World Bulletin / News Desk
Air strikes, believed to have been carried out by U.S.-led forces, hit ISIL and other rebel groups in eastern Syria early on Saturday, a monitoring group said.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 31 explosions were heard in the province of Raqqa, a stronghold of IS, and casualties were reported.
The monitoring group said warplanes also struck areas east of the desert town of Palmyra in Homs province.
The United States is leading a military coalition supported by some Gulf and European nations against ISIL, a powerful force in Syria which swept across northern Iraq in June.
The campaign has brought Washington back to the battlefield in Iraq that it left in 2011 and into Syria for the first time after avoiding involvement in a war that began the same year.
Militant groups in the region, and websites commonly used by supporters, did not immediately mention any attacks on Saturday.
Coalition 'avoiding civilian casualties'
The U.S. and partner nations are taking every precaution to avoid civilian casualties as they strike the ISIL in Iraq and Syria, top defense officials said Friday.
“It is first and foremost the priority of our commanders who have responsibility for strikes to do everything they can to make sure there is no collateral damage, specifically civilian casualties,” U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told reporters during a joint press conference with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin Dempsey.
While Dempsey said that so far he has no reports of civilian casualties, he added that it is impossible to completely avoid the loss of innocent life. “As of course you know, you can’t reduce it to zero,” he said.
Hagel added that partner nations "are doing very well" in their own efforts to target militants.
The U.S. and allied nations have carried out more than 200 airstrikes in Iraq, and 43 in Syria through Friday, according to Hagel who said the U.S. has spent somewhere between $7 million and $10 million per day since the campaign began and will require additional funding from Congress as operations continue.
His remarks follow the Friday announcements that Britain, Belgium and Denmark would join the 50-plus members of the U.S.-led coalition in what is likely to be a long-term mission to rout the group.
“Sustaining our broad diplomatic, economic and military campaign will require a long-term commitment from the United States and all of our partners and allies,” Hagel said.
Earlier Friday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that a no-fly zone should be established within Syria.
Hagel said that the U.S. and Turkey continue to discuss the issue, with Dempsey adding that it is not currently part of the ongoing strategy.
“A buffer zone might at some point become a possibility, but that’s not part of our campaign plan presently,” he said.
The chairman clarified earlier remarks made during congressional testimony that he would recommend the use of ground troops should the ongoing air campaign against ISIL fail to defeat the group. He told reporters that the only effective force "is a force comprised of Iraqis and Kurds and moderate Syrian opposition."Last Mod: 27 Eylül 2014, 11:55