the past, and coalition members had informed their Russian counterparts before it began, the U.S. military’s Central Command said in a statement.
“Coalition forces believed they were striking ISIS (Islamic State) fighting position that they had been tracking for a significant amount of time before the strike,” Tampa, Florida-based Central Command said in its statement.
The defense ministry in Russia said U.S. jets had killed more than 60 Assad regime’s soldiers in four air strikes by two F-16s and two A-10s coming from the direction of Iraq.
Russia’s Defence Ministry said that if the coalition bombing was a mistake, it was evidence of Washington’s “stubborn refusal” to coordinate its actions with Russia’s government.
Assad regime’s army general command said in a statement that the air strike was “conclusive evidence” of U.S. support for Islamic State, noting that the strike was “dangerous and blatant aggression”.
Islamic State said in a statement on its Amaq news channel that it had gained “complete control” over Jebel Tharda but both Syrian state television and Russian state media said the positions lost to the militant group were later recaptured.
The U.S. military, in an apparent admission that it may have hit the position, said in a statement that coalition air strikes near Deir Ezzor had been halted when Russia told coalition officials they may have hit the Assad regime’s forces.
US is defending ISIS
The United States relayed its “regret” through the Russian government for what it described as the unintentional loss of life of Syrian forces in the strike, a senior Obama administration official said in an emailed statement.
Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said in an emailed statement that Russian officials did not voice concerns earlier on Saturday when informed that coalition aircraft would be operating in the strike area.
The 15-member Security Council met on Saturday night after Russia demanded an emergency session to discuss the incident and accused the United States of jeopardizing the Syria deal.
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, chastised Russia for the move.
“Russia really needs to stop the cheap point scoring and the grandstanding and the stunts and focus on what matters, which is implementation of something we negotiated in good faith with them,” Power told reporters.
She said the United States was investigating the air strikes and “if we determine that we did indeed strike Syrian military personnel, that was not our intention and we of course regret the loss of life.”
When asked if the incident spelled the end of the Syria deal between Moscow and Washington, Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said: “This is a very big question mark.”
“I would be very interested to see how Washington is going to react. If what Ambassador Power has done today is any indication of their possible reaction then we are in serious trouble,” Churkin told reporters.
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.
Power said Zakharova should be embarrassed by that claim. Churkin said Russia had no “specific evidence” of the United States colluding with Islamic State militants.
Zakharova said the strikes threatened to undermine the ceasefire in Syria brokered by Russia, which has been aiding Bashar al-Assad in the civil war, and the United States, which has backed some rebel groups.
Under the ceasefire agreement, made by US and Russia who back opposing sides in the five-year-old war, a nationwide truce from sundown on Monday was promised,as well as improved access for humanitarian aid and joint military targeting of hardline Islamist groups.
The Syrian crisis began as a peaceful demonstration against the injustice in Syria. Assad regime used to fire power and violence against the civilians and led to armed resistance. 450.000 Syrians lost their lives in the past five years according to UN estimates, and more than 12 million have lost their homes. Syria