Coalition strikes kill 27 in eastern Syria

Beirut: Air strikes by the US-led coalition killed 13 fighters and 14 of their relatives on Friday in eastern Syria, a war monitor said.
The strikes came two days after US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull troops out of Syria raised fears the IS would use the vacuum to regroup.
“At least 27 people were killed this morning in Al Shaafa,” Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said.
He said eight children were among the 14 civilian victims and added several people were seriously wounded in the strikes.
The raids targeted IS positions in Al Shaafa, one of the two main villages in the last pocket of territory still controlled by IS in the Euphrates River valley.
Close to 1,000 IS fighters have been killed since Kurdish-led forces, backed by coalition air strikes, launched an operation on that pocket in September.
Trump said he was ordering a withdrawal of the estimated 2,000 US troops in Syria because IS had been defeated, an assessment rubbished by many, including in his own camp.
On Friday, the leadership of the Kurdish force that has spearheaded the fight against IS warned it might have to pull back from the anti-front if a US withdrawal invites a Turkish military assault against them. According to the Observatory, 545 members of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces were killed battling IS since the start of the operation on September 10.
Meanwhile, Turkey is delaying its planned military offensive in northern Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Friday, two days after the US unexpectedly said it was withdrawing its troops from the country. Erdogan said that his recent phone call with US President Donald Trump and “contacts between our diplomats and security officials and statements by the United States, have led us to wait a little longer.”
“This is not an open-ended waiting period,” Erdogan told an exporters’ event in Ankara.
On December 12, Erdogan announced that Turkey will launch a new military offensive — his country’s third — against Kurdish militants east of the Euphrates river in northern Syria within days.
The US, which has more than 2,000 service members working alongside Syrian rebels to battle IS, said it was pulling out as the terrorist group had been defeated.
Erdogan said he told Trump that Turkey will work to eliminate” IS residues” in Syria as well as Syrian Kurdish fighters. He was referring to the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which control large areas of northern Syria on the border with Turkey.
The US has relied on Kurdish forces as the most effective in the fight against IS in Syria. Turkey believes the YPG is tied to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) waging an insurgency within its country.
Meanwhile, Syrian Kurds on Friday asked France for support after the US withdrawal decision.
France has said that IS has not been defeated in Syria and that its troops will remain in the country.
Elham Ahmed, the co-president of the self-styled Kurdish Syrian Democratic Council, called on France to support an ongoing Kurdish-led campaign against IS in eastern Syria.
In recent weeks, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish-led allied with the US, has advanced in its operation to expel IS from its last enclave in eastern Syria near the Iraqi border, where fighting was under way on Friday. — Agencies