Dozens of people were killed or missing in a US-led coalition strike on a school sheltering displaced people near a jihadist-held Syrian town in the northern province of Raqqa, a monitor said Wednesday, prompting an investigation by the Pentagon.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the strike south of Al-Mansoura “took place in the early hours of Tuesday.”
The US-led coalition has been bombing ISIS since 2014 and is now backing a major offensive to defeat the group in Raqqa city, the Syrian heart of the group’s so-called “caliphate”.
The school-turned-shelter hit on Tuesday morning lies about 30 kilometers west of Raqqa.
“We can now confirm that 33 people were killed, and they were displaced civilians from Raqqa, Aleppo and Homs,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
“They’re still pulling bodies out of the rubble until now. Only two people were pulled out alive,” he told AFP.
The Britain-based monitor says it determines what planes carried out raids according to their type, location, flight patterns and the munitions involved.
“Since we have conducted several strikes near Raqqa we will provide this information to our civilian casualty team for further investigation,” a Pentagon spokesman said.
“Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently,” an activist group that publishes news from ISIS-held territory in Syria, also reported the strike.
“The school that was targeted hosts nearly 50 displaced families,” it said, adding that their fate was still unknown.
The regime’s media accused the US-led coalition of inflicting “dozens” of casualties and almost completely destroying the school site.
Also Wednesday, a Turkish soldier was killed by a sniper shot from across the border in a Kurdish-controlled
part of northwestern Syria, the Turkish military said.
The soldier was killed in the Turkish border province of Hatay. The shooting came two days after the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia said Russia was setting up a military base in Syria bordering Hatay and would help train its fighters.
The Turkish military said in a statement that it had returned fire in retaliation after the soldier was killed.
YPG spokesman Redur Xelil said that the Turkish army was the aggressor in Wednesday’s incident and that Turkish shelling of border villages around Afrin had wounded 10 civilians and was still continuing.
“We will certainly not stand with our hands tied in the face of any aggression and we will use the right to respond in the framework of legitimate self defence,” he told Reuters in a written message.