Coalition strike kills 20 in IS-held area

BEIRUT: Syrian activists are blaming the US-led coalition for an early morning airstrike on Wednesday that killed at least 20 civilians in a part of Syria held by the Islamic State group.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 20 people were killed and around 30 wounded in the strike on the village of Heisha. The village is north of the extremist group's de facto capital, Raqqa.

Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, a local media collective, said 23 civilians were killed.

US Colonel John Dorrian, a spokesman for the US-led forces, said the coalition had conducted strikes in the area but could not confirm whether there were civilian casualties. "More information is needed to conclusively determine responsibility," he said.

The international force is flying dozens of sorties in the region in support of a US-backed push by Syrian Kurdish forces on Raqqa. The Kurdish-led Syria Democratic Forces say they have committed 30,000 fighters to the offensive, which was announced Sunday. Iraq is meanwhile waging a major offensive to drive IS from the northern city of Mosul.

In Aleppo, Syria's largest city and one of the focal points of the 5 1/2-year civil war, a rocket attack on a university killed six civilians, according to Syrian state media. The SANA news agency blamed the attack on insurgents, who control the eastern half and much of the western countryside of the contested city.

The Observatory put the casualty toll at five dead and 22 wounded.