UN urges anti-IS coalition to protect civilians

Geneva (AFP) - The UN on Friday urged all nations bombing jihadist targets in Syria to better distinguish between civilian and military targets, following reports that US-led coalition strikes killed dozens of non-combatants.

Air raids on Islamic State group targets in Syria have left hundreds of civilians dead since 2014.

The latest strikes that hit a series of residential buildings on Thursday in Mayadeen, a town in Syria's eastern province of Deir Ezzor, killed at least 35 civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said "all states" whose air forces are active in the anti-IS missions needed "to take much greater care to distinguish between legitimate military targets and civilians."

The rights office had no specific information about Thursday's bombings.

Zeid's spokesman Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva that identifying the air force responsible for civilian deaths is often difficult given the number of countries in the anti-IS coalition and the lack of credible information.

The Pentagon released findings on Thursday of an investigation that concluded at least 105 civilians died in an anti-jihadist air strike on an IS weapons cache in Mosul in March.

Prior to that, the US military had said coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria had "unintentionally" killed a total of 352 civilians since 2014.

Zeid underscored that civilians were now being hit by both sides in the conflict.

"The same civilians who are suffering indiscriminate shelling and summary executions by (IS), are also falling victim to the escalating air strikes", he said in a statement.

The rights office has also received credible information that IS fighters slit the throats of eight people earlier this month who were accused of providing the coalition coordinates to guide strikes, Colville said.

"Scant attention is being paid by the outside world to the appalling predicament of the civilians trapped in (IS-held) areas," Zeid said.