More than 100 civilians are reported to have been killed after a U.S.-led airstrike on a school in northern Syria, according to local reporters and activists. The international coalition said it will investigate the reports.
The airstrike happened on early Tuesday morning in the village of Al-Tokhar near the city of Manbij, some 83 kilometers (51 miles) northeast of Aleppo. It reportedly struck a school in which internally displaced people were taking shelter.
Multiple sources reported a large number of casualties as a result of Tuesday’s airstrike, though it was not possible to independently verify a specific figure. Footage shared by Syrian journalists and activists showed a number of bodies, many of them women and children.
A local journalist on the ground told the ‘Syria Direct’ news website that at least 124 people had been killed in the airstrike, while Syrian journalist Moussa al-Omar reported that at least 140 people had been killed. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, meanwhile, said at least 56 civilians were killed.
A statement from the U.S.-led Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) said it was aware of the reports and promised to investigate the allegations, but other details were not provided. Spokespersons for both the coalition and the U.S. Department of Defense declined to comment when asked whether it had carried out an airstrike in the Al-Tokhar area on Tuesday morning.
“We are aware of reports alleging civilian casualties in the area. As with any allegation we receive, we will review any information we have about the incident, including information provided by third parties, such as the proximity of the location to CJTF airstrikes, and any other relevant information presented,” the coalition said.
It added: “If the information supporting the allegation is determined to be credible, we will then determine the next appropriate step. We take all measures during the targeting process to avoid or minimize civilian casualties or collateral damage and to comply with the principles of the Law of Armed Conflict.”
Amnesty International expressed alarm over the reports, urging the coalition to redouble its efforts to prevent civilian deaths and to investigate possible violations of international humanitarian law. It also cited other U.S.-led airstrikes in the same area that have reportedly caused civilian casualties.
“The bombing of al-Tukhar may have resulted in the largest loss of civilian life by coalition operations in Syria,” said Magdalena Mughrabi of Amnesty International. “There must be a prompt, independent and transparent investigation to determine what happened, who was responsible, and how to avoid further needles loss of civilian life.”
Amnesty International said it believes that no fewer than 60 civilians were killed in the U.S.-led airstrikes on al-Tokhar. “Anyone responsible for violations of international humanitarian law must be brought to justice and victims and their families should receive full reparation,” Mughrabi added.
In the last few days, the international coalition has carried out dozens of airstrikes in the Manbij area, which has been occupied by the Islamic State (ISIS) group. In Tuesday’s daily summary, the coalition reported that it carried out 18 airstrikes near Manbij on Monday.
The international coalition has acknowledged only a small number of civilian deaths as a result of its airstrikes in Syria and Iraq, but monitors believe the true figure is in the hundreds. The vast majority of airstrikes are carried out by the United States.
“Amnesty International has reviewed available information on dozens of suspected coalition airstrikes and found that in the majority of cases in which civilian casualties have been credibly reported, the coalition has dismissed the claims,” Amnesty International said in a statement on Tuesday.
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