At least 40 people were killed in Syria by strikes by the U.S.-led coalition, according to Syrian media and an opposition human rights monitor group based in Britain.
The air strikes took place in eastern Syria in Abu Husn village near the town of Hajin. The area is known as Deir el-Zour, on the Syrian border with Iraq.
The U.S.-led coalition has not confirmed the reports. Deputy Commander Maj. Gen. Christopher Ghika told the Associated Press that the fight has been “difficult,” as expected.
“We never thought this fight would be easy,” he said. “These are some of the most determined fighters and they’ve had a lot of time to prepare.”
Khattar Abou Diab, political scientist at the University of Paris, told VOA that poor weather conditions and cloud cover over the past few days gave the militants time to try to regain lost territory, which made the fight on the ground harder.
Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the deaths, saying this is the highest death toll since the coalition launched its attack on this area in September. He said the airstrikes killed around three dozen Islamic State fighters, along with civilians and family members of the militants.
Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory says, Syrian forces took back control of the militants’ last holdout in southern Syria, Tulul al-Safa, between the provinces of Damascus and Sweida. The observatory said the territory was reclaimed by the army after IS militants withdrew and headed east into the Badia desert.
The Syrian news agency SANA also reported the development. It said soldiers are combing the area for any remaining jihadists.