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UN Decries Syrian Civilian Casualties in Airstrikes

FILE - White Helmets rescue workers work the site of airstrikes in the al-Sakhour neighborhood of the rebel-held part of eastern Aleppo, Syria, Sept. 21, 2016.

The U.N. human rights chief called on air forces Friday to take greater care in distinguishing legitimate military targets from civilians in Syria.

"The same civilians who are suffering indiscriminate shelling and summary executions by ISIL [Islamic State], are also falling victim to the escalating airstrikes, particularly in the northeastern governorates of Al-Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor," U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said.

"Unfortunately, scant attention is being paid by the outside world to the appalling predicament of the civilians trapped in these areas," he added, citing a number of recent airstrikes that have killed dozens of civilians.

On May 15, at least 59 civilians, including 16 women and 12 children, were killed in airstrikes on two residential areas in the Islamic State-controlled city of Albo Kamal, the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said in a statement. One day earlier, 23 farm workers were reportedly killed in airstrikes on a separate village.

"The rising toll of civilian deaths and injuries already caused by airstrikes in Deir ez-Zor and Al-Raqqa suggests that insufficient precautions may have been taken in the attacks," Zeid said. "Just because ISIL holds an area does not mean less care can be taken. Civilians should always be protected, whether they are in areas controlled by ISIL or by any other party."