Women and children among victims of US strikes near town of Abu Kamal, close to Iraqi border



Syria’s Opposition — Russian Attacks Overtake Those of Assad Regime

US-led airstrikes have killed at least 30 people in eastern Syria, according to residents and activists.

The witnesses said women and children were among the casualties near the town of Abu Kamal in Deir ez-Zor Province.

Coalition spokesman Colonel John Dorrian confirmed that airstrikes were carried out in the area, but said he could not “confirm the veracity of allegations of civilian casualties”.

He repeated the coalition line that it tries to avoid civilian deaths in bombing of the Islamic State in Syria and neighboring Iraq.

The US military has stepped up its strikes on ISIS and anti-Assad factions this year, with the death toll of both fighters and civilians soaring. In other incidents, scores of people were killed near Tabqa in Raqqa Province, 56 were slain in attacks on a mosque in western Aleppo Province, and about 125 fighters died in a raid on a base in northwest Syria. The Americans have carried out a series of targeted assassinations with drone strikes on commanders and fighters in ISIS and anti-Assad groups.

Abu Kamal, the site on Monday’s attack, is an important transit point for ISIS between Iraq and its central position of Raqqa in northern Syria. It also shelters thousands of displaced Syrian civilians.

An activist with relatives in the town said at least three homes were flattened in the residential Hay al Masriya district. At least 30 people, mostly women and children from six families, were killed.

A former resident of the town gave a similar figure and said it was likely to rise because of those critically injured.

There were more casualties in raids on several villages near Abu Kamal.

TOP PHOTO: Building destroyed by US-led airstrikes on Abu Kamal on Monday

France: We’ll Provide Proof of Assad Regime’s Chemical Attack on Khan Sheikhoun

Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault says France# will soon produce proof of the Assad regime’s responsibility for the deadly chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun in northwest Syria on April 4.

“We have elements that will allow us to show that the regime knowingly used chemical weapons,” Ayrault said. “In a few days I will be able to bring you the proof.”

The statement on French TV follow British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson’s declaration to Parliament of conclusive evidence that “the Assad regime almost certainly gassed its own people in breach of international law and the rules of war” (see earlier entry).

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons confirmed in its meeting on Wednesday that bio-medical samples from three victims during autopsies and seven in hospitals indicated exposure “to sarin or a sarin-like substance”.

Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü said, “While further details of the laboratory analyses will follow, the analytical results already obtained are incontrovertible.”

Last Rebels Leave Zabadani Under “4 Towns” Deal

The remaining rebels in besieged Zabadani, northwest of Damascus, have left the town as part of the “4 Towns” deal for removals.

About 500 fighters and residents left for northwest Syria. In return, another 3,000 militia and civilians were moved out of the regime enclaves of al-Fu’ah and Kafraya, north of Idlib city.

As they left, the fighters destroyed ammunition and equipment so they could not be captured by pro-Assad forces.

The 4 Towns deal, arranged after months of negotiations through the mediation of Qatar, provides for about 2,000 rebels and residents to leave Madaya and Zabadani, surrounded by the Syrian military and Hezbollah since July 2015. About 10,000 pro-Assad fighters and residents will be transferred out of the regime enclaves.

The deal has continued despite last Saturday’s bombing of a regime convoy, west of Aleppo city, which killed more than 100 people, many of them children. No group has claimed responsibility.

See Syria Daily, April 16: 100+ Killed in Bombing of Convoy Near Aleppo — Who Did It?

As residents left Zabadani, they left behind messages:

Explosion at Aleppo Funeral Kills 6, Wounds Dozens

Six people have been killed and dozens injured by an explosion during the funeral for a regime soldier in Aleppo city.

A pro-regime correspondent said the blast occurred in the Salaheddin district as mourners walked through one of the main streets. Another local correspondent said a man detonated a grenade.

5th Set of People Removed from al-Wa’er in Homs City

A fifth group of rebels and residents have been removed from al-Wa’er, the last opposition district in Homs city.

Buses took the group of 1,876 civilians and 250 fighters to camps near Jarablus on the Turkish border.

About 20,000 of the estimated 40,000 to 50,000 people in al-Wa’er, besieged and bombarded since 2013, are being removed under a deal brokered by the Russian military.

See Syria Photos: The Removal of the People of al-Wa’er


Report: 21 Russian Troops Killed in 2 Months

Reuters reports the deaths of 21 Russian troops and contracted personnel in Syria from January 29 to the end of March, amid the pro-Assad recapture from ISIS of the city of Palmyra.

The Russia Defense Ministry has only acknowledged five deaths in that period.

Most of those killed are omitted from the official tally, as they are classified as personnel for private military contractors.

Speaking with family members and local officials, Reuters established the deaths of three more private troops — Alexei Safonov, Vladimir Plutinsky, and Mikhail Nefedov.

The Defense Ministry issued a heated denial:

There have been no official data on the alleged casualties in a period of fighting for Palmyra. No such official data have ever been published or have ever existed in nature. Therefore, the entire story by the British news agency Reuters about the allegedly undeclared death toll is a set of letters to justify its own headline….

None of the names mentioned as those found by Britons from Reuters belong to Russian servicemen.

The Ministry said the article was an attempt to distract from the lack of evidence to establish the Assad regime’s chemical attack on northwest Syria two weeks ago, and concluded, “Beware of imitations!”

Opposition: Russian Attacks Overtake Those of Assad Regime

The Syrian opposition says Russian attacks have overtaken those of the Assad regime this week.

Now see separate feature Syria’s Opposition — Russian Attacks Overtake Those of Assad Regime

Foreign Secretary: UK Could Join US in Airstrikes on Assad’s Military

[UPDATE: According to the British delegation to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the OPCW director general, Ahmet Uzumcu, said results of the analysis of the attack on Khan Sheikhoun “indicate that sarin or a sarin-like substance was used.”]

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has said the UK could join the US in future airstrikes on the Assad regime, following the chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun in northwest Syria two weeks ago.

“It is my belief, though I stress no such decision has yet been taken, that were such a request to be made in future, were it to be a reasonable request in pursuit of similar objectives, then I think it would be very difficult for the United Kingdom to say no,” Johnson told Parliament.

The Foreign Secretary said a nerve agent had been used by the regime in the assault on Khan Sheikhoun that killed at least 93 people and wounded almost 600 two weeks ago.

We know beyond doubt that two Sukhoi-22 aircraft took off from Shayrat airfield where we know that chemical weapons are stored.

We know that they were overhead at 6.39am when according to all eyewitness accounts the attack took place.

We know from shell fragments in the crater that not only had sarin been used, but sarin carrying the specific chemical signature of sarin used by the Assad regime….

[There is] only one conclusion, that the Assad regime almost certainly gassed its own people in breach of international law and the rules of war.