A fresh wave of airstrikes in eastern Syria killed at least 35 civilians including women and children, state media and a monitoring group reported Friday, as the UN human rights chief said civilians are increasingly paying the price of escalating attacks against ISIS in the country.
Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein’s comments came hours after airstrikes on the ISIS-held eastern Syrian town of Mayadeen, where airstrikes Thursday night killed dozens, many of them family members of ISIS fighters. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the airstrikes were conducted by the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS. It added that the airstrikes began around sunset Thursday as people were heading to mosques for evening prayers and continued until the early hours of Friday.
“The same civilians who are suffering indiscriminate shelling and summary executions by ISIL, are also falling victim to the escalating airstrikes, particularly in the northeastern governorates” of Raqqa and Deir el-Zour, al-Hussein said in a statement from Geneva, using another acronym for ISIS.
“Unfortunately, scant attention is being paid by the outside world to the appalling predicament of the civilians trapped in these areas.”
The airstrikes came as the U.S. military said it killed three ISIS fighters in attacks in Syria and Iraq over the past month.
The Observatory later said a total of 106 people have been killed in Mayadeen since Thursday evening, including ISIS fighters and 42 children.
State news blames coalition
The monitoring group said among the 106 were 80 people who perished when a four-storey building housing families of ISIS fighters from Syria and North Africa was destroyed in an airstrike. More than 20, including 10 ISIS fighters, were killed in other airstrikes that hit the municipality building among other places.
Syria’s state news agency SANA also said 35 civilians, most of them women and children, were killed in the airstrikes, also blaming the coalition.
There was no immediate comment from the coalition. It is not unusual to have conflicting casualty figures in the immediate aftermath of airstrikes in Syria.
UN human rights chief urges caution on airstrikes
Al-Hussein, the UN human rights chief, in a dramatic appeal on Friday urged all parties conducting strikes against ISIS to take greater care differentiating between military and civilian targets.
He cited a May 14 strike that reportedly killed 23 farm workers in a rural area of Raqqa province and an airstrike the following day that is said to have killed at least 59 civilians and wounded dozens in the ISIS-controlled eastern town of Boukamal, which is also in in Deir el-Zour province.
Al-Hussein, who is a member of the Jordanian royal family, said the rising toll of civilian casualties suggests “insufficient precautions” are being taken in the attacks.
Al-Hussein said he was concerned about retaliatory measures taken by ISIS against civilians suspected of facilitating the airstrikes and reports that civilians were being prevented from leaving ISIS-controlled areas. The day after the incident at Boukamal, ISIS fighters reportedly slit the throats of eight men at the site of the attack, accusing them of providing co-ordinates for the airstrikes.