BEIRUT - Syrian government warplanes and special forces Sunday destroyed several positions of the Islamic State group in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour. The advance regained territory lost to the extremists Saturday when Syrian troops were hit with airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition.
The U.S. military has admitted that it may have unintentionally struck Syrian troops while carrying out a raid against Islamic State fighters Saturday. The incident has threatened an already-fragile U.S. and Russian-brokered cease-fire that has largely held despite dozens of alleged violations on both sides.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry called the coalition airstrikes a “dangerous and blatant aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic and its army.”
The ministry’s statement, sent to the presidents of the United Nations and the U.N. Security Council, said American warplanes repeatedly attacked Syrian Army positions Saturday afternoon. It said the airstrikes were “on purpose and planned in advance,” and killed dozens of Syrian soldiers.
Russia’s military said it was told by the Syrian Army that at least 62 soldiers were killed in the Deir el-Zour air raid and more than 100 wounded.
On Sunday, the state-run SANA news agency quoted an unnamed military official as saying that dozens of Islamic State fighters were killed in the offensive on Tharda mountain under the cover of Syrian airstrikes. The Islamic State had claimed that its fighters captured Tharda mountain, which overlooks the city’s government-controlled airport.
The Syrian military official said government troops had regained control of areas the extremists captured, “as a result of the American aircraft aggression.”
Meanwhile, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Islamic State fighters shot down a Syrian Russian-made MiG warplane over Tharda mountain, adding that its pilot was killed. The Observatory reported that intense airstrikes by Russian warplanes have killed at least 38 Islamic State fighters since Saturday.
The Syrian military said the deadly coalition airstrike hit a base in Deir el-Zour that was surrounded by Islamic State forces, allowing the extremists to advance and overrun Syrian Army positions in the area.
Tens of thousands of people live in government-held neighborhoods of Deir el-Zour under the siege of Islamic State fighters. Government areas have been relying on aid that was being dropped from aircraft.
The Islamic State controls much of the province that carries the same name and borders Iraq.