Shelling kills 19 as Syria
Kurds battle jihadists

BEIRUT - Shelling killed 19 civilians on Sunday as Syria's Kurds fought a fierce battle against jihadists from the Islamic State (IS) in the northeastern province of Hasakeh, a monitoring group said.


Among the civilians killed in Hajiyeh and Tal Khalil villages were five children, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.


The deaths came as the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) advanced in their fight against IS, seizing a string of villages around jihadist bastion Tal Hamis, which is strategically important because of its proximity to the main Kurdish city of Qamishli.


Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP the YPG, backed by Arab tribesmen opposed to IS, and IS fighters were using "all kinds of shells" to target opposing positions in the fighting.


"It is impossible to confirm who was behind the shelling that killed the 19 civilians," he said.


The Observatory earlier reported air strikes by the Syrian air force against jihadist targets in Hasakeh province late Saturday and on Sunday morning.

Kurdish fighters were the first in Syria to battle IS.


They were followed by rebels seeking President Bashar al-Assad's overthrow and the regime has recently stepped up its own campaign against IS, carrying out near-daily air strikes against jihadist positions.


The developments in Hasakeh come a day after an air strike on an IS training camp in jihadist-held Deir Ezzor killed 17 militants and a child, the Observatory said in a new toll.


US President Barack Obama announced on Wednesday that he had authorized the expansion to Syria of the US air campaign against IS he launched in Iraq in early August.


There have been no US strikes so far but Obama's announcement drew protests from Damascus and its Iranian and Russian allies.

It is impossible to confirm who was behind the shelling that killed the 19 civilians.