An airstrike by the United States-led coalition killed at least 56 civilians Tuesday north of the besieged Islamic State group-held city of Manbij in northern Syria, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a report.
The group said the strike, which killed at least 11 children, targeted a group of civilians who were fleeing the fighting around the city between the multi-ethnic Syria Democratic Forces, or SDF, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, and fighters with the extremist group.
The SDF had launched an offensive to retake Manbij city late May with backing by the U.S. coalition. So far, the SDF has surrounded and fought their way into parts of the city, but the Islamic State group attacks still occur in some areas of the surrounding countryside.
The monitoring group said the U.S. coalition planes may have “mistaken” the civilians for fighters of the Islamic State group.
Also Monday, 21 people were killed in raids believed to have been conducted by U.S.-led coalition aircraft on Manbij's northern Hazawneh quarter.
The Observatory said at least 160 civilians have died from airstrikes since the start of the Manbij offensive in late May.
Colonel Chris Garver, a spokesman for the U.S. coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, refused to admit the killings by his aircrafts and added that he was looking into reports of civilian deaths but was being "extraordinarily careful to make sure" airstrikes were killing extremists fighters.
Meanwhile, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights recently voiced concern for the roughly 70,000 civilians believed to be trapped between warring parties in Manbij.
"Civilians have ... reportedly been killed if they leave their homes or attempt to flee. Families are unable to access local cemeteries to bury their relatives who have died or been killed, and are burying them in their gardens or keeping the corpses in bunkers," Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said.
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