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Ceasefire at risk after accidental American attack on Syrian government troops

Civilians leaving the town of Suran, in Hama province, Syria, in on September 1. CREDIT: SYRIA PRESS CENTER VIA AP
Civilians leaving the town of Suran, in Hama province, Syria, in on September 1. CREDIT: SYRIA PRESS CENTER VIA AP

The United States-led coalition conducted an airstrike in Syria that hit and killed up to 90 Syrian Army soldiers on Saturday. The operation, which the U.S. claimed as an accident, put large dents in a tentative U.S.-Russian agreed ceasefire the two countries reached last Monday.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the dead at 90 Syrian regime soldiers. The Russian government, though, said 62 were killed, AFP reported.

Syria is in the midst of its sixth year of civil war. Russia is a close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and conducted numerous airstrikes over the last year on his behalf. Many of those airstrikes, by Russia and the Syrian government, resulted in large losses of civilian life. The U.S., meanwhile, says Assad has to step down for Syria to end the war and move forward as a country. They are leading an international coalition supporting certain rebel groups fighting ISIS and the coalition also conducts airstrikes the radical group. While Assad is responsible for the more deaths in Syria than anyone else, the U.S. has repeatedly announced they will only fight ISIS and Al Qaeda in Syria.

The recent operation hit Syrian regime soldiers allegedly fighting ISIS near the Syrian city of Deir Ezzor. The United States released a statement later saying they “believed they were striking a Daesh (ISIS) fighting position.”

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The U.S. also stopped bombing once they realized they were hitting Syrian government troops, according to a statement released by the Defense Department.

Russia responded with a warning that the ceasefire could be affected by the attack.

“The actions of the pilots — if they, as we hope, were not taken on orders from Washington — fall between criminal negligence and direct pandering to IS terrorists,” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement Sunday.

The ceasefire stipulated that fighting between rebel groups and Syrian regime forces would hold, so civilians in besieged areas could receive aid. Violations were reported by both sides in the past week and the UN claimed the Syrian government prevented aid trucks from reaching civilians in need.