News & Investigations

News & Investigations

Published

December 10, 2021

Written by

Joe Dyke and Sanjana Varghese

Assisted by

Edward Millett

Airwars has found that 10 times more civilians were killed in 11 days of Israel’s bombing of Gaza than in the entirety of its 8-year campaign in Syria

This article was originally published by Newlines on December 9th 2021 and written by Airwars’ Investigations Team.

 

On Jan. 13, 2021, the Israeli military launched some of its most intensive strikes to date in Syria. Over several hours, perhaps two dozen sites of Iranian-linked armed groups were hit over a vast territory in the Deir ez-Zor region near the Iraqi border. At least 57 militants were reportedly killed. Local communities did not report a single civilian casualty.

Four months later, the might of the Israeli military targeted a very different location.

On the night of May 15, a series of airstrikes hit the Al-Rimal neighborhood of central Gaza City. At least 44 civilians reportedly died. Multiple families were nearly wiped out after taking shelter in a neighborhood previously thought to be safe. Some Hamas militants may also have been killed in underground tunnels, the announced target of the strikes by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), though this remains unclear.

The death tolls on those nights were not an anomaly — they form part of a clear trend. The Israeli military has fought two largely aerial campaigns in recent years. One is a yearslong campaign to prevent the Iranian military and its allies from entrenchment in Syria, the other a brief but fierce war with Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza in May. The effect on civilians could hardly be more stark.

New research by Airwars has found that up to 10 times more civilians were killed in 11 days of bombing in Gaza than in the entirety of Israel’s eight-year campaign in Syria.

In Syria, several hundred secretive Israeli strikes since 2013 have likely killed as many as 40 civilians. Rough tallies suggest hundreds — and likely thousands — of Iranian and Syrian military personnel and militants of other nations were killed in these strikes. Civilian casualties from the Israeli campaign appear to be dramatically lower than those resulting from other foreign powers operating in Syria — including Russia, Turkey and the U.S.-led coalition.

In Gaza the civilian-militant ratio is reversed. Between May 10 and 21, from 151 to 192 civilians were likely killed by Israeli airstrikes, according to a comprehensive review of local community reporting by Airwars. While this research didn’t estimate the number of militants killed, Israeli rights group B’Tselem put it at 90.

The Israeli actions in Gaza and Syria are usually thought of separately — with comparisons between the two rare. But how did a military that runs such a careful campaign in one theater end up killing so many civilians in just a few days in another? Our research pointed to three main reasons for the discrepancies.

The first is the type of targets chosen by the IDF in the two contexts. Israel’s targeting system bears many similarities to that of its closest ally, the United States. In fact, Israeli military lawyers pioneered the legal justifications for the targeted assassinations that later became a hallmark of the war on terror.

Until 2000, Israel legally considered Palestinian opposition a matter of law enforcement, said Daniel Reisner, then head of the Israeli military’s International Law Department. But following the outbreak of the second Palestinian uprising, or intifada, the Israeli military effectively invented a “hybrid” model to apply the laws of armed conflict — normally meant to apply only between states at war — to the West Bank and Gaza.

Craig Jones, a lecturer at Newcastle University and author of a recent book on Israeli and U.S. military lawyers, said by expanding the concept of “direct participation in hostilities,” Israel effectively invented a new category of potential target between civilian and combatant — allowing it to justify a widespread campaign of targeted assassinations.

“Essentially, once a Palestinian ‘participates’ by the broad Israeli standards, he or she cannot put down arms and remains targetable even when resting at home,” Jones said.

Reisner recalled that U.S. officials initially criticized the policy but after 9/11 “started calling for advice.” Later U.S. official justifications for drone strikes included lines lifted almost directly from Israeli policy, he said.

This legal justification allowed for more freedom in targeting Palestinian militants in their homes. While potential civilian harm still needed to be considered and precautions taken, it was accepted by the Israeli system that hitting a militant at home was potentially justified.

When the Gaza conflict started on May 10, the IDF would have had dozens of targets that had been preapproved — meaning they had already been through legal and military review.

“The IDF would have taken out of its drawers plans that were pre-prepared and reviewed legally,” said Liron Libman, former head of the International Law Department at the IDF. “But then every plan is just the basis for an order. To turn it into an operational order, you still need to assess the information again.”

It seems likely that many of those preapproved targets were the homes of militants.

Airwars tracked 17 locally reported incidents in which militants were explicitly targeted in residential buildings and civilians were killed or injured. Most took place in the first four days of the conflict, suggesting that they were in a preapproved target bank.

 

Airwars mapping of all civilian harm and strike locations (in light green according to UN data), mapped onto population density in the Strip

 

In those 17 incidents, local reports found that from nine to 11 militants were killed but also from 27 to 33 civilians, with more than 100 injured.

In one incident on May 13, four civilians were killed and 15 more, including seven children, were injured. The target was a three-story house in the Al Jeniya neighborhood, where four families lived. One of the dead, Raed Ibrahim al-Rantisi, was identified by the al-Qassam Brigades as one of their fighters. The family had gathered for Eid dinner.

In Syria, such incidents are rare, though not unheard of — such as when a Palestinian official and his family were killed in a strike in central Damascus in November 2019. But in general, strikes in Syria seem to target militants at exclusively military targets such as weapons warehouses close to land borders. Some of the civilian harm associated with Israeli strikes may even have been a result of Syrian air defense missiles missing their targets and hitting civilian homes.

The IDF’s practice of striking homes in Gaza also contributed to the high percentage of children killed, with more than one-third of all civilians killed there reported to be children. In Syria the figure is around 10%.

Likewise, when Israeli forces killed a civilian in Syria, more than 70% of the time they also harmed a militant, whereas in Gaza that ratio was in the 30% range.

“In Syria we bomb military targets, while in Gaza we strike civilian areas, so we end up bombing families,” said Yehuda Shaul, of the Israeli human rights organization Breaking the Silence, which is made up of former IDF military personnel.

Population density

A second key factor that helps explain these very different outcomes for civilians in Syria and Gaza is population density. Gaza is among the most heavily populated territories in the world, which dramatically increases the likelihood of civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure for every strike carried out.

We mapped every reported civilian harm incident in Gaza and every recorded strike location tracked by the United Nations, against population density.

Even within Gaza, civilian casualty incidents were clustered around areas of relatively high population density, such as in Gaza City to the north.

“Unlike in past wars, in May the Israeli military started its bombardment by hitting heavily populated areas and high-rise buildings,” said Yamen Al Madhoun, fieldwork director at the Gaza-based Palestinian rights organization Al Mezan. “Normally, people flee the perimeter areas where Israeli troops are stationed [and go] to schools and relatives’ homes in cities. But if civilian areas are the primary target, where can people go?”

Population density may also have provided some victims with a false sense of security. On May 12, airstrikes on the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood apparently targeting Hamas’ military wing destroyed two residential buildings. Reema Saad, who was four months pregnant, was killed alongside her two children and husband. The family had decided to stay in their apartment because they believed the densely populated neighborhood would be immune from strikes, Reema’s mother Samia told Middle East Eye.

Samir Zaqout, Al Mezan’s deputy director, said civilians had no idea how best to stay safe. “Fear, panic and confusion spread among the population. There were no taxis or transportation, so people were carrying their possessions and sometimes other family members while fleeing on foot.”

The Israeli military frequently notes that Hamas has placed military infrastructure in civilian neighborhoods in Gaza City, pointing to alleged tunnel networks as violations of the laws of war. Israeli officials also argue many of the more than 4,000 rockets fired by Hamas and Islamic Jihad from Gaza came from heavily populated neighborhoods.

But critics point out that hitting such neighborhoods overwhelmingly leads to civilian harm.

“Israeli authorities have shown an utter disregard for civilian life,” Omar Shakir of Human Rights Watch said. “They have a quite loose definition of what is a ‘military target,’ and they have consistently bombed in heavily populated neighborhoods without considering the civilian ramifications.”

“The rules and principles found in customary international humanitarian law to protect civilians should be followed,” Zaqout said. “Israel’s high-level military technology enables its forces to do so — to ensure the lawfulness of a target prior to attack. If circumstances are unclear, the Israeli military should presume people and objects normally dedicated to civilian purposes to be civilian.”

Even in Syria, the trend is noticeable. While the scale of civilian harm from IDF strikes is far lower than in Gaza, it is still overwhelmingly located in heavily populated areas, particularly the capital of Damascus — where around 45% of the estimated civilian harm occurred. In rural Deir ez-Zor Israel has carried out extensive strikes for more than five years, killing hundreds of militants and Iranian and Syrian military personnel along the way, without a single credible local allegation of civilian harm.

By contrast, both the U.S.-led coalition and Russian forces have caused often devastating numbers of civilian casualties during their own campaigns in Syria — primarily driven by extensive strikes on urban centers.

Such concerns chime with widespread calls for limits on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. A U.N.-backed campaign now involving more than 120 nations — to forge a political statement that could help limit explosive weapons use in urban areas — is being led by Ireland, though so far no major military powers have fully thrown their weight behind it.

Rules of Engagement

A third possible factor helping explain why outcomes for civilians differ so radically between Israeli campaigns is one that is harder to prove — that the Israeli military has different, and more expansive, rules of engagement (RoE) for strikes in Gaza compared with Syria. Such RoEs govern when militaries are allowed to use force and, in the event that a strike is likely to kill civilians, determine how many casualties are deemed “acceptable.”

There are no internationally agreed-upon rules of how many civilians can be killed in a strike — international law requires only that it be “proportional” to the military advantage gained. At one point during the presidency of Barack Obama, U.S. generals in Iraq were allowed to carry out strikes they expected might kill up to 10 civilians, whereas the same figure in Afghanistan was at times set at just one, given the political sensitivities of civilian harm.

Multiple sources said the Israeli military does not internally quantify these “acceptable” tolls quite so explicitly, preferring instead to be “very context specific,” as Libman, now research fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute, said. The country has never released its RoEs for Syria or Gaza, and it is unlikely to do so.

A recent study found that Israeli military officers in general were significantly more conservative in their view of acceptable levels of civilian harm in discussions on proportionality as compared with their U.S. counterparts. The study, by universities in Israel, the U.S. and the U.K., found that in an imagined case of targeting an enemy headquarters, the median number of civilian deaths that U.S. officers were willing to tolerate in order to achieve military gains was 175, while Israeli officers were willing to accept 30 such casualties.

The IDF also likes to highlight its policy of warning civilians in Gaza before some airstrikes, a practice not widely adopted by other military actors. Yet these are the exception rather than the rule — in the 136 civilian harm incidents Airwars researchers tracked, the vast majority of targets had reportedly received no warnings.

According to Breaking the Silence, when there is imminent threat to populations, Israeli militaries are willing to carry out strikes that threaten civilian lives. “When there is even the slightest threat to Israeli lives, concern for Palestinian civilians all but goes out the window,” Shaul said.

Reisner didn’t dispute that the calculations were different in Gaza. “If I see an enemy about to fire a rocket at an Israeli city, the proportionality calculation would be different than if I saw the same individual at home knowing he is planning an attack in three days,” he said.

“I can legitimately kill many more civilians — it is a horrible sentence, but [it is the reality].”

Hamas and Islamic Jihad also posed a far more imminent threat than Iranian groups in Syria, said Amos Guiora, a professor at S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah and another former senior Israeli military lawyer. “With the Iranians you can afford to wait for the right time,” he said.

Politics may also play into it. Guiora said that the potential for a political fallout from a strike in Syria could also encourage caution. Israel has long had de facto control over the Palestinian territories but open involvement in Syria could risk a backlash at a time when Israel has secured landmark deals with Arab states including the United Arab Emirates.

“An unacceptable number of civilian deaths opens the door to blowback and bounce back, in the court of international opinion,” he said.

“Maybe from a geopolitical perspective, extra caution is necessary in Syria.”

▲ Airwars' homepage comparing Israeli strikes in Syria and Gaza

Published

December 9, 2021

Written by

Airwars Staff

Population density is greatest driver of civilian casualties from strikes in Gaza, Israel and Syria, new study shows.

In just eleven days in May 2021, Israeli air and artillery strikes on Gaza killed up to 10 times more civilians than the country’s eight-year bombing campaign against Iranian-linked forces in Syria, new Airwars research has found. The study raises critical concerns about the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.

The report – ‘Why did they bomb us?’ Urban civilian harm in Gaza, Syria and Israel from explosive weapons use’ – comprehensively documents the civilian toll of recent Israeli actions in Gaza and Syria, as well as from Palestinian rocket fire into Israel during May. Published jointly in Arabic, Hebrew and English, the 16,000 word report employs Airwars’ standard methodology to examine how, when, and where civilians are killed in urban conflicts.

The report chronicles civilian casualties from two very different military campaigns by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

Among the report’s key findings are:

    Across the three conflict areas, both the targeting approach and the population density of those areas bombed were critical drivers of civilian harm, leading to profoundly different outcomes for civilians. In Gaza between 151 and 192 civilians were likely killed as a result of IDF actions in May 2021, mostly in densely populated areas. At least a third of those killed were children. Between 15 and 20 civilian deaths in Gaza were additionally likely to have resulted from Palestinian misfires. 10 civilians were directly killed in Israel in May 2021 resulting from Palestinian militant actions – with most casualties occurring when rockets penetrated Israel’s ‘Iron Dome’ defence system and reached cities and towns. In Syria, an extensive IDF air campaign since 2013 has had a far smaller impact on civilians. Israeli strikes have likely killed at least 14 and up to 40 Syrian civilians, with attacks mostly focused on exclusively military targets, away from population centres. Airwars has produced an interactive map showing its findings for Gaza, which can be viewed here. The map allows users to navigate through 128 individual assessments of civilian harm in Gaza, and provides a lasting testimony to the civilian victims of the conflict.

 

Israel’s longtime rival Iran has been active within near neighbour Syria since civil war erupted a decade ago, with Tehran helping to prop up President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Beginning in January 2013, Israel has periodically carried out attacks within Syria to counter Iranian entrenchment. Strikes have targeted Iranian and Syrian troops, as well as militias from multiple countries aligned with Tehran.

Airwars has tracked Israeli strikes in Syria for several years as part of its long running monitoring of actions there by all foreign actors. It has now published interactive mapping of all locally reported allegations against Israel in Syria. It’s believed to be the first comprehensive assessment of the civilian toll of an extensive but secretive air campaign.

Airwars researchers also recorded civilian harm from Israeli military strikes during the May 2021 eruption of violence in Gaza, alongside harm caused by rockets fired into Israel by Palestinian militants.

An image from Airwars’ interactive map of civilian harm in Gaza

Choice of targets

Since 2008 Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip have fought four major combat operations. Airwars researchers looked at the latest conflict in May 2021 in order to provide comparative data with the more limited civilian harm events being reported from Israeli strikes in Syria.

After compiling all community-reported civilian harm events in the conflicts in Syria and Gaza, Airwars researchers found that one of the critical explainers behind the dramatically different outcomes for civilians was where the IDF chooses to bomb.

According to local reports, the great majority of Israeli actions in Syria have targeted military assets such as air bases, troop convoys and weapons stores, away from major cities and towns. Hundreds of militants were killed in these operations, for the most part in military settings.

In Gaza, the picture was very different. Strikes routinely hit residential neighbourhoods, and militants were frequently targeted in non-military settings: Airwars identified 17 locally reported incidents in which militants were targeted in residential buildings and in which civilians were killed or injured nearby. In those incidents, local reports found that between 27 and 33 civilians were killed, with more than 100 injured. One third of those killed in the Gaza Strip were children.

Airwars also identified between 56 and 68 civilians killed when the IDF targeted what they said was a Hamas militant tunnel network beneath heavily populated areas in Gaza City, leading the buildings above to collapse. Most of the deaths came from a single incident: in the early morning of May 16th, at least 41 civilians were killed in strikes on the residential al-Wahda street, of which up to 18 were children.

Riyad Ishkontana, 42, lost his wife and four of his children in the al-Wahda street attack. He had spent the days leading up to the bombing reassuring the young family they were safe: their building was in an area of professionals and shops, he told them. But in the early hours of the morning, as Ishkontana was out getting snacks, the building was hit. Only one of his children survived. “I wish I never left,” he told The New York Times.

Population density mapping

Airwars also mapped all civilian harm allegations in Gaza, Syria and Israel against population density, and found a second clear driver of civilian harm: the more heavily populated an area, the more civilians were killed.

Airwars’s new landing page comparing Israeli actions in Syria and Gaza

In Gaza, one of the most heavily populated places in the world, more than 1,500 declared Israeli air and artillery strikes hit the territory in just 11 days. This dramatically increased the likelihood of civilian harm. Even within Gaza, there was a clear trend – the more heavily populated a neighbourhood, the more civilians died there.

The trend was also noticeable in Syria. While the scale of civilian harm from IDF strikes was much lower than in Gaza, it is still overwhelmingly located in heavily populated areas. Around 45 percent of estimated civilian casualties from Israeli strikes since 2013 occurred in the capital Damascus. In Israel, 17 of the 33 reported civilian harm incidents resulting from Palestinian rockets also took place in more densely populated areas, Airwars found.

Population density in Gaza may have given some a false sense of security. On May 12th in Gaza, airstrikes killed Reema Saad, who was four months pregnant, alongside her two children and husband. The family had decided to stay in their apartment because they believed the densely populated neighbourhood would be immune from targeting, Reema’s mother Samia told Middle East Eye.

Airwars mapping of population density and reported civilian harm for Gaza, May 2021

Urban deaths part of a global trend

The new findings support what Airwars has found across all conflicts it monitors: that using wide area effect explosive weapons in populated urban areas leads to high levels of civilian deaths and injuries.

This phenomenon is certainly not restricted to actions by the IDF, or by Palestinian militant groups. Indeed, the Gaza campaign in particular can be seen as part of a profoundly worrying trend in which nations and others conduct intensive military actions in urban areas, often with devastating results.

High civilian casualties in Gaza are symptomatic of an escalating and troubling global military trend in the use of wide area effect weapons in populated areas (sometimes known as EWIPA) – seen from Gaza to Mosul, Aleppo to Raqqa, and Tripoli to Kabul. These latest findings lend further urgency to an ongoing international push to restrict their use in a United Nations-brokered Political Declaration by nations, expected to be finalised in early 2022.

“Our latest study corroborates what we have found with other large scale conflicts in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere: even technologically advanced militaries kill large numbers of civilians when attacks focus on urban centres,” Chris Woods, director at Airwars, said. “Despite repeated assurances to the contrary, it’s clear that ‘precision warfare’ cannot sufficiently mitigate civilian harm.”

“Stark differences in civilian deaths and injuries from Israeli actions in Syria and in the Gaza Strip clearly illustrate that the most significant driver of civilian harm remains the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. The single most effective way to reduce the number of civilians dying in warfare would be to restrict the use of such dangerous wide area effect weapons on urban centres.”

How the new research was carried out

The Airwars report is the result of months of meticulous research carried out by a team of local language researchers, geolocators and specialist assessors.

Thousands of local media, social media and official sources documenting civilian harm as it happened were identified and archived by Airwars’ team of Arabic-, Hebrew- and English-language researchers in relation to the May 2021 conflict in Gaza and Israel. Researchers also continue to monitor and archive all civilian harm allegations in Syria resulting from Israeli strikes since 2013.

Airwars has then assessed the civilian harm from each incident in Gaza, Syria and Israel using the same standard methodology it applies across all conflicts it monitors. Its approach can best be described as remote, original language hyperlocal monitoring of casualty claims by affected communities – along with a review of broader reports and claims by belligerents, media and other investigators. All assessments are viewed as provisional – that is, any credible new information relating to an event will be subsequently added, potentially affecting our understanding of the incident.

Full resource list

The full report available in English, Hebrew and Arabic

Interactive mapping of civilian harm in Gaza

Video documenting key findings

Full dataset for civilian harm from Israeli strikes in Gaza and Syria

Full dataset for civilian harm from Palestinian rocket fire in Israel

▲ A child uses his mobile device in the ruins of a building in Beit Lahia, Gaza Strip on May 26th 2021. © Mohamed Zaanoun

Incident Code

ISSY020

Incident date

November 24, 2021

Location

حمص, Homs, Syria

Airwars assessment

Up to two civilians were killed and another was injured in alleged Israeli airstrikes on Homs on November 24, 2021. Conflicting reports were given as to whether two of the people killed were civilians, with up to three others being identified as members of the regime forces.

The Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), a regime-controlled media source, reported that two civilians were killed and another civilian was injured, in addition to six soldiers who were injured in alleged Israeli airstrikes at 1:26am. The source added that the Syrian air defenses had shot down most of the missiles.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) gave a conflicting report that “the death toll in the targeting rose to 5, two of the militias loyal to the Lebanese Hezbollah, whose nationality has not yet been known, and 3 members of the regime forces. Both of them were in civilian clothes during the targeting, and it turned out that they were soldiers later on.”

A Facebook post from Free Dier Azour Radio named the three members of the regime forces that were killed: Sultan Qilih, Zine El Abidine Qataz, Ibrahim Karim.

SOHR added that the killings were a result of both the Israeli airstrikes and the remnants of missiles from the “air battle between the regime’s air defenses and the Israeli missiles” and specified that he Israeli targeting caused the death of at least 4 people and the injury of others, two of them were killed in the western suburbs, and two were killed as a result of the fall of the remnants of missiles, without specifying if this occurred in a different location.

AFP quoted the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as saying that the strikes occurred in an area near three villages in the west of Homs province. A Facebook post from Nors Studies identified the location of one of the strikes as occurring near Kabash Gas Station on Lebanon Road.

Jerusalem Post quoted opposition-affiliated Halab Today TV that “10 members of Hezbollah were injured after a site the movement uses as a military headquarters and to store logistical equipment was targeted in the airstrikes.” The source also quoted Al-Araby Al-Jadeed in reporting that “at least 10 missiles hit positions belonging to Syrian regime forces west of the city of Homs, causing casualties among civilians, Syrian soldiers and Iran-backed militants. One of the sites targeted was located in the Syrian Gas Company, according to the report. The two civilians were reportedly killed by a missile that hit a civilian area near a gas station west of Homs.”

AFP reported that the Israeli military declined to comment on “reports in the foreign media.”

The incident occured at 1:26 am local time.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0 – 2
  • Civilians reported injured
    1
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attacker
    Israeli Armed Forces
  • Suspected targets
    Assad regime, Hezbollah
  • Belligerents reported killed
    3–5
  • Belligerents reported injured
    6–10

Sources (13) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (4) [ collapse]

  • Funeral for the three members of the Syrian regime forces killed in alleged Israeli airstrikes on November 24, 2021. (Image posted by Free Dier Azour Radio)
  • Funeral for the three members of the Syrian regime forces killed in alleged Israeli airstrikes on November 24, 2021. (Image posted by Free Dier Azour Radio)
  • Funeral for the three members of the Syrian regime forces killed in alleged Israeli airstrikes on November 24, 2021. (Image posted by Free Dier Azour Radio)

Israeli Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    Israeli Armed Forces
  • Israeli Armed Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0 – 2
  • Civilians reported injured
    1
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attacker
    Israeli Armed Forces
  • Suspected targets
    Assad regime, Hezbollah
  • Belligerents reported killed
    3–5
  • Belligerents reported injured
    6–10

Sources (13) [ collapse]

צבא ישראלי בסוריה וברצועת עזה

Incident Code

ISSY019

Incident date

August 19–20, 2021

Location

قارة, Qarah, Rif Dimashq, Syria

Geolocation

34.154232, 36.743259 Note: The accuracy of this location is to City level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

City

Airwars assessment

At least four civilians, including a young man, were killed and three to four others were injured in alleged Israeli airstrikes or Syrian regime air defense strikes on Qarah on August 19/20, 2021. Sources reported that four additional members of Hezbollah were killed in the strikes.

A tweet from @SARASALLOUM963 quoted the Head of Qara City Council as reporting that “four civilian workers were killed and three others were injured as a result of the Israeli aggression on Qara last night”.

Enab Baladi quoted the Russian “TASS” news agency as reporting that “the warplanes targeted three points in Qara, and three missiles landed on civilian homes, killing four civilians and wounding four others, as well as destroying two houses and damaging nearby buildings” and “the ages of the dead ranged between 20 and 50 years, and the wounded were taken to the hospital in the nearby city of Deir Atiyah”.

@SARASALLOUM963 also identified the name of one of the people killed: Jaafar, the son of Abdul Jabbar Taha, a member of Kefraya and Al Foah, who was expelled from his village in Idlib countryside, was killed. @AuroraIntel referred to Jaafar as being a civilians.

According to Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, four members of Lebanese Hezbollah were killed and others were wounded in the strikes on weapons warehouses and other military posts belonging to Lebanese Hezbollah in Qarah. They added that Lebanese Hezbollah uses the area to smuggle fuel from Lebanon to Syria.

@QalaatM identified the names of two of the “soldiers” killed in the strikes: Maher Ahmed Hilal and Adel Khader Al-Fatlawi, who was serving in the IRGC-linked Brigade.

Damascus SV reported on both the Hezbollah militia members and the civilians killed in the strikes, indicating that both civilians and belligerents were killed. They quoted Voice of the Capital correspondents in the western Qalamoun, who said that “ambulances loaded with corpses and wounded arrived at several government hospitals”. In addition, they also quoted the Qara City Council’s reported on civilians being killed but added that “local sources accused the anti-missiles fired by the air defenses of killing and wounding civilians”.

Step News reported that in response to the Israeli airstrikes, the Syrian regime launched air defense missiles and an image posted by Damascus Voice shows “remnants of the Russian “Pantsir” air defense missiles”. Syrian Arab News Agency, an agency associated with the Syrian regime, reported that the regime had shot down most of the missiles and were still assessing the outcome.

Tweets from @AuroraIntel and @SAMSyria0 were able to identify the geolocation of the strikes. Sources were conflicted as to whether the Israeli strikes or the Syrian defense strikes were responsible for the civilian casualties.

The incident occured around midnight.

  • Jaafar Age unknown male son of Abdul Jabbar Taha, a member of Kefraya and Al Foah killed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    4
  • (1 man)
  • Civilians reported injured
    3–4
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Contested
    Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
  • Suspected attackers
    Israeli Armed Forces, Syrian Regime Armed Forces
  • Suspected targets
    Hezbollah, Iranian military
  • Belligerents reported killed
    4

Sources (26) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (12) [ collapse]

  • Remnants of the Russian "Pantsir" air defense missiles that fell in the residential neighborhoods of the city of Damascus on the evening of August 19, 2021. (Image posted by Damascus Voice)
  • Remnants of the Russian "Pantsir" air defense missiles that fell in the residential neighborhoods of the city of Damascus on the evening of August 19, 2021. (Image posted by Damascus Voice)
  • Jaafar, the son of Abdul Jabbar Taha, a member of Kefraya and Al Foah, who was expelled from his village in Idlib countryside, was killed in alleged Israeli strikes on Qarah on August 19/20, 2021. (Image posted by @SARASALLOUM963)
  • Strikes on Damascus and surrounding areas the evening of August 19, 2021. (Image posted by Syrian Arab News Agency)
  • Strikes on Damascus and surrounding areas the evening of August 19, 2021. (Image posted by Syrian Arab News Agency)
  • Strikes on Damascus and surrounding areas the evening of August 19, 2021. (Image posted by Syrian Arab News Agency)
  • Strikes on Damascus and surrounding areas the evening of August 19, 2021. (Image posted by Syrian Arab News Agency)
  • Adel Khader Al-Fatlawi, identified by @QalaatM as a soldier, was killed in strikes on Qarah on August 19, 2021. (Image posted by @SAMSyria0)
  • Maher Ahmed Hilal, identified by @QalaatM as a soldier, was killed in strikes on Qarah on August 19, 2021. (Image posted by @SAMSyria0)
  • Maher Ahmed Hilal, identified by @QalaatM as a soldier, was killed in strikes on Qarah on August 19, 2021. (Image posted by @SAMSyria0)
  • Adel Khader Al-Fatlawi, identified by @QalaatM as a soldier, was killed in strikes on Qarah on August 19, 2021. (Image posted by @QalaatM)
  • Civilian planes flying to Beirut airport were rerouted due to alleged Israeli strikes in Qarah on August 19, 2021. (Image posted by @Intel_Sky)

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the city of Qarah (قارة), for which the generic coordinates are: 34.154232, 36.743259. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

Israeli Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    Israeli Armed Forces
  • Israeli Armed Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Syrian Regime Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    Syrian Regime Armed Forces
  • Syrian Regime Armed Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    4
  • (1 man)
  • Civilians reported injured
    3–4
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Contested
    Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
  • Suspected attackers
    Israeli Armed Forces, Syrian Regime Armed Forces
  • Suspected targets
    Hezbollah, Iranian military
  • Belligerents reported killed
    4

Sources (26) [ collapse]

Incident Code

ISPT123

Incident date

May 20, 2021

Location

منزل عائلة اسليم بحي الصبرة, House for the Aslaim family in the Al-Sabra neighborhood, The Gaza Strip

Geolocation

31.506017, 34.450531 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Nearby landmark level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Nearby landmark

Airwars assessment

As many as seven civilians, including five children, were reported injured in an alleged Israeli airstrike on the Al-Sabra neighborhood of Gaza city, on May 20th 2021, according to local reports.

Al Haq reported, at approximately 6:00 am Israeli aircraft targeted the fifth-floor apartment of Hazem Muhammad Antar Aslam (spelled Asleem and Saleem in other sources) and the bombing reportedly wounded four sleeping children. According to the source, the building located close to the Abdullah Azzam Mosque was owned by Hazem’s son. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights puts the number of children injured in the strike at five.

Amira Aslam, 14, spoke to Reuters from her hospital bed about the strike that caused parts of her house to collapse: “We were sitting on the sofa when a missile landed. There was heavy smoke and we couldn’t see anything.”

Al Haq reported that a ten-year-old girl, Farah Hazem Muhammad Aslam, had to have her leg amputated following the strike. Palestine Now reported that her foot was amputated. Al Watan said that the three children injured alongside her were her brothers.

Three people who were injured in the strike later arrived at the Al-Shifa Medical Complex, according to The Palestinian Information Center.

The incident occured at approximately 6:00 am local time.

The victims were named as:

Family members (5)

  • Farah Hazem Muhammad Aslam 10 years old female Farah's leg or foot was amputated following the incident according to the sources. injured
  • Amira Aslam 14 years old female injured
  • Brother of Farah Hazem Muhammad Aslam Age unknown male injured
  • Brother of Farah Hazem Muhammad Aslam Age unknown male injured
  • Brother of Farah Hazem Muhammad Aslam Age unknown male injured

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Civilians reported injured
    5–7
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attacker
    Israeli Armed Forces

Sources (37) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

  • Tweet via @NesmaJa97

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention a residential building being struck in the vicinity of Abdullah Azzam Mosque (مسجد عبد الله عزام), for which the generic coordinates are: 31.506017, 34.450531. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

Israeli Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    Israeli Armed Forces
  • Israeli Armed Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Civilians reported injured
    5–7
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attacker
    Israeli Armed Forces

Sources (37) [ collapse]

Incident Code

ISPT126

Incident date

May 20, 2021

Location

جباليا, Jabalia, The Gaza Strip

Geolocation

31.53871116, 34.49510787 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Town level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Town

Airwars assessment

On May 20th, 2021, at approximately 2:05 AM between four to nine civilians, including three women and one child were injured as a result of Israeli airstrikes on the Jabaliya refugee camp. No names were reported. Two missiles were reported to have been fired at the main street connecting Block 7 and Block 9 of the camp, near Abu Rashid Pond. In addition, the offices of the Red Cresent Society and Medical Aid for Palestine were damaged as a result of the strikes, alongside electricity, water networks, and sewage systems.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights reported “At approximately 02:05, Israeli warplanes launched 2 missiles on the main street connecting Block (7) with Block (9) in front of Safi Shops for Construction Materials in Jabalia refugee camp.  As a result, 7 Palestinians were wounded, including 3 women and 1 child while many facilities, houses, and infrastructure sustained damage.”

Anadolu Agency reported that a house was completely destroyed, and RT news reported a video of the later destruction.

The Palestinian Minister of Health reported that the Red Cresent Society in the Gaza strip “suffered severe damages”. The Twitter account for Medical Aid for Palestine posted images showing the damage to a women’s health clinic supported by Medical Aid for Palestine.

@AlmakdesyMedia on Twitter reported nine people with “moderate and light injuries” arrived at hospitals in Northern Gaza.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Civilians reported injured
    4–8
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attacker
    Israeli Armed Forces

Sources (31) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

  • Video from RT news showing the damage from an Israeli airstrike on the al-Saftawi area. Extensive destruction is shown, with civilians surveying and sitting among the rubble. Video is dated May 20th, 2021.

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the town of Jabalia (جباليا), for which the generic coordinates are: 31.53871116, 34.49510787. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

Israeli Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    Israeli Armed Forces
  • Israeli Armed Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Civilians reported injured
    4–8
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attacker
    Israeli Armed Forces

Sources (31) [ collapse]