US unintentionally kills 62 Syrian troops in airstrike

After the US Air Force killed Syrian soldiers in an apparent operational mistake, Syria and Russia claimed it was proof the US government supports ISIS.

US fighter planes flying a counter-terrorism mission against Islamic State (ISIS) targets in Syria unintentionally struck Syrian troops on Saturday, killing 62 and wounding more than 100.

The Syrian military said the deadly airstrike hit an airbase in the city of Deir el-Zour that is surrounded by ISIS, allowing the Muslim terrorists to advance and overrun Syrian army positions in the area.

US Central Command said the strike was immediately halted “when coalition officials were informed by Russian officials that it was possible the personnel and vehicles targeted were part of the Syrian military.”

“Coalition forces would not intentionally strike a known Syrian military unit,” the US military statement said.

The Syrians called the strike a “serious and blatant attack on Syria and its military,” and “firm proof of the US support of Daesh,” using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.

A Syrian military spokesman stated the US airstrike destroyed three tanks, three infantry fighting vehicles, four mortars and an anti-aircraft gun. He said the ISIS advance on the base was stopped after Russian warplanes were called in to hit ISIS positions.

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The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) held an emergency meeting Saturday night at Russia’s request to discuss the airstrike.

US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said the US is investigating the incident and expressed regret over the loss of life.

She accused Russia of pulling “a stunt” that is “uniquely cynical and hypocritical” in calling for the emergency meeting, while never taking similar action to condemn Assad’s regime “for some of the most systematic atrocities we have seen in a generation.”

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said that in his decades as a diplomat he had “never seen such an extraordinary display of American heavy-handedness as we are witnessing today” and was “appalled” by Power’s remarks.

Churkin said the US airstrike put “a very big question mark” over the future of the fragile cease-fire agreement and its timing is “frankly suspicious” because it comes just two days before the US and Russia are supposed to implement an agreement on military coordination in Syria.

In Moscow, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova was quoted by the state news agency TASS as saying that “after today’s attack on the Syrian army, we come to the terrible conclusion that the White House is defending the Islamic State.” Power said the Russian spokeswoman should be “embarrassed” for making such an insinuation.

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The Syrian Foreign Ministry said it sent an urgent message asking the Security Council to “condemn the US aggression.”

A senior Obama administration official said the United States has “relayed our regret” for the unintentional loss of life of Syrian forces through Russia.

The US-led coalition has carried out thousands of airstrikes against ISIS in Syria and Iraq over the past two years, allowing allied forces on the ground to liberate several towns and cities from the Muslim terror group.

“The coalition will review this strike and the circumstances surrounding it to see if any lessons can be learned,” the US Central Command statement said.

The cease-fire took effect on Monday, and despite reports of violations, it has largely held.

Syria’s conflict has killed more than 300,000 people and displaced half the country’s population since March 2011.

By: World Israel News Staff
AP contributed to this report.