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The US-led coalition has admitted its airstrikes in eastern Syria killed at least 62 Syrian troops fighting ISIS.

Russia and Syria said the strikes prove the United States and its allies are sympathetic to ISIS.

According to the Russian military, 62 Syrian soldiers were killed near Deir Ezzor Airport. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at 83 and said at least 120 soldiers were wounded.

The strike occurred September 17 in an eastern part of Syria that is not a part of a delicate and nearly week-old ceasefire. The US military said it was targeting ISIS militants and if it hit Syrian troops, it was an accident.

Hours after US-led coalition airstrikes, the US and Russian ambassadors to the United Nations chastised each other outside an emergency Security Council meeting.

The US said its planes had halted the attack in Deir al-Zour when informed of the Syrian presence.

Bashar al-Assad has raised the possibility of Germany acting as a mediator to try to end Syria's 30-month-long civil war

A spokesman for the US administration expressed “regret” for the “unintentional loss of life”.

The attack caused a bitter row between the US and Russia at the United Nations Security Council.

US envoy Samantha Power accused Russia of “pulling a stunt” by calling an emergency meeting of the council.

Samantha Power’s opposite number, Vitaliy Churkin, said he had never seen “such an extraordinary display of American heavy-handedness” as shown by Power.

The Russians earlier said the current ceasefire in Syria was in danger of collapse and the US would be to blame.

The cessation of hostilities does not include attacks by the US on ISIS or other jihadist groups.

The US Central Command statement said the coalition believed it was attacking positions of so-called Islamic State and the raids were “halted immediately when coalition officials were informed by Russian officials that it was possible the personnel and vehicles targeted were part of the Syrian military”.

It said the “Combined Air Operations Center had earlier informed Russian counterparts of the upcoming strike”.

It added: “Syria is a complex situation with various military forces and militias in close proximity, but coalition forces would not intentionally strike a known Syrian military unit. The coalition will review this strike and the circumstances surrounding it to see if any lessons can be learned.”

Russia’s defense ministry earlier said that if the US air strikes did turn out to be an error, it would be because of Washington’s refusal to co-ordinate military action with Moscow.

Only if the current ceasefire – which began on September 12 – holds for seven days, will the US and Russia begin co-ordinated action against the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham group, which was previously known as the al-Nusra Front, and ISIS.

The Russian defense ministry quoted a statement by Syrian army general command as saying that the four coalition air strikes on Syrian troops had allowed ISIS to advance.

The Russian foreign ministry said the attack had jeopardized the US-Russia agreement on Syria.

The Syrian statement said that the air strikes were “conclusive evidence” that the US and its allies supported the jihadist group.

There have been no confirmed cases of US air strikes targeting Syrian troops.

Twenty five Kurdish militants have been killed as Turkey continues to target Kurdish-held areas in Syria, near the border city of Jarablus, the Turkish military says.

However, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 20 people died in strikes on Jeb el-Kussa and another 15 were killed in a separate bombardment near al-Amarneh.

Four local fighters were also killed, the Observatory reported.

It is not yet clear whether the two reports relate to the same incident.

Photo Wikipedia

Photo Wikipedia

The strikes came on the fifth day of Turkey’s military operation to target ISIS militants and Kurdish militia inside Syria, dubbed Operation Euphrates Shield.

Speaking in Gaziantep, where ISIS militants killed 54 people at a Kurdish wedding last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said “operations against terrorist organizations will continue until the end”.

Turkish tanks and troops backed by Syrian rebels have captured territory from ISIS and clashed with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish militia supported by the United States, which is itself fighting ISIS.

On August 27, Turkey’s military suffered its first fatality of the offensive, when a soldier died in a tank hit by a rocket. Turkish authorities blamed Kurdish militia for the death.

Turkey has been targeting Kurdish-controlled villages around Jarablus, which Turkish-led forces captured from ISIS on the first day of the offensive.

It fears Kurdish fighters gaining an unbroken strip of territory along its border, which would be a huge boost to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a banned Kurdish rebel group fighting for autonomy in Turkey.

Turkey’s operations further complicate the already protracted Syrian civil war. Both Turkey and Kurdish rebels are US allies.

The US has backed Turkey’s anti-ISIS operations in Syria, and both countries have demanded that Kurdish forces withdraw to the east bank of the Euphrates river.

According to a new research, at least 15 rebel forces in Syria are ready to succeed ISIS if it is defeated by the US-led coalition.

The Centre on Religion & Geopolitics, linked to former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, also says that 60% of the rebels could be classified as Islamists.

It argues that attempts by world powers to distinguish between moderate and extremist factions are flawed.

Western countries have stepped up air strikes against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

But the Centre on Religion and Geopolitics said the greatest danger to the international community was groups who share the ISIS ideology but are currently being ignored.Syrian rebels to succeed ISIS

They number about 100,000 fighters, the centre said.

“The West risks making a strategic failure by focusing only on ISIS,” the centre said.

“Defeating it militarily will not end global jihadism. We cannot bomb an ideology, but our war is ideological.”

If ISIS is defeated, dispersed fighters and other extremists could attack targets outside Syria under a rallying cry that “the West destroyed the Caliphate”, the centre warned.

Such new groups could compete for the spotlight to ensure allegiance from the global fighters and financing that ISIS currently attracts.

By contrast, fewer than a quarter of the rebels surveyed were not ideological, the centre said.

But many of those were willing to fight alongside extremists and would probably accept an Islamist political settlement to the civil war, it claimed.

In response, the military campaign against ISIS must be accompanied by an “intellectual and theological defeat of the pernicious ideology that drives it”, the centre said.

It also said that unless President Bashar al-Assad leaves or is removed from office, the war in Syria is likely to spread further.

As Syria marks two years since the start of the nation’s unrest, the EU is set to discuss lifting its arms embargo to allow supplying rebels.

The leaders of France and Britain will try to push other EU members to agree to the move at the Brussels summit.

Ties with Russia, one of Syria’s key allies, will also be discussed. Moscow strongly opposes arming the rebels.

Up to 70,000 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began.

About one million people have fled the country.

To mark the anniversary, the International Committee of the Red Cross urged world leaders to put pressure on both sides to stop attacks on civilians.

“It is deplorable that high numbers of civilian casualties are now a daily occurrence,” said Robert Mardini, who heads ICRC operations in the Middle East.

“These ongoing violations of international humanitarian law and of basic humanitarian principles by all sides must stop.”

Syria marks two years since the start of the nation's unrest

Syria marks two years since the start of the nation’s unrest

The unrest began on March 15, 2011, with nationwide protests following arrests in the southern city of Deraa.Rebels now control large sections of Syria, but the conflict has appeared to be largely in stalemate for months.

A number of vigils have already been held around the world to mark the second anniversary of the conflict, including in the South Korean capital, Seoul, and in Amman in Jordan, where children gathered in front of the Citadel for an event organized by Save the Children.

France’s President Francois Hollande and UK PM David Cameron are expected on Friday to raise the issue of the arms embargo at the talks in Brussels, although Syria is not a formal agenda item.

Speaking on Thursday, Francois Hollande said that Paris was “ready to support the rebels”.

“We cannot allow the massacre of a people by a regime which right now does not want a political transition.

“France’s view is that arms are being delivered to Syria – but to the regime of Bashar, in particular by the Russians,” he said.

But the French president stressed that his aim was not a “total war”.

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