Saturday, September 17, 2016

[UPDATED] Middle East Tensions Rising: U.S. Accused Of Supporting ISIS After Striking Syrian Troops, Killing Over 60 - Russia Calls For Emergency UNSC Meeting

U.S.-led forces strike Syrian troops, prompting emergency U.N. meeting

[We'll keep updating this with breaking news]

U.S.-led coalition air strikes killed dozens of Syrian soldiers on Saturday, Russia and a monitoring group said, putting a U.S.-Russian brokered ceasefire in jeopardy and prompting an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting.

The United States military said the coalition stopped the attacks against what it had believed to be Islamic State positions in northeast Syria after Russia informed it that Syrian military personnel and vehicles may have been hit.

A U.S. military official said he was "pretty sure" targets mistakenly hit in the strikes were Syrian forces.

Russia called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council after the incident, and diplomats said the 15-member body was due to meet behind closed doors at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Moscow cited the strikes, which allowed Islamic State fighters to briefly overrun a Syrian army position near Deir al-Zor airport, as evidence that the United States was helping the jihadist militants.

"We are reaching a really terrifying conclusion for the whole world: That the White House is defending Islamic State. Now there can be no doubts about that," the RIA Novosti news agency quoted Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova as saying.

She said the strikes threatened to undermine the ceasefire in Syria brokered by Russia, which has been aiding Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the civil war, and the United States, which has backed some rebel groups.

The Russian Defence Ministry said U.S. jets had killed more than 60 Syrian soldiers in four air strikes by two F-16s and two A-10s coming from the direction of Iraq.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based monitoring group with contacts across Syria, cited a military source at Deir al-Zor airport as saying at least 80 Syrian soldiers had been killed.

Syria's army said the U.S.-led strikes, which took place at around 5 p.m. local time (10.00 a.m. ET) were "conclusive evidence" of U.S. support for Islamic State, calling them "dangerous and blatant aggression".

The incident also threatens to undermine proposed joint targeting by the United States and Russia of Islamic State and some other jihadist groups across Syria.

Russia demands ‘full and detailed explanation’ from US after over 60 Syrian army troops killed in coalition attack

The UN Security Council will hold urgent consultations on Saturday after US-led coalition air strikes hit Syrian military positions, diplomats said.

“We demand Washington’s full and detailed explanation, and that must be made before the UN Security Council,” Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in Moscow.
Russia requested the meeting, which is set to take place from 7:30 pm (2330 GMT).

Russia is “very concerned” by the strikes that “directly targeted the Syrian army, which has been consistently fighting the Islamic State group’s forces,” she added.
The bombing hit an army position in the east, near the IS-controlled town of Deir Ezzor, a Russian army statement said.
At least 62 soldiers were killed in the strike, according to Russian officials and a Syrian monitoring group.
“These strikes endanger everything that has been done so far by the international community” to reach peace in Syria, the Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman said.

Zakharova accused the United States of being “simply incapable of honoring its commitment” to distinguish between jihadists and Syrian mainstream rebels in the implementation of a ceasefire in force since Monday.

Earlier, a Russian army statement said “warplanes from the international anti-jihadist coalition carried out four air strikes today against Syrian forces surrounded by the Islamic State group in the Deir Ezzor air base.”

“Sixty-two Syrian soldiers were killed and a hundred others were injured in these strikes.”
American officials admitted the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria may have hit Syrian military positions.

Air strikes blamed by Moscow and Damascus on the US-led coalition hit a Syrian army position in the east on Saturday, killing more than 60 soldiers, the Russian army said.

The situation in Syria is deteriorating, the Russian military said earlier, adding that the United States would be responsible if the current ceasefire breaks down.

“Warplanes from the international anti-jihadist coalition carried out four air strikes today against Syrian forces surrounded by the Islamic State group in the Deir Ezzor air base,” a Russian army statement said.

“Sixty-two Syrian soldiers were killed and a hundred others were injured in these strikes.”

American officials said the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria may have hit Syrian military positions.

Britain-based monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 80 soldiers were killed, but could not specify who carried out the raids.
Syria’s army has been fighting off a fierce offensive by the Islamic State jihadist group on the Deir Ezzor military airbase since last year.
“This is a dangerous and bold attack against the Syrian state and army, and clear evidence that the United States and its allies support the terrorist group Daesh,” the army statement reported by the SANA official news agency said, referring to IS.
“The situation in Syria is worsening,” Russian General Vladimir Savchenko said in a televised briefing earlier.
“In the past 24 hours, the number of attacks have risen sharply,” with 55 attacks on government positions and civilians. He said 12 civilians had been killed.

Russian military officials lashed out at the United States in the strongest language yet over the ceasefire struck last week in Geneva, a last-ditch effort to stop the bloodshed in Syria.
The ceasefire started on Monday and has so far lasted five days.
“Russia is exerting all possible effort to restrain government troops from returning fire,” senior army general Viktor Poznikhir said during the televised briefing.
“If the American side does not take the necessary measures to carry out its obligations… a breakdown of the ceasefire will be on the United States.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Syrian rebels of using the ceasefire to regroup, as diplomatic tensions between Moscow and Washington simmered over a lack of humanitarian aid access.

Russian Foreign Ministry: White House 'Defending the Islamic State' Terrorists

The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a scathing response to the Obama administration after a US Central Command statement suggested that the US-led coalition had warned Russia prior to the airstrikes against Syrian Army positions at Deir Ez-Zor that left some 62 Assad regime soldiers dead. 
The statement by the Foreign ministry comes in the wake of accusations by Russia that the United States has not been dealing in good faith in the ceasefire agreement with Russian General Vladimir Savchenko saying that "the situation is worsening" with rebel forces escalating their attacks since the agreement went into force on September 12.
"Russia is exterting all possible effort to restrain Government troops from returning fire," Senior Army General Viktor Poznikhir said.

US Central Command Says Airstrike on Syrian Army Killing 80 Was an Accident


US Ambassador to UN: Emergency Meeting a 'Stunt,' Blasts Russia and Assad 'Game'

Russia Accuses US Of Defending ISIS, After Pentagon Admits Coalition Jets Killed 62 Syrian Soldiers

Timing & other aspects of US strike on Syrian army suggest intentional provocation

The US’ sudden attempt to “help” the Syrian army fighting ISIS in the eastern city of Deir ez-Zor, which resulted in a strike that killed and injured dozens of soldiers, does not look like an honest mistake, Russia’s UN envoy told journalists at the UNSC meeting.
“It is highly suspicious that the United States chose to conduct this particular air strike at this time,” Russia’s ambassador Vitaly Churkin said.
Churkin questioned why the US suddenly chose to “help” the Syrian army defend Deir ez-Zor after all these years, recalling how American forces just observed terrorists’ movements and did “nothing when ISIS advanced on Palmyra.”
“It was quite significant and not accidental that it happened just two days before the Russian-American arrangements were supposed to come into full force,” Churkin added.
Vitaly Churkin spoke to journalists after briefly leaving the closed-door UN Security Council meeting, which was convened by Moscow to give Washington a chance to offer an explanation for the actions of its military.

However, instead of discussing the issue, US ambassador Samantha Power immediately left the room to address the press and accuse Russia of hypocrisy.

‘US is defending ISIS’: Russia convenes UNSC meeting after US coalition strike on Syrian army

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