Monitor: Airstrike Kills 33 Civilians in Northern Syria

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Colonel Joseph Scrocca, a coalition spokesman, said Apache helicopters, Marine artillery, USA special operations forces, a few dozen Army rangers, and air strikes were involved in the airdrop operation. The two organizations rely on local contacts to smuggle news out of Islamic State-held territory. Syrian Kurdish forces have been advancing on Raqqa under the cover of US -led coalition airstrikes and are now 8 kilometers (5 miles) north of the city.

Earlier this month, the coalition released its latest civilian casualty report, saying that since operations began in August 2014 it has found "more likely than not" its airstrikes have killed at least 220 civilians. The Syrian army recaptured all areas fallen during Sunday's wide-scale offensive by rebels in eastern Damascus, the military general command said Monday.

On a separate issue, the military is investigating reports that a recent US air-strike demolished a school where allegedly 50 Syrian families had sought shelter. US military support included air movement & strikes, Apache close air support, Marine artillery, & special ops advice and assistance.

The monitor said Wednesday that the strike hit a school being used as a temporary shelter for displaced families, about 30 kilometres (20 miles) west of Raqa.

A U.S. defence official said Wednesday, under condition of anonymity, that U.S. artillery was being used in an operation to seize a strategic dam around 30 kilometres (18 miles) west of Raqa.

USA -backed Syrian militias are expected to attack soon an Islamic State-held dam and air base west of the Syrian city of Raqqa, their spokesman said on Thursday, part of an accelerating campaign to capture the hardline group's stronghold.

Approximately 80 percent of the SDF's forces were Arab fighters, he said.

The Observatory also reported intense clashes in the central province of Hama, where insurgent groups spearheaded by al-Qaida's branch in Syria launched a wide offensive capturing dozens of villages and towns over the past two days.

Joe Scrocca told reporters the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) offensive took Daesh by surprise when the fighters carried out a "daring air assault" behind enemy lines.

Footage published by the Tahrir al-Sham rebel alliance depicted fighters firing rockets from a field onto regime positions.

The U.N. envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, issued a statement Thursday noting that all parties have arrived for the talks in Geneva.

"We must seek to achieve a political process as quickly as possible", he said.

De Mistura will formally start the talks Friday after returning from discussions with regional and worldwide stakeholders in the Syrian conflict.

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