Civilian Casualties

Civilian Casualties

Incident Code

CS1972

Incident date

December 3, 2021

Location

المسطومة, Al-Mastouma, Idlib, Syria

Airwars assessment

At least one young man was killed and between six and seven civilians, including up to four children, were injured in a declared US drone strike on the Al-Mastouma Ariha road on December 3rd, 2021. Sources are conflicted as to whether the young man killed was an active or former member of the Guardians of Religion Organization, an Al Qaeda affiliate group.

In a press briefing on December 6, 2021, the Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told reporters “a senior leader with Hurras al-Din, which is an Al-Qaeda affiliated group, by the name of Musab Kinan was the person targeted and killed in a kinetic strike by U.S. forces near Idlib on the 3rd of December. It was a strike conducted from an MQ-9 unmanned aircraft. The initial review of the strike did indicate the potential for possible civilian casualties. They’ve [CENTCOM] launched a civilian casualty assessment report, which they have to do when they think there’s a potential and as far as I know that’s still ongoing. I don’t know what the results might be.”

Associated Press reported that at least four members of the Qasoum family were children – 16-year old Hiba Qasoum, 15-year old Batoul Qasoum, 12-year old Walid Qasoum and 10-year old Mohammad Qasoum. Fatima, 48, was also reported seriously injured in the strike alongside her husband Ahmed Qasoum who sustained light injuries. One source (@jabha_sy) reported different ages (included in brackets in victim details below).

The Middle East Eye (MEE) also reported on the Qasoum family, including an interview with father Ahmed Qasoum who told MEE that one of those injured was his 10-year old son: ““The motorcycle was going in front of me and I decided to pass it, when I got parallel to it, I felt a lot of pressure pushing the car to the left of the road….It was horrible,” Qasoum said. “We didn’t hear any sound of the explosion. The shrapnel hit the left side of the car, tearing through that side, which acted as a sort of filter for a lot of it.”

“My 10-year-old son has had a fractured skull and is now in a very serious condition in the intensive care at a hospital in Idlib. Doctors have told me that he would have nerves problems on his right side in the future,” Qasoum said, speaking to MEE via WhatsApp.”

Mr. Qasoum added that his 15-year old daughter was also seriously injured after shrapnel struck her head, and that it might take her a week to be able to walk again.

In an interview with Associated Press published December 6th, Mr. Qassoum said that he was driving 10km every day to visit the hospital where his son, Mahmoud, was being treated for his head injuries.

Step News Agency reported that the Qasoum family had been displaced from the village of Kafr Batikh after regime forces took control of the area.

@humam_isa identified the young man, “Musab Khaled Kanaan” (a first-year Turkish language student) as being one of the people killed by Coalition missile strikes on the Idlib-Al-Mastouma road, while Syrian Network for Human Rights and Shaam News referred to Musab as being a former Hurras al Din (Guardians of Religion) fighter.

A tweet from @SunaUnique reported that a drone struck a car traveling on the Al-Mastouma Ariha road, killing those inside, but didn’t specify how many were traveling in the car.

According to @Click_Syria, a drone alleged to belong to the Coalition struck a motorcycle belonging to a military official from the Guardians of Religion Organization and also hit a Santa Fe car passing by on the same road, the Ariha-Mastouma highway, injuring six people in the car. @syr_television added that the family of six people in the car were “lightly” injured. Euphrates Eye put the number killed at two and identified them both as Guardians of Religion.

Syrian Civil Defense put the number of injured civilians at five, including three women and a child.

A tweet from @FreshFM90MHZ referred to those killed and injured as being “civilians”.

A video posted by @syr_television shows the moment that the drone strike hit the motorcycle from the perspective of the car where the six family members were injured. Syrian Observatory for Human Rights identified that three missiles were involved in the attack.

@NotWoofers pointed out that this is the first time in a while in Idlib that there have been civilian casualties from a Coalition drone strike.

The Military Times reported that “the command [CENTCOM] would not say whether such operations will pause during the investigation” into civilian harm allegations.

Limited local media coverage was noted by the Middle East Eye, who reported that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the armed group in control of Idlib, seized the Qasoum family car after the attack “under the pretext of checking the car’s papers”, and “prevented the media from filming the damage at the scene”.

The incident occured at approximately 10:00 am local time.

The victims were named as:

Family members (6)

  • Fatima Qarqour 48 years old injured
  • Muhammad Qasoum 10 (also reported as 15) years old injured
  • Heba Qasoum 16 (also reported as 30) years old injured
  • Batoul Qasoum 15 (also reported as 20) years old injured
  • Walid Qasoum 12 (also reported as 50) years old injured
  • Ahmed Qasoum 52 years old injured
  • Musab Khaled Kanaan Age unknown male conflicted as to whether the young man killed was an active or former member of the Guardians of Religion Organization, an Al Qaeda affiliate group killed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0 – 1
  • Civilians reported injured
    6–7
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda/HTS
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1–2

Sources (34) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (18) [ collapse]

  • A drone struck a car traveling on the Al-Mastouma Ariha road, killing those inside. (Image posted by @SunaUnique)
  • A drone struck a car traveling on the Al-Mastouma Ariha road, killing those inside. (Image posted by @SunaUnique)
  • Musab Khaled Kanaan, killed in an alleged Coalition drone strike on a car on the Idlib-Al-Mastouma road on December 3, 2021. (Image posted by @humam_isa)
  • White Helmets observe the motorcycle struck with a drone attack on the Ariha Al-Mastouma road on December 3, 2021. (Image posted by Syrian Civil Defense)
  • White Helmets observe the car struck with a drone attack on the Ariha Al-Mastouma road on December 3, 2021. (Image posted by Syrian Civil Defense)
  • Blood of the victims on the car struck with a drone attack on the Ariha Al-Mastouma road on December 3, 2021. (Image posted by Syrian Civil Defense)
  • A White Helmet with remnants from the drone attack on the Ariha Al-Mastouma road on December 3, 2021. (Image posted by Macro Media Center)
  • Remnants of the car destroyed by the drone attack on the Ariha Al-Mastouma road on December 3, 2021. (Image posted by Macro Media Center)
  • A White Helmet with remnants from the drone attack on the Ariha Al-Mastouma road on December 3, 2021. (Image posted by Macro Media Center)
  • Blood of the victims on the car struck with a drone attack on the Ariha Al-Mastouma road on December 3, 2021. (Image posted by Macro Media Center)
  • Blood of the victims on the car struck with a drone attack on the Ariha Al-Mastouma road on December 3, 2021. (Image posted by Macro Media Center)
  • Blood of the victims on the car struck with a drone attack on the Ariha Al-Mastouma road on December 3, 2021. (Image posted by Macro Media Center)
  • Ahmed Qasoum was reported to be one of at least six members of the Qasoum family who sustained injuries after a US military strike hit a road in Idlib, December 3rd 2021. Image via Middle East Eye/Izzeddin Kasim.
  • "The wife of Ahmed Qasoum resting her broken leg after being injured in a US attack near Idlib on 3 December", Image via Middle East Eye/Izzeddin Kasim.
  • ""The shrapnel hit the left side of the car, tearing through that side," Ahmed Qasoum said", Image via Middle East Eye/Izzeddin Kasim.
  • Mahmoud Qasoum was was reported seriously injured in a US strike in Idlib December 3rd 2021. Image published by Associated Press/Ghaith Alsayed.
  • The Qasoum family, injured by a US strike in Idlib December 3rd 2021. Image via Associated Press.

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    United States Armed Forces
  • United States Armed Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Original strike reports

United States Armed Forces

"A senior leader with Hurras al-Din, which is an Al-Qaeda affiliated group, by the name of Musab Kinan was the person targeted and killed in a kinetic strike by U.S. forces near Idlib on the 3rd of December. It was a strike conducted from an MQ-9 unmanned aircraft. The initial review of the strike did indicate the potential for possible civilian casualties. They've [CENTCOM] launched a civilian casualty assessment report, which they have to do when they think there's a potential and as far as I know that's still ongoing. I don't know what the results might be."

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0 – 1
  • Civilians reported injured
    6–7
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda/HTS
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1–2

Sources (34) [ collapse]

Published

December 3, 2021

Written by

Georgia Edwards and Megan Karlshoej-Pedersen

Official Sorgdrager Commission is reportedly not functioning as intended - with doubts over a planned trip to Hawijah

More than six years after much of the Iraqi city of Hawijah was devastated following a Dutch airstrike against ISIS, fresh revelations point to major ongoing problems for those seeking answers to the disaster in which at least 70 civilians died.

Speaking at the annual PAX for Peace conference on the protection of civilians in conflict on December 1st, the Mayor of Hawijah, Subhan Al Jabouri, gave a moving talk on the continued lack of recovery in the city. He also revealed that there is so far no sign of the Dutch Government’s promised recovery fund and that he was not aware of the Sorgdrager Commission – the official Dutch review expected to learn lessons from Hawijah.

“The disappointment is great,” Mayor al-Jabouri told delegates. Aid has been promised via two UN agencies, yet there appears to be little contact with city authorities: “I don’t know who they are in touch with, but it’s not with us. I don’t know what they’re going to do either.”

Mayor of #Hawija: My expectations are the same as my people. We want an ethical conversation with the Dutch government. And an official apology.

Join the conversation: https://t.co/aU0qqskGMN#PAXPoC2021 #Hawija #Iraq #CivilianHarm pic.twitter.com/iksxsqX5HG

— PAX Protection of Civilians (@PAXPoC) December 2, 2021

 

In the same week, Dutch news organisation NOS revealed that the Sorgdrager Commission is experiencing major challenges in fulfilling its own mandate, with two out of three members of the commission apparently no longer able to give time on a regular basis. There are major doubts too about whether a proposed Commission trip to Hawijah in January might go ahead, with the Dutch defence ministry saying it is concerned about safety.

The head of the commission, Winnie Sorgdrager, has herself acknowledged the importance of speaking to Hawijans directly. In response to the Dutch MoD apparently refusing to allow members of the commission access to Hawija, she told NOS: “If you want to investigate something closely, you must also have spoken to people there. But if it’s said ‘it’s too dangerous there,’ we need to reconsider our request.”

In June 2015, the Royal Netherlands Air Force launched an airstrike on an ISIS IED factory in Hawijah. The huge explosion that followed killed more than 70 civilians, destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses, and deprived thousands of civilians of their long term livelihoods. Six years on, Hawjiah remains a shadow of what it once was. Take the wrong turn at the roundabout at the entrance to the city, and you will face a crater several meters deep.

While the Sorgdrager Commission continues to prevaricate about visiting the city, a joint research project by the University of Utrecht and PAX For Peace has done just that. The independent Hawijah investigation has now revealed some of its own provisional field findings at the recent PAX conference.

New PAX/ University of Utrecht research undertaken this year in Hawijah, expected to be released in full next year, interviewed 119 civilians in the city who either lost their loved ones or sustained injuries or material damage; and looked at the reverberating effects of the strike. The study also examines how – six and a half years later – civilian lives are still impacted heavily, with chronic issues from physical injuries to psychological trauma and damage to livelihoods. When the PAX/ UU team asked civilians on the ground what they most wanted, the response was clear: “Everybody wanted an apology from the Dutch – a formal apology by the Dutch government and by the parties who carried out the strike”.

“This is neither meaningful transparency nor accountability and the Dutch Ministry of Defence, the Parliament and the Sorgdrager Commission know it. Everyone involved must do better in the name of the 70 civilians the Netherlands killed more than six years ago in Hawijah – and take meaningful lessons forward centring civilian protection in future missions,” says Jessica Dorsey, the chair of Airwars Stichting.

The long string of cities destroyed by Western militaries in recent years, with great human loss as a result, are not unusual mistakes, Professor Lauren Gould from the University of Utrecht asserted at the recent PAX conference. They form a pattern, which undermines the very premise of remote warfare as being “[the most] precise and careful campaign in the history of warfare on this planet.” Yet instead, “War is inherently about destruction. There will never be such a thing as clean, precise war.”

Hawijans meet with PAX investigators during a recent visit in 2021 (Image courtesy of Roos Boer)

▲ PAX team view wreckage and destruction still affecting the city of Hawijah in 2021 (Image courtesy of Mustafa Aljanaby Al Ghad)

Incident Code

CS1971

Incident date

November 30, 2021

Location

هجين, Hajin, Deir Ezzor, Syria

Airwars assessment

Two people, according to local sources, identified as Saber Sinjar Al-Fahd and Sami Dilis Al-Aoun, were killed allegedly by a US-led Coalition and Kurdish SDF forces during an airstrike on an ISIS “sleeper cell” or the house of a former member of the oppostion factions in the city of Hajin, east of Deir Ezzor, Syria, on November 30th 2021 at dawn.

A local souce, @Sada_AlSharqieh tweeted that the men killed were cousins.

The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights reported that the two killed were apparently shot, and that this coincided with the airdrop operation.

According to Watan News, one person was arrested on charges of belonging to ISIS. There is somewhat confusing reports, with Furat and other sources reporting that the house was Saber Al-Sinjar’s, one of the men reported to have been shot, and that he was arrested and taken to an unknown destination.  According to the Euphrate Post, Al-Sinjar had fled about three years ago to Turkish territory after the SDF and Coalition forces took control of the area, only to return several months before this incident took place.  However, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the person arrested was later released at the end of the security operation.

Local sources who reported to Nedaa said that Saber Al-Sinjar was working in Turkey and has no political activity. Therefore, whether he was or was not still a member of ISIS remains unclear.

Apparently the operation lasted for around four hours, during which the Coalition launched stun grenades, “which caused a state of panic and fear among civilians living in the area.”

Furat reported that the SDF launched a ground raid operation with the support of a US-led Coalition aircraft,

The incident occured around dawn.

  • Saber Sinjar Al-Fahd Age unknown male killed
  • Sami Dilis Al-Aoun Age unknown male killed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike and/or Artillery
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1 – 2
  • (1–2 men)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attacker
    US-led Coalition
  • Suspected target
    ISIS
  • Belligerents reported killed
    0–1

Sources (18) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (3) [ collapse]

  • Saber Al-Sinjar, allegedly killed by the US-led Coalition and SDF in an airstrike or by gunshot wounds on November 30th 2021. (Image via @jamlyyyyy_)
  • Sami al-Aun, allegedly killed by the US-led Coalition and SDF in an airstrike or by gunshot wounds on November 30th 2021. (Image via @jamlyyyyy_)
  • "A military vehicle of the international coalition forces deteriorated during a raid on the house of Saber Sinjar in the city of Hajin, east of Deir Ezzor" (Twitter post by @Sada_AlSharqieh)

US-led Coalition Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    US-led Coalition
  • US-led Coalition position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike and/or Artillery
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1 – 2
  • (1–2 men)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attacker
    US-led Coalition
  • Suspected target
    ISIS
  • Belligerents reported killed
    0–1

Sources (18) [ collapse]

Incident Code

CS1970

Incident date

November 8, 2021

Location

فنيجين, Fenijin, Deir Ezzor, Syria

Airwars assessment

At least one man was killed, another person was injured, and four people were arrested in an alleged Coalition airstrike and Syrian Democratic Forces ground operation in Fenijin on November 8, 2021. The status of the man killed and the person injured as a civilian is contested by local sources.

Zaman Al Wasl quoted local activists who reported that Coalition airplanes carried out an airstrike on a home in Fenijin, followed by a raid by the “Democratic Union” (Syrian Democratic Forces), which resulted in the death of one person and the injury of others. They quoted Asayiş, the security arm of the Democratic Union Party, said in a statement that clashes erupted during the operation, during which one person was killed, another member of the cell was wounded, and 4 others were arrested. Asayiş alleges that the operation was carried out against an ISIS sell that intended to launch an attack on a prison.

The Syrian Press Agency reported that the Coalition airstrike and SDF raid occurred in the Abu Hasan Badia, west of the monastery, and resulted in a person named “Madlool Al-Adas” being killed. Jisr’s correspondent differed in their reporting, stating that the raid was on the home of Madlool but that the raiding forces “killed the young man, “Jassem Hammadi Al-Adas”, tied him and photographed him.

According to Furat Al Wehda, SDF forces surrounded the village and “stormed it amid heavy gunfire and supported them in air surveillance and live fire on the homes of the residents, helicopters belonging to the American occupation”.

A tweet from @VOSyria_ reported that a civilian was killed in the operation and Syrian Arab News Agency, the Syrian regime-run news agency, identified two civilians as being killed in the operations in Al Sabha and Fenijil but does not specify within these incidents. However, the majority of other sources did not identify whether the victim was a civilian or combatant and only Zaman Al Wasl specifically referred to those killed and injured as members of an ISIS cell.

The incident occured around dawn.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground)
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0 – 1
  • (0–1 men)
  • Civilians reported injured
    0–1
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attacker
    US-led Coalition
  • Belligerents reported killed
    0–1
  • Belligerents reported injured
    0–1

Sources (15) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

  • A photo of Jassem Hammadi Al-Adas, killed in a Coalition/SDF operation in the village of Fenijil on November 8, 2021. (Image posted by @YusufAd76532779)

US-led Coalition Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    US-led Coalition
  • US-led Coalition position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground)
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0 – 1
  • (0–1 men)
  • Civilians reported injured
    0–1
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attacker
    US-led Coalition
  • Belligerents reported killed
    0–1
  • Belligerents reported injured
    0–1

Sources (15) [ collapse]

Incident Code

CS1969

Incident date

November 8, 2021

Location

الصبحة, Al Sabha, Deir Ezzor, Syria

Airwars assessment

At least one man was killed in an alleged Coalition and Syrian Defense Forces airdrop operation in the town of Al-Sabha on November 8th, 2021. Sources were conflicted as to whether the man killed was a civilians or a militant.

According to Euphrates Post, the Coalition and the Syrian Defense Forces carried out an airdrop operation at dawn on November 8th, 2021, which resulted in the killing of one person and the arrest of two others.

Local sources told Euphrates that the SDF raided the house of Abdul Nahar al-Majwal (nickname Abu Jarrah), an alleged arms dealer who was shot dead while trying to escape, and arrested two of his brothers, Fahd and Suleiman. The correspondent of the Step News Agency added that Fahd’s wife was also arrested in the operation.

Eye of Euphrates reported that Abu Jarrah was smuggling weapons to the Syrian regime and that he was killed by a bullet in his chest while a tweet from @Sada_AlSharqieh mentioned that Abu Jarrah had been accused of belong to ISIS and North Press Agency referred to him as a leader of ISIS. However, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights identified Abu Jarrah’s brother as being “a former weapons merchant arrested for dealing with ISIS” without mentioning that Abu Jarrah was associated with any militant activities.

@baznewz also referred to Abu Jarrah and his brother as formerly involved with ISIS and arms smuggling. Syrian Arab News Agency also reported that the two people killed in operations in al-Sabha and Fenijil (incident CS1970) were civilians and that the three people arrested in al-Sabha were civilians.

The operation lasted from 1:30am to around 2:30am.

The incident occured at 1:30 am local time.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground)
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0 – 1
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attackers
    US-led Coalition, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)
  • Suspected target
    ISIS
  • Belligerents reported killed
    0–1

Sources (20) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (2) [ collapse]

  • Abdul Nahar al-Majwal (nickname Abu Jarrah), an alleged arms dealer who was shot dead in the town of Al-Sabha on November 8, 2021. (Image posted by Eye of Euphrates)

US-led Coalition Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    US-led Coalition
  • US-led Coalition position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)
  • Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground)
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0 – 1
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attackers
    US-led Coalition, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)
  • Suspected target
    ISIS
  • Belligerents reported killed
    0–1

Sources (20) [ collapse]

Incident Code

CS1968

Incident date

November 7, 2021

Location

جرابلس, Jarablus, Aleppo, Syria

Airwars assessment

Up to three people were killed and three others were injured in alleged Coalition drone strikes in the city of Jarablus on November 7, 2021. Among the victims of the strikes, two of them were identified as being militants.

Shaam News reported that according to the “Media Office in the city of Jarablus”, an unidentified aircraft targeted a person on the outskirts of the city of Jarablus, adding that local sources suggested that the Coalition was responsible for the drone strike.

Macro Media Center identified the Coalition as being responsible, reporting that two people on a motorcycle were targeted by a drone and killed. However, Fact News reported that only one of the two people on the motorcycle were killed, and three other people were injured. Syrian Press Center gave the highest death toll, stating that three people were killed in the drone strikes.

A tweet from @IdlibCalling referred to those killed as being “militants of the Islamic State” and put the death toll at two, specifically naming field commander nicknamed Abu Abdo Al-Hamwi as among the victims while @sarihakann placed the man/men killed as belong to “Hurras al-Din” (Guardians of Religion). Baladi News reported that according to eyewitnesses, the person who was killed was wearing an explosive belt.

Fresh Syria specifically referred to the three people injured in the strikes as being civilians while the majority of sources referred to them only as “people”. The sources that mentioned militants killed or wounded only identified two of the victims as being militants, with one sources reporting that one militant was killed and one injured or that two militants were killed.

The location of the strikes was identified as being in a residential neighborhood in Jarablus, according to Fact News and Zaman Al Wasl added that the strikes occurred “near the Agricultural Bank, on the “Manbij-Jarabulus” road”.

The majority of sources identified the Coalition as being responsible for the drone strikes and Zaman Al Wasl reported that two missiles were launched from the drone. The Coalition has not yet commented on this incident. The only source that identified another possible culprit was Syria TV, which stated that one fo the possible explanations given by local sources was that the Syrian Democratic Forces could’ve bombed the city with rocket-propelled grenades, but did not provide details of which local sources provided this information.

The incident occured at approximately 5:30 pm local time.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1
  • Civilians reported injured
    2–3
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attacker
    US-led Coalition
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1–2
  • Belligerents reported injured
    0–1

Sources (33) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (13) [ collapse]

  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Aftermath of an alleged Coalition drone strike in the city of Jarabulus on November 7, 2021. (Image posted by Macro Media Center)
  • Victim(s) of an alleged Coalition drone strike in the city of Jarabulus on November 7, 2021. (Image posted by Euphrates Post)
  • Location of an alleged Coalition drone strike in the city of Jarabulus on November 7, 2021. (Image posted by Euphrates Post)
  • Location of an alleged Coalition drone strike in the city of Jarabulus on November 7, 2021. (Image posted by Euphrates Post)
  • Victim(s) of an alleged Coalition drone strike in the city of Jarabulus on November 7, 2021 bring taken away by White Helmets. (Image posted by Syrian Civil Defense)
  • One of the victim(s) of an alleged Coalition drone strike in the city of Jarabulus on November 7, 2021. (Image posted by @IdlibCalling)
  • The location of the alleged Coalition strikes on a deserted gas station in Jarablus on November 7, 2021. (Image posted by @Almohrar1)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    One of the victim(s) of an alleged Coalition drone strike in the city of Jarabulus on November 7, 2021. (Image posted by @Almohrar1)
  • One of the victim(s) of an alleged Coalition drone strike in the city of Jarabulus on November 7, 2021. (Image posted by @Almohrar1)
  • White Helmets cover the body of one of the victims of strikes on the city of Jarabulus on November 7, 2021. (Image posted by Jesr Press)
  • Debris from the strikes on the city of Jarabulus on November 7, 2021. (Image posted by @sarihakann)

US-led Coalition Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    US-led Coalition
  • US-led Coalition position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1
  • Civilians reported injured
    2–3
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attacker
    US-led Coalition
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1–2
  • Belligerents reported injured
    0–1

Sources (33) [ collapse]

Published

November 4, 2021

Written by

Georgia Edwards and Megan Karlshoej-Pedersen

Airwars speaks to PAX about their recent visit to the still-devastated city of Hawijah in Iraq, and interviews with 119 survivors.

Airwars’ Netherlands-based advocacy partner, PAX for Peace, is currently undertaking research in the Iraqi city of Hawijah, where a 2015 US-led Coalition strike against ISIS led to the deaths of at least 70 civilians and the injuring of hundreds more. On the night of June 2nd-3rd 2015, Dutch F-16s bombed an ISIS Vehicle-Borne Improvised Devices (VBIED) factory in Hawijah. Secondary explosions then destroyed a large area of the city. After withholding its role in the deadly event for more than four years, the Dutch government eventually took public responsibility in November 2019.

PAX’s new research will examine many of the questions that came from the joint report that Airwars and PAX released in October 2020, ‘Seeing Through the Rubble’. We conducted a Q&A with the PAX team to hear more about their recent visit to Hawijah and upcoming report.  As you’ll read from eyewitness reports in this article, the Dutch must urgently hold themselves truly accountable to civilian harm caused from their tragic actions in Hawijah, and other incidents with the US-led Coalition in Iraq and Syria.

The Airwars’ Advocacy Team spoke to Roos Boer, Project Leader for Humanitarian Disarmament at PAX, and Saba Azeem, Project Leader for the Human Security Survey (Iraq). 

Airwars: Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us. To start off, can you describe for someone who doesn’t already know the details of the story, what happened in Hawijah on June 2nd, 2015?

Roos: So on this particular night, a Coalition airstrike targeted an ISIS munitions factory in Hawijah, which was located in the industrial area. The strike was conducted by the Dutch. In this factory, a very large supply of TNT [dynamite] was stored, which detonated after the first impact. When we were talking to people there, people described that it felt like a nuclear attack in terms of the destruction.

Saba: It is also important to understand that there is no clear demarcation such as ‘this is solely an industrial area’, and ‘this is solely a residential area’ – they are often quite intertwined. So to say that it only targeted the industrial area and that there were no residential areas around would also be a very narrow description of the context.

Secondly, there was about 18,000 kilos of TNT in the munitions factory which exploded. It left a crater 11 meters deep and 20 meters wide. And apparently in Kirkuk, which is 50 kilometers away, the shock was measured at 4.3 on the Richter scale. That’s how big it was.

What were the immediate consequences for the local population, and how did the Dutch government and military initially respond to the high number of civilian casualties resulting from this strike?

Roos: The explosions directly led to at least 70 civilian deaths and hundreds of civilians being injured. In addition to that direct impact on civilians, 400-500 buildings were reportedly destroyed; this includes homes and schools, factories and shops.  The electricity transmission station was located in the area, but also many damaged roads, et cetera. So there was a lot of immediate harm but it’s also leading to longer term impacts where services are disrupted.

It’s also very important to mention that it was a really big chaotic event. People didn’t know what was going on, they couldn’t see anything, there was dust everywhere, bodies and body parts everywhere, and this led to a lot of trauma for people. The psychosocial harm has been immense.

You also asked how the Dutch government responded and that is a very interesting question because they didn’t. It was not until 2019, so that’s four years after the attack, following publications by the NOS and the NRC, who are part of the media in the Netherlands, that the Dutch Ministry of Defense publicly took responsibility for the air strikes. So there has been a big lack of transparency. They assessed in their CDE [Collateral Damage Estimation] that the secondary explosions would not extend beyond the industrial area, which was not purely an industrial area, as was already mentioned.

After the attack in September 2015, it was announced that they will increase the scrutiny of targets in populated areas which have the expected potential for secondary explosions.

It sparked, of course, a very intense debate in the Netherlands because the Parliament also was not informed about the events. So there were a lot of questions being asked in Parliament about transparency and accountability. As a result, the then-Dutch Minister of Defense, [Ank] Bijleveld, announced greater transparency in informing Parliament about investigations into civilian casualties. The Dutch government also announced that they would contribute $4 million US dollars to rebuilding the infrastructure. They very clearly were not interested in giving individual compensation, but just in giving a more general contribution to the reconstruction of Hawijah. This was promised 10 months ago, and we understand the money is being contracted through the UNDP/FFS [United Nations Development Programme’s Funding Facility of Stabilisation] , and the IOM [International Organization for Migration]. However, we haven’t seen much of the money being spent – yet – or contributing to the people we spoke to in Hawijah.

Saba: And linking to what Roos already said, the Dutch have claimed responsibility, but they have not apologized, which is quite appalling. In terms of the destruction, we have seen eight car showrooms completely destroyed, the Hawijah municipality department building, the electricity department building, the civil defence department [building and vehicles], four ice factories, at least five or six brick factories, one flour mill all have been destroyed. An estimated 1,900 people have lost their livelihoods. Also the [Dutch] scope of calculating the casualties has been very narrow. The area was besieged, and the general hospital was under ISIS control. So they were not treating any civilian injuries or deaths. So where does this number come from?

Large areas of civilian infrastructure are still destroyed (Image via Roos Boer)

You mentioned that the Dutch government only started talking about this in 2019 after journalists exposed the story. But do you have a sense of when they knew about the civilian harm that had occurred?

Saba: From what we’ve heard, the Minister of Defense knew within a few weeks. We did see that after the strike quite a lot of news channels reported it, even the ISIS news channel at the time, released footage which European channels then used. There was also a press conference by a US General saying that there was a munition factory in Hawijah that was hit. So I think it was within days of this happening, the Coalition and the international community knew of the airstrike. Whether the Dutch knew that they were behind it, that’s a different question.

Roos: Regardless of whether they did or didn’t know; if they knew, then it’s rather problematic that they didn’t report it, if they didn’t know, to me that is very problematic too because they are responsible for assessing the impacts of their weapons. So just as a separate remark about this.

In October last year, PAX and Airwars released our report, ‘Seeing Through the Rubble’. What were the main findings from this report?

Roos: ‘Seeing Through the Rubble’ was a joint report of Airwars and PAX. We examined the longer term effects on civilian populations of the international military campaigns in Mosul, Raqqa, and Hawijah. We especially looked at the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, because we know there is a worldwide pattern of how these weapons in populated areas impact civilians. The longer term effects and reverberating effects are often under-reported. But we know that when explosive weapons are being used in populated areas, nine out of 10 casualties are civilians. So that’s a very alarming number.

And [‘Seeing Through the Rubble’] painted a rather grim image of how the destruction was still there, how difficult it is for people to pick up their lives if their cities are destroyed by our militaries. And then I think it was a good snapshot of the situation. But when we started researching, it only created more questions, so I was very happy that we could continue our research into Hawjiah, and visit the location. And now Saba is leading on a much more in-depth piece of research interviewing many of the survivors in Hawijah. I am sure she can tell you more about it.

Roos Boer presents the PAX/ Airwars report ‘Seeing through the Rubble’ to Subhan Al Jabouri, the Mayor of Hawijah (Image via Roos Boer)

You’ve recently been engaging in this research on the ground in Hawijah. It would be great to hear about what you’re currently researching and how you’re going about investigating this, in a bit more detail.

Saba: The research, which started in February this year, is being done by a consortium led by PAX, with the Intimacies of Remote Warfare at Utrecht University and al-Ghad League for Woman and Child Care as partners.

Out of the 119 civilians interviewed thus far, 62 lost their loved ones, whereas the rest either sustained injuries or material damage.  The research is looking at these reverberating effects and examining how – six and a half years later – civilian lives are still impacted heavily by the airstrikes. Because this was a besieged area, those who were injured were either not treated in a timely manner or not treated properly, which have resulted in very, very chronic issues.

The psychological trauma cannot even be measured. For instance, there is a gentleman we met, who lost seven members of his family including five of his children. How do you rebuild your life from there? Or the child who has had his face burned off and he is being bullied in school and has been forced to drop out because of this bullying – how can you even compensate for that? So it was heartbreaking hearing these individual stories, and meeting the people in person was quite overwhelming. But it also showed us how we failed as the humanitarian community in actually addressing these issues, which were caused by Dutch actions.

Roos: One of the interviewees asked me directly, “Are we less human than you are? If this factory was located in a Dutch city, would you have done it in the same way?”  And those, I think, are very spot on questions and very rightfully asked.

Saba: And to say that civilians are not aware, that is a complete understatement. Every person we met, whether they were authorities or civilians on the ground knew exactly what happened. We were asked how long it took for victims of Srebrenica to get their compensations, so they could calculate how long it would take them. So these are very well-informed people. Everybody wanted an apology from the Dutch – a formal apology by the Dutch government and by the parties who carried out the strike, as well as individual compensation.

Thank you for that. So did your findings confirm the conclusions from ‘Seeing Through the Rubble’?

Saba: This research confirmed the findings and then also added a very direct civilian voice to it. I think so far, most of the studies that have been taking place are usually looking at data from a distance, or maybe interviewing three to five civilians. But now we have the voices from over 119.

Does Hawijah continue to be affected by the strike, and is it still obvious when you visit the city today?

Saba: For us, that was one of the most appalling, for lack of a better term, aspect; that six and a half years later, you still see the rubble on the ground, which until now has not been cleared. You see that the hospital is still – a very major part of it – in prefabricated containers. We met a woman whose daughter was injured in the attack. She was 14 then, so about 20 now. And she was also worried that now that she has these prominent scars because of the injuries, who would marry her? Children, because their parents died or were injured, now can’t go to school, because they have to earn a livelihood. We got reports, which are yet to be confirmed, of children in primary schools, who are suffering from chronic diseases, like heart issues, high blood pressure and diabetes, because they’re so stressed by their trauma that happened six and a half years ago. So the city is very much completely at a standstill and it is still suffering from these aftershocks of what happened in June 2015.

Roos: You see a wounded city. It’s not like a huge city, but it’s a city with this roundabout, and if you take the wrong turn, you are in a pile of rubble. If you take the other turn, you see so many small commercial activities taking place. It is a wounded city with multiple faces. And the people that were affected, that were injured, they sold everything that they still had, to be able to pay for this first [medical] treatment [after the strike], including shelling injuries or amputations. They had nothing before, then they sold their jewellery or whatever they had to pay for this treatment and after that they were left with nothing. And they basically live off what other people are giving to them. It’s a very hopeless feeling if you talk to these people.

Saba: Like the hospital, for instance, it used to have a surgical wing, and now they don’t have the capacity for conducting surgeries anymore. They do not even have medicines for chronic diseases like diabetes or high blood pressure. People now have to travel 50 kilometers to Kirkuk, or have to spend their own money to get medicines [from private hospitals or pharmacies] that they need on a daily basis. They had 5,400 teachers before, and now there’s only 3,200 left. So you see these, these very visible sort of things as well. Giving numbers is one thing, but then when you meet the humans and you can paint a very clear picture of how these civilians feel. We met this gentleman who tried to commit suicide twice, because he used to be one of the richest people in Hawijah and then he lost everything.. And when we asked him, so all of this has happened and how would you like to sort of address it all? And he said, “All I want is death because I am done living.” How do you respond to that?

PAX are shown around the wreckage and destruction still affecting the city of Hawijah (Image via Roos Boer)

Thank you for depicting these long lasting effects and very human tragedies. So finally, I know you’ve touched on this a little bit, but I thought maybe you could just tell us about how the people of Hawijah think of the way that the Dutch have held themselves to account over this incident.

Saba: Well, as Roos already mentioned one of the questions we were asked was if the Dutch had different definitions of human rights? They were saying that you expect things like that from ISIS, which is a terrorist entity, but you don’t expect things like this from the Dutch, who are champions of human rights.

We have also had statements saying that they do not trust the Dutch government, however they do trust the Dutch justice system. So if they’re not given the justice that they deserve, then they will go to court and they will try and get their rights through the formal legal system. But then, across the board, whether it is authorities or whether it’s civilians, they do name the Dutch very outwardly and very clearly.

For instance, in the debate in the Netherlands, we heard that the intelligence was given to the Dutch by the Americans. So when I asked them why not blame the Americans and they actually had a very interesting answer, which we do not disagree with: They said the American intelligence was flawed during the Gulf war, the American intelligence was proved wrong in 2003, when they said there were weapons of mass destruction. So why are the Dutch still trusting the Americans? The person or entity carrying out the airstrike, they also have their own own minds and their own eyes. So why aren’t they trusting their own facilities for that measure?

Thank you very much for sharing this incredible research with us. Those are all our questions. Do you have anything final to add before we end?

Saba: The research report will hopefully be out in January. Hopefully we can add a lot more to the debate and also show multiple entities around the world, whether it’s NATO states or other nations joining international coalitions, or take part in this kind of warfare, to not only take the direct casualties or the direct harm into account. These reverberating effects often are even worse [and longer lasting] than the direct effects. So in the targeting process we firmly believe that this also needs to be integrated.

It will be on our site and on the Intimacies of Remote Warfare website. And there will also be a public launch.

And we will definitely share it widely on our social media as well. So it should be readily available to anyone looking for it. Thank you very much both of you for your time!

Saba: Thank you for, for touching on this important subject. Thank you.

The PAX team vist the destruction in Hawijah (Image via Mustafa Aljanaby, Al Ghad ©)

▲ Six years after a Dutch airstrike devastated Hawijah, damage and destruction remains widespread (Image via Roos Boer, PAX)

Incident Code

CS1967

Incident date

October 27, 2021

Location

الصبحة, Al Sabha, Deir Ezzor, Syria

Airwars assessment

A male civilian, co-chair of the Deir Ezzor Civil Council, was shot and killed by alleged Coalition forces and/or Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in on October 27, 2021.

According to a tweet from @Sada_AlSharqieh, a media organization covering Eastern Syria, Samer Al-Abdullah, the co-chair of the Deir Ezzor Civil Council, in charge of running the affairs of the Health Committee in the Council, was killed in an airdrop operation carried out by the Coalition forces and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

@DeirEzzor24 reported that Samer Al-Abdullah was killed by mistake when SDF forces were searching for a wanted person, adding that Samer was a member of the Future Syria Party affiliated with the administration.

The correspondent of the “Ein al-Furat” network said that the SDF Asayish carried out a landing operation to arrest a person named Shayesh al-Hassan. “When al-Hassan fled, the deputy co-presidency of the Deir Ezzor Civil Council, in charge of the affairs of the Health Committee, left his house, thinking that the shooting was on his house and that he should flee from it, which prompted the Asayish forces to shoot him, killing him instantly.” @baznewz named the target of the operation to be the sons of “Salem al-Baghdeh,” Abu Younis, a leader in the Islamic State.

However, @humam_isa reported that the shooting came after misleading information reached the Coalition forces. @Sada_AlSharqieh tweeted that Samer Al-Abdullah had been threatened by several parties who wanted him to leave work in the Civil Council and Nedaa Post stated that the SDF had arrested other members of the council. Ida2at even added that there were accusations that the SDF intended to kill Samer and it was part of an “assassination operation”. The “Al-Shaitat official” page quoted a source as saying that “Al-Abdullah is an educated person who knows that anyone who goes out during a raid or landing operation is targeted, and therefore he will not put himself at risk to look at the raid, which makes it likely that the cadres will arrange the operation to get rid of him.”

Sources were conflicted as to what time the event occurred, with @EuphratesPost pinpointing the raid to dawn while Jisr TV reported that the shooting occurred in the evening.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

  • Samer Al-Abdullah Adult male killed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground)
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1
  • (1 man)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attackers
    US-led Coalition, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)
  • Suspected target
    ISIS

Sources (28) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (4) [ collapse]

  • Samer Al-Abdullah, the co-chair of the Deir Ezzor Civil Council, killed in an alleged Coalition airdrop operation on October 27, 2021. (Image posted by @Sada_AlSharqieh)
  • Samer Al-Abdullah, the co-chair of the Deir Ezzor Civil Council, killed in an alleged Coalition airdrop operation on October 27, 2021. (Image posted by @DeirEzzorNow)
  • The official in the Civil Council of the "Self-Administration", Samer Al-Abdullah, was killed "by mistake", during a raid carried out by the international coalition forces and "SDF" near his house in a town in Deir ez-Zor governorate, targeting ISIS cells. (Image posted by @AsharqNewsSYR)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Graphic image of Samer Al-Abdullah, the co-chair of the Deir Ezzor Civil Council, killed in an alleged Coalition airdrop operation on October 27, 2021. (Image posted by @baznewz)

US-led Coalition Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    US-led Coalition
  • US-led Coalition position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)
  • Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground)
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1
  • (1 man)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attackers
    US-led Coalition, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)
  • Suspected target
    ISIS

Sources (28) [ collapse]