An airstrike suspected to have been carried out by the US or its allies has killed at least 26 Syrian civilians, a monitoring group said on Tuesday, prompting American officials to launch a "credibility assessment" of the reports.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said aircraft from the US-led anti-Islamic State (IS) coalition had bombed a village in northeastern Syria's Hasakah governorate, leaving at least 26 dead, including seven children and four women.
The coalition, which has been bombing IS targets in Syria and neighboring Iraq for more than a year, confirmed that it had carried out five strikes near Hasakah's Al-Hawl on Monday — which it said hit four IS tactical units and destroyed two fighting positions and a vehicle — but did not mention civilian casualties.
But spokesman Colonel Steve Warren told AFP that the coalition was currently "assessing the credibility" of the reports. "Every time we get information about the possibility of a civilian casualty incident, we always do a credibility assessment on that information," he said. "If the information is found to be credible, we'll conduct an investigation, and we'll release the results of that investigation."
He added that the only information so far had come from SOHR. "Right now all we have is a statement that we've read in the newspapers, that's not much to go on," he said. "If we get further information, if someone sends us photographs, if someone from one of the groups contacts us with additional information, that speeds the process along."
The US said in November that airstrikes targeting IS in Iraq has "likely" killed four civilians in March, and previously admitted that two children had died when its aircraft bombed targets in Syria. But SOHR said in October that coalition strikes had killed 226 civilians, as well as 3,276 IS members.
The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), a separate monitoring group, put the figure at 225 civilians, including 65 children and 37 women.
The latest reports come after Syria accused the coalition of bombing a government in eastern Deir Ezzor on Sunday, killing three and wounding 13 soldiers in an act of "flagrant aggression." The US special presidential envoy to the coalition, Brett McGurk, denied the claims, however, saying there had been no strikes within 55km (34 miles) of the base.
While the US-led coalition has been bombing Syria for over a year, Russia also began strikes in the country on September 30 2015 in support of the Syrian regime. SOHR said that by November 20 the Russian strikes had killed 403 civilians, including 97 children, while SNHR said 526 civilians had been confirmed dead, including 137 children. The Syrian government itself has bombarded rebel-held area from the air, killing many thousands more combatants.
Watch the VICE News documentary, Banning Syrian Refugees: Unsettled in America: