A boy carries a mortar shell left behind by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad at the Azaalana checkpoint.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – Forces loyal to embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad have dropped bombs on territory under the control of Islamic State fighters, killing roughly 40 people, according to local reports.
Syrian Army helicopters used barrel bombs – barrels packed with explosives and metal shards, with no precision mechanism – to strike the areas of al-Bab and Qabaseen on Christmas Day and overnight.
Early reports did not clarify how many of the deceased were members of the Islamic State.
The United States has condemned Assad’s use of barrel bombs throughout the war; the bombs are typically thrown out the back of helicopters without aim, thus making them an indiscriminate weapon, often dropped on heavily populated civilian areas.
But the US is also struggling to target Islamic State members with its own air force in eastern Syria. The Pentagon says it has in no way coordinated with the Assad regime in its campaign.
Over 200,000 Syrians have been killed in the civil war there, which began in 2011.
Islamic State festered in the vacuum of disorder, declaring Raqqa, a mid-sized city in Syria’s east as its capital.
Hundreds of Westerners have flooded into Syria over the last year to join the organization, but at least some appear to be regretting the move. This past week, reports from Raqqa suggested a massacre of up to 100 foreign fighters by Islamic State in their attempt to flee.
“If confirmed, this is further evidence of ISIL’s [Islamic State] brutality,” one State Department official told The Jerusalem Post this past week.
The US has yet to confirm the report.
Meanwhile, 12 Islamic State assets in Iraq and Syria were successfully targeted by coalition forces on Saturday, according to the Combined Joint Task Force.
The United States and its allies executed six strikes in the Syrian border town of Kobani, near Turkey, destroying several buildings and vehicles. Islamic State gunmen fighting for Kobani have experienced the heaviest bombardment from coalition forces since strikes first began against the group.
Also in Iraq, another six strikes targeted buildings, vehicles and an Islamic State refinery, near al-Asad, Mosul, Fallujah, al-Qaim and Baiji.
Last week, a Jordanian jet participating in the coalition’s efforts was downed in Syria, marking the first such event of the war.