Nov. 18 (UPI) -- The U.S.-led coalition denied Sunday airstrikes in a town controlled by the Islamic State in eastern Syria killed civilians.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the strikes killed 43 people, including 36 family members in the village of Abou al-Hassan, early Saturday. Another seven victims had not yet been identified as civilians or Islamic State fighters, it said. SANA, the news agency run by the Syrian government that has aligned itself against the U.S. coalition, reported 40 civilians, mostly women and children, died in the airstrikes.
"Reports of civilian casualties attributed to coalition strikes are false. All other forces should cease uncoordinated fires from across the river immediately," Brett McGurk, the U.S. envoy for the coalition, posted on Twitter. "This is why we have open military de-confliction channels."
And in a statement late Saturday, the coalition reported 19 coalition strikes on ISIS targets "free of civilian presence" between late Friday and Saturday afternoon in the terrorist enclave, which includes the town of Hajin.
"These strikes were in support of ground operations against ISIS targets in the Middle Euphrates River Valley," Operation Inherent Resolve-Combined Joint Task Force said in a statement. "CJTF-OIR validated these targets as legitimate ISIS targets and assessed them to be free of civilian presence at the time of the strikes. CJTF-OIR's initial assessment following the strikes is that there was no evidence of civilians near the strikes."
The task force said 10 additional strikes in the same area of Hajin didn't originate from the coalition or partner forces. "These strikes were neither coordinated with nor approved by CJTF-OIR," the statement said. "CJTF-OIR calls on all other actors to cease uncoordinated fires across the Euphrates.
The coalition said it "deliberately selects targets and uses stringent precautions to avoid injuring or killing innocent civilians in its operations to defeat ISIS. CJTF-OIR takes allegations of civilian casualties seriously and investigate each one thoroughly."
On Saturday, the Syrian Observatory's Abdel Rahman said "it was the highest death toll in coalition airstrikes " since the U.S.-aligned Kurdish fighters launched their attack against this particular northeastern Syrian Islamic State pocket in September.