Air strikes kill 69 in Syrian east since Sunday: Observatory

BEIRUT: The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said air strikes likely to have been carried out by Russian warplanes have killed 69 people since Sunday near the Euphrates River in the eastern Syrian province of Deir al-Zor.

The Russian defence ministry did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on Tuesday's report by the Britain-based monitoring group.

The Observatory, which identified the victims as civilians, said the air strikes hit civilian encampments on the western bank of the Euphrates and vessels crossing the river to the eastern side.

Separately, Syrian state television said on Tuesday Islamic State militants have been using the river to flee the city of Deir al-Zor. With heavy artillery and machineguns, the Syrian army struck rafts carrying militants and crossing the Euphrates to the eastern side, it reported.

Islamic State's "only escape route out of the city is through rafts on the river, and, God willing, we will target them in the water before they get away," a field commander in Deir al-Zor told state TV.