Civilian Casualties

Civilian Casualties

Incident Code

R4447

Incident date

June 16, 2022

Location

القاهرة, Al Kahira, Hama, Syria

Airwars assessment

At least one civilian was injured in alleged Russian or regime strikes on the town of Al Kahira on June 16, 2022.

The Syrian Civil Defense reported that a civilian was wounded when Syrian regime and Russian forces struck his car with a guided missile in the town of Al Kahira in Al-Ghab Plain.

A tweet from @jamlyyyyy refers to the car as belonging to “Ankara militants” while @humam_isa stated that the vehicle belonged to “the opposition factions, which was heading to change the guard duty” without directly commenting on whether the injured person was a civilian or a militant. However, @77Mikiy reported that the car was a civilian car and @MasarPressNet identified a civilian as being injured.

The majority of sources attributed the strikes to the Syrian regime while the Syrian Civil Defense identified both Russia and the regime as being responsible. @ZaitunAgency  mentioned that “an ATG missile” was used in the attack.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Civilians reported injured
    1
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Contested
    Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
  • Suspected attackers
    Russian Military, Syrian Regime

Sources (10) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

  • Vehicle destroyed by alleged Russian and regime strikes in the town of Al Kahira on June 16, 2022. (Image posted by Syrian Civil Defense)

Russian Military Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    Russian Military
  • Russian Military position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Syrian Regime Assessment:

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

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Civilians reported injured
    1
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Contested
    Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
  • Suspected attackers
    Russian Military, Syrian Regime

Sources (10) [ collapse]

Published

June 13, 2022

Written by

Imogen Piper and Joe Dyke

Assisted by

Clive Vella, Maia Awada, Sanjana Varghese and Shihab Halep

Survivors of the assault on the Al-Shifa hospital in northern Syria still seeking answers

A year on from a devastating assault on the main hospital in the Syrian city of Afrin, a new Airwars visual investigation has pieced together key features of the attack.

At least 19 people were reportedly killed in two strikes on the Al-Shifa hospital on June 12th, 2021 in what was the single deadliest incident tracked by Airwars in Syria during 2021.

Hospital attacks in Syria are sadly common, with both the Syrian government and allied Russian forces striking dozens of them since the civil war began in 2011. The US-led Coalition against the so-called Islamic State, Turkey and Kurdish groups have also all been accused of targeting medical facilities.

But the Al-Shifa hospital strike was unusual in that the survivors didn’t all identify the same culprit. Some accused the Syrian regime, others the Russians, while others still blamed the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces or allied Kurdish militias. Some even claimed Turkey was responsible for an attack in a city under its influence.

By bringing together satellite imagery, CCTV footage, witness testimony and expert analysis, Airwars created a comprehensive visual assessment of the strike. We were seeking to understand what munition was used and where the rocket was fired from.

While the investigation was not able to definitively conclude which party was responsible, it did define a seven-kilometre wide region from where the rockets were likely launched. In that area the Syrian regime, SDF and Russians all operated.

“We hope that by publishing this investigation on the anniversary of this horrific attack, we will spark a new conversation about the brazen targeting of a hospital,” Emily Tripp, Airwars’ Director, said.

“This case is one of far too many in Syria’s long civil war where families are left seeking answers about who killed their loved ones.”

The full visual investigation is available here.

 

The context

Afrin is a geopolitically significant city – located at the forefront between multiple belligerents in the 11-year Syrian civil war.

The city is close to the Turkish border and is currently under the control of Turkish-backed groups that operate under the broad title of the Syrian National Army (SNA).

Turkey has fought significant conflicts with Kurdish groups, including the SDF – the closest ally of the United States in Syria. The SDF controls much of the territory to the east of Afrin.

At the time of the strike the Syrian government and its Russian backers also had military capabilities in the region, controlling territory to the southeast of Afrin, while also being known to operate in the east. Russian and Syrian government forces have been the most common strikers of hospitals during the civil war.

Al-Shifa hospital is located in the west of the city and is reportedly close to multiple Turkish government and SNA buildings. The hospital is partly run by the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS).

At the time of the attack Turkish president Erodogan accused the SDF, who in turn accused Syrian government forces. Allegations were also made against Russian forces and even Turkey itself.

The strikes

Most investigations of this type begin by analysing the remnants of the missiles at the scene. However, according to medical sources on the ground, Turkish-backed authorities removed all shrapnel and other physical evidence from the hospital in the hours after the attack, and also prevented activists and media from accessing the site for several hours. Without these vital clues, we drew on other forms of evidence that might give us an idea of where the projectiles might have been launched from.

Airwars compiled all available visual evidence, including drone footage, CCTV recordings provided by SAMS, social media posts, photographs and satellite imagery. We also gathered witness testimony, including speaking to survivors. Using this information we produced a 3D model of the hospital, mapping the impact locations.

The first strike hit the alleyway of the emergency department at 6.55pm – CCTV footage captured the explosion before cutting out shortly after as the electricity failed. The strike caused significant damage to buildings on both sides of the alleyway and reportedly killed, among others, a woman giving birth.

A screenshot from Airwars’ 3D model of the Afrin attack

“It was terrifying. It felt like an earthquake,” medic Mohammed al-Aghawani, who was injured in the attack, told Airwars. “At first I didn’t understand what had happened – whether I was alive or dead.”

The second strike, occurring a few seconds later, hit the main building and damaged the physiotherapy, paediatrics, ENT and surgical clinics. Photographs of the second impact location show a metal rafter broken and bent in half by the projectile as it penetrated the wall.

Image of the impact site (Via Syrian National Commission on Detainees)

From this we determined that the projectile would have arrived at an angle perpendicular to the bend of the bar. Plotting this onto a wider map, we concluded that the projectile must have come from a near due easterly direction.

The third strike

Hoping to narrow down the potential launch area further, we extended our 3D model to map a third impact location allegedly from the same volley of projectiles. Dr. Amin Qosho was at sitting at his kitchen table in his apartment home a few hundred metres away from the hospital. Around 7pm a projectile struck the building opposite his apartment. Instead of penetrating the wall, it hit the building’s reinforced elevator shaft, sending a large spread of shrapnel towards Qosho’s balcony and through his door, killing him instantly.

Using video footage and photographs of this impact location we were able to determine the relative height of the building struck and the building directly to the east. Building upon our previous determination that the projectile came from the east, we concluded that the angle of impact must have been high enough to clear the neighbouring building.

To narrow down our launch area further we investigated the munition used.

The type of weapon

While the Turkish-backed authorities removed all munitions remnants from the hospital itself, an image shared on social media that day showed a projectile found between Qosho’s home and the Al-Shifa hospital.

Images showing part of what appears to be remnants of a 122mm BM-21 rocket (spring-loaded fins) taken ~175m from the site of the Afrin hospital attack that killed over a dozen. Possibly from the first part of the double tap strike, hitting surrounding area

36.509510, 36.860433 pic.twitter.com/w8PAUvsTYU

— Alexander McKeever (@AKMcKeever) June 14, 2021

The projectile was identified as a 122mm, fired from a BM21 GRAD rocket launcher. This type of launcher was first developed by the Soviet Union in the 1960s but are now a very common – used by multiple sides in the Syrian war. Such launchers fire up to 40 projectiles in a single volley and are inherently inaccurate – designed for open battle fields not urban warfare.

While it was impossible to say with absolute certainty that the hospital and Qosho’s home were also hit by 122mm rockets, it is likely they were from the same volley of rockets.

 

Firing tables for GRAD rockets give a typical range of between 5 and 20 kilometres. However, using our model we determined that to clear the top of the building to the east, the rocket would have had to enter at a minimum of 23.4 degrees. This narrowed our potential launch area down further to between 12.3 and 20.5 kilometres.

Airwars modelling of the potential angles of impact

We shared all our visual evidence with a leading world expert in GRAD rockets, Ove Dullum. He agreed that the projectiles came from an easterly direction, adding that the fragment patterns from the impact indicated a low angle of impact, narrowly clearing the neighbouring building to the east.

Compiling his analysis with our own findings we estimate that the rockets were likely fired from the east and within the closer half of our range.

A still image of the estimated launch area, showing multiple groups operating there

Other investigations have found that the same type of rockets have been launched from the same area, including one by @obretix on a strike that hit the headquarters of a medical first responders organisation in Afrin six weeks after the attack on Al-Shifa hospital.

Conclusion

At the time of the incident, our estimated launch area was mostly under control of the SDF, America’s closest ally in Syria, along with allied militia groups. However control of this region is complicated. Reports in the weeks prior to the attack showed evidence of Russian and Syrian military forces operating within our estimated launch area.

On the 2nd of June, alleged Turkish artillery targeting SDF positions in Mara’anaz reportedly killed a Lieutenant in the Syrian militant, showing the presence and proximity of both the SDF and Regime forces in the area. Two days prior to the Al-Shifa attack, three soldiers from the Syrian military were reportedly injured by alleged Turkish bombardment on Menagh airbase, located within our potential launch area.

As such official designation of responsibility remains unclear. The SDF, Russians and Syrian Government all deny responsibility for this attack on a vital resource.

For the families of the victims and the survivors, the lack of accountability makes the suffering harder.

“I tried to check on the families of the martyrs – their psychological and financial situations are very bad,” Al-Aghawani said. “Personally, every few nights I dream of bombing.”

Airwars invites anyone with additional information to come forward.

▲ A screenshot from Airwars' 3D model of the Afrin attack. Image via Sham News Network.

Incident Code

R4446

Incident date

May 12, 2022

Location

اطراف قرية منطف في جنوبي ادلب, outskirts of Mantef village, Idlib, Syria

Airwars assessment

At least one civilian, a young man, was injured in alleged Russian airstrikes on the Jabal Al-Arba’een area on May 12, 2022.

According to Baladi News, a civilian was wounded and a large number of poultry were killed by Russian strikes on a poultry farm located in the Jabal Al-Arba’een area in the southern countryside of Idlib. Roz Press reported that the injuries of the civilian were to “varying degrees”.

The correspondent of “Zaman Al-Wasl” said that the young man, Ammar Muhammad Khair Rihaniya, who was wounded, works as a blacksmith.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights identified four raids as being carried out in the vicinity of the villages of Mantef, Kafr Lata and Maarzaf in Idlib, resulting in the injury of one civilian and Macro Media Center reported that the outskirts of Jabal Al-Arbaeen and a poultry farm on the outskirts of the village of Bazabur and Mantaf were struck. @hawarhebo99 referred to the sites of the bombings as belonging to opposition factions.

All of the sources that reported on the incident attributed the strikes to Russian forces. Water FM also identified vacuum missiles as being used during the attack. @Step_Agency added that the bombardment by Russian warplanes coincided with the flight of reconnaissance aircrafts over the area.

The incident occured in the morning.

  • Ammar Muhammad Khair Rihaniya Age unknown male injured

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Civilians reported injured
    1
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attacker
    Russian Military

Sources (20) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (19) [ collapse]

  • Damage to a poultry farm in the Jabal Al-Arba'een area on May 12, 2022. (Image posted by Baladi News)
  • Damage to a poultry farm in the Jabal Al-Arba'een area on May 12, 2022. (Image posted by Macro Media Center)
  • Damage to a poultry farm in the Jabal Al-Arba'een area on May 12, 2022. (Image posted by Macro Media Center)
  • Damage to a poultry farm in the Jabal Al-Arba'een area on May 12, 2022. (Image posted by Macro Media Center)
  • Damage to a poultry farm in the Jabal Al-Arba'een area on May 12, 2022. (Image posted by Macro Media Center)
  • Damage to a poultry farm in the Jabal Al-Arba'een area on May 12, 2022. (Image posted by Macro Media Center)
  • Strikes on a poultry farm in the Jabal Al-Arba'een area on May 12, 2022. (Image posted by Ariha Today)
  • Strikes on a poultry farm in the Jabal Al-Arba'een area on May 12, 2022. (Image posted by Edlib Media Center)
  • Russian air strikes target two poultry farms on the outskirts of Jabal Al-Arbaeen and the area south of Idlib, today, Thursday, May 12, causing the injury of a civilian and the death of a large number of chickens.
  • Damage to a poultry farm in the Jabal Al-Arba'een area on May 12, 2022. (Image posted by Syrian Civil Defense)
  • Damage to a poultry farm in the Jabal Al-Arba'een area on May 12, 2022. (Image posted by Syrian Civil Defense)
  • Damage to a poultry farm in the Jabal Al-Arba'een area on May 12, 2022. (Image posted by Syrian Civil Defense)
  • Strikes on a poultry farm in the Jabal Al-Arba'een area on May 12, 2022. (Image posted by Roz Press)
  • The moment of one of the Russian air strikes on the southern countryside of Idlib
  • Strikes on a poultry farm in the Jabal Al-Arba'een area on May 12, 2022. (Image posted by Xeber News)
  • The effects of the destruction left by the raids of the Russian occupation in two poultry farms on the outskirts of Jabal Al-Arbaeen and Mantef, south of Idlib, which resulted in the injury of one civilian
  • Strikes on a poultry farm in the Jabal Al-Arba'een area on May 12, 2022. (Image posted by @hawarhebo99)
  • The death of a large number of chickens and the destruction of the infrastructure after the Russian occupier targeted a poultry farm in the village of Mantef, south of Idlib, with air raids. (Image posted by @CrSyrians)
  • The effects of the destruction left by the raids of the Russian occupation in two poultry farms on the outskirts of Jabal Al-Arbaeen and Mantef, south of Idlib, which resulted in the injury of one civilian

Russian Military Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    Russian Military
  • Russian Military position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Civilians reported injured
    1
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attacker
    Russian Military

Sources (20) [ collapse]

Published

April 12, 2022

Written by

Imogen Piper

Assisted by

Joe Dyke

Single strike may cause 350 metre span of damage, new Airwars visual investigation finds

A single Russian cluster munition that struck a hospital and blood donation centre in Ukraine likely caused lethal damage spanning 350 metres, a new Airwars visual investigation has found.

During Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, its use of cluster munitions has been widely documented. More than 100 countries have signed a UN convention banning their use, though Russia, Ukraine and the United States are among the nations yet to sign up. Such weapons are often described as indiscriminate. However on the ground, evidence of exactly how widespread their effects are can be are often hard to document. Yet a recent strike on the snow-covered grounds of a Ukraine hospital presented strong visual documentation.

Using uniquely placed, open-source videos, Airwars created a 3D model of all recorded damage locations when a cluster bomb hit the children’s hospital and a blood donation centre in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. One civilian was reportedly killed while waiting in line with his family to give blood, while hundreds of sick children took refuge in the hospital’s bomb shelters.

The Airwars investigation documented a total of 26 impact sites spanning 350 metres. Additional impacts likely took place in unfilmed areas around the sites.

Cluster munitions can have an impact range from around 100 metres – roughly the size of a football field – to multiple times larger, depending on the height at which they detonate. Their use by Russia has been documented multiple times in Ukraine, including in-depth analysis by Armament Research.

Several munitions experts whom Airwars consulted said the wide distribution of damage at Kharkiv could suggest that Russia is detonating cluster munitions at a higher altitude than normal.

Experts said that while the video showed a wide distribution of impacts, the number of submunitions documented was consistent with potentially being a single rocket. Definitive verification would only be possible with access to the site and to munition remnants.

“It has long been known that cluster munitions are indiscriminate, but this investigation highlights the sheer scale of suffering a single strike can cause,” Emily Tripp, incoming Airwars director, said. “While more than 100 countries have banned their use, many of the world’s largest militaries still refuse to do so – despite the inevitable risk to civilians.”

How the investigation was conducted

The cluster munition strike took place on February 25th, the second day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russian forces had advanced quickly on Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city, in the northeast of the country.

In the afternoon, local reports first emerged of a devastating attack on a children’s hospital. The first video to emerge online, shot from a car dashcam, captured the moment the cluster munitions impacted on a road just outside the hospital grounds. It was timed-stamped at 16.41. Airwars was able to document and geolocate nine explosions in this video.

A second video filmed shortly after the attack meticulously documented each impact site inside the hospital grounds. Snow coverage enabled clear images of the different impact locations, again allowing them to be geolocated and mapped. In total Airwars investigator Imogen Piper was able to document a total of 25 craters.

In addition, the video showed one unexploded submunition found right outside the hospital entrance. This was a crucial clue, enabling us to identify the type of munition. Multiple weapons experts said it was a Russian made 9N235 or 9N210 cluster submunition – the two are visually identical.

Image of the submunition found outside Kharkiv hospital (Via social media)

There are two types of rocket capable of delivering these submunitions: the, 220mm 9M27K Uragan; and the 300mm 9M55K Smerch, which carry 30 and 72 submunitions respectively.

Munitions experts told Airwars that Russia is more commonly using 300mm Smerch rockets during the Ukraine conflict; and that their larger firing range of up to 70 kilometres also corresponded to Russian military positions at this time, north-east of Kharkiv.

Whilst 350 metres is a large distribution range for a single rocket, the experts said it was still within the parameters of a single 300mm rocket attack. They added that such rockets can be released at a higher altitude to increase the spread of submunitions.

As the video documents, this makes such cluster munitions relatively ineffective if trying to hit a specific military target. Instead, as Russia’s brutal assault has shown, they cause terror and devastation among civilians, with little military benefit.

▲ A still image from Airwars' visual investigation

Published

April 8, 2022

Written by

Sanjana Varghese

International gathering brings nearer a protocol on restricting explosive weapon use in urban areas.

States edged closer to a political declaration on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas on April 8th, after three days of crunch talks in Geneva.

More than 65 states descended on the Swiss city for key talks on the wording of a political declaration that advocates believe would save thousands of lives by restricting the use of wide area effect explosive weapons in populated areas (EWIPA). Detractors, such as the United States government, argue it would unfairly limit the freedom of their own military actions and have threatened not to sign.

While no final text was agreed upon Friday, all sides struck an optimistic tone at the end of the three-day meet – saying a deal was nearer than ever. Delegates will meet again for one day in two months before an adoption ceremony expected in the summer.

“There are clearly differences of opinion but we have seen a very positive, solution oriented approach,” the chairperson, Ambassador Michael Gaffey of Ireland, said. “We are not simply working on a formula of words in a political declaration –  we want to make a real difference and impact on the ground and foster behavioural change.”

The talks were given additional urgency by the ongoing war in Ukraine, and Russia’s extensive use of explosive weapons on its cities. Moscow did not attend the talks.

Even the United States, widely viewed as one of the most hostile states to a declaration with teeth, struck a more positive tone than in previous meets. “There are still tough drafting issues and decisions ahead, and we have to get them right. The US delegation pledges our goodwill, to help to get to a positive outcome. We look forward to doing so.”

Since 2018, Ireland has chaired consultations on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. In the sessions since, the need for such a declaration – which is not legally binding and so does not create new legal obligations – has only become clearer.

“The draft declaration text holds the potential to make a meaningful contribution to the protection of civilians, and negotiations over the past few days have overall been constructive,” Laura Boillot of INEW, a network of NGOs pushing for the protocol, told Airwars.

“But decisions will now need to be made if the final text is going to have humanitarian effect. Most importantly it needs to establish a presumption against the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in towns, cities and other populated areas.”

It will be a failure to leave this room agreeing that simply restating existing laws will reduce civilian harm – a failure for all of us who came here with the intention to reduce that harm in the first place." @alma_osta in HI concluding remarks at #EWIPA negotiations today. pic.twitter.com/pTKpgfqWWU

— HI_Advocacy (@HI_Advocacy) April 8, 2022

Civil society groups and international agencies made a strong case for restricting EWIPA.

Three days of consultations

During three days of focused talks, several key fissures bubbled. While states in attendance – and civil society organisations – repeatedly emphasised the shared desire to produce a tangible and meaningful political declaration that could help save civilian lives on the ground, the practicalities of the process made clear that good intentions weren’t going to be enough.

On the first day of the informal consultations on April 6th, states made general remarks – affirming their support for the proceedings as well as their national positions – after an introductory statement from Ireland, the penholder.

In these general remarks, most states tended towards re-affirming the positions they had made clear in previous negotiations. On the hawkish side, the UK, US, Israel and Canada all emphasized that their positions as militarily active states meant that they would not sign a declaration in its current form, which included strong language about avoiding the use of explosive weapons in urban areas. Throughout the week, the delegates from these countries could often be seen meeting as a bloc outside of formal proceedings.

Many of the sticking points that emerged on the first day continued to dominate both the main floor and side conversations. The predominant line of argument was between those who argued that the declaration needed only to reaffirm the importance of international humanitarian law and provide further guidance about how to do so in this context; and those who asserted that this declaration needed to strengthen existing commitments and add new ones for states around the use of explosive weapons.

The second day of discussions took a more technical turn, with the majority of interventions focused on the wording of specific clauses and paragraphs of the text.

Clause 3.3, which attracted much attention in previous consultations, was once  again hotly debated. It is one of the first clauses in Section B, the operative section – which lays out the actions that states have to comply with if they choose to sign onto the declaration.

In the current draft, Clause 3.3 says states must: “Ensure that our armed forces adopt and implement a range of policies and practices to avoid civilian harm, including by restricting or refraining from the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas, when the effects may be expected to extend beyond a military objective.”

The bulk of the discussion around this clause was on the second sentence, as many states intervened on the use of “restricting or refraining,” with some suggesting it was strong enough while others lobbied instead for the use of “avoid”.

A split between the majority of civil society organisations and militarily-powerful states was apparent during these parts of the discussions, with NGOs and international agencies pushing for stronger language, rather than trying to place limits on what kinds of civilian harm would be protected under this new declaration.

Airwars’ incoming director and current head of research Emily Tripp also made an intervention – emphasising how crucial it was for states to actually track civilian harm.

Airwars’ incoming director Emily Tripp addresses a UN-backed conference on explosive weapons in Geneva on April 7th, 2022 (Image: Airwars)

At the end of day two INEW, one of the organisers, named nine states – Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Israel, the Republic of Korea, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States – that it said had “worked to weaken declaration provisions.” The UK delegation, for example, agreed that tracking civilian harm was a ‘moral obligation,’ but then highlighted ways in which it claimed this was not feasible – arguing that live hostilities made it near impossible to monitor casualties properly.

But INEW also said that there had been a “shift in the collective tone set by states since the last round of negotiations, with more governments explicitly committed to strengthening the protection of civilians through the declaration.”

The statement said this was likely as a response to the bombing of Ukrainian towns and cities, and the Ukraine crisis loomed large over the conflict. Not only did the majority of states open their remarks with condemnation of the Russian aggression in Ukraine, many also emphasised the importance of a meaningful political declaration with specific reference to Ukrainian cities and towns such as Mariupol, Bucha and Khrarkiv.

There was also an emphasis on the value of protecting civilian objects and infrastructure, such as schools and hospitals, with states such as Mexico and the delegate for the Holy See (which holds observer state) urging specific language around the need to protect hospitals, blood transfusion centres, and environmental and religious sites.

Speaking at the end of the latest talks, Ambassador Gaffey said Ireland and organisers would review the submissions from all parties before a month or two of further work on the text. He said states and NGOs would then hold a final one-day consultation in a couple of months, before a political adoption ceremony where states would declare their support for the text.

As Alma Taslidžan Al-Osta, of Humanity and Inclusion, noted in her own concluding remarks to delegates: “Eleven years in Syria, seven years in Yemen and over a month in Ukraine have taught us that explosive weapons with wide area effects should not be used in towns, cities and populated areas. The status quo is no longer an option.”

Civilians increasingly bear the brunt of modern conflicts. Addressing the devastating harm to civilians from Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas is a priority for 🇮🇪. We welcome states, international organisations and civil society to consultations in Geneva this week #EWIPA pic.twitter.com/pAyglwZO9D

— Disarmament IRELAND (@DisarmamentIRL) April 6, 2022

Ireland chaired Geneva talks on restricting urban use of explosive weapons

▲ The three-day EWIPA conference in Geneva sought to reach a deal on the use of explosive weapons in urban environments (Airwars)

Published

April 7, 2022

Written by

Chris Woods

Airwars speaks to Uladzimir Shcherbau, head of the UN civilian casualty monitoring team in Ukraine, on the challenges of tracking civilian deaths.

Beginning in 2014, the United Nations Monitoring Mission in Ukraine has been tasked with recording civilian casualties in that country. Until February 24th, the conflict was relatively low intensity. Russia’s invasion and subsequent attacks on communities across a swathe of Ukraine saw a huge rise in reported civilian deaths, which the UN Mission continues to track.

With the Ukraine Government ceasing its own public national estimates of civilian harm just four days into the war, the UN’s own daily cumulative tallies have become the sole official source for national casualty estimates. By early April, the UN had recorded at least 1,500 civilian deaths – while also publicly acknowledging that was likely a significant undercount.

Uladzimir Shcherbau joined the UN Monitoring Mission in Ukraine back in 2014, and today leads its civilian casualty monitoring unit. Almost all of the team remains in Ukraine – some close to the front lines – and all of them doing extremely challenging work.

In this extended interview with Airwars director Chris Woods conducted on April 1st, Uladzimir discusses among other topics the challenges of UN casualty counting following Russia’s invasion; how the Mission plans to address its own low estimates of harm; and the horrors of Russia’s onslaught on the Ukrainian city of Mariupol.

Some key points from this interview were also summarised in this article for The Independent: UN estimate of civilian casualties in Ukraine set to increase, official says

What’s the purpose of the UN gathering civilian casualty data? 

Why do we do it? It’s not just about gathering data. We have three or four major objectives, to which the information we collect should serve. The first is decision making by military and political actors – ideally to facilitate the cessation of hostilities, and definitely compliance with International Humanitarian Law (IHL). When we see the patterns of IHL violations – it is not our major objective, and very often in such contexts it is very difficult to establish whether the civilian was the result of IHL incompliance or in the worst cases of war crimes – but surely some of our findings would inform the deeper investigations and we do work deeply in some incidents – as we did for the period 2014-2021.

Ideally we go really deep into each single civilian killed, we establish as an ideal minimum the date of the incident, the status of the victim killed or injured, then if possible the name of the victim, then the age, definitely sex, place where it happened – as precisely as possible, if not geographic coordinates – then ideally the settlement or a specific area. Then control over the area – which party controlled the area – and then the weapon and the situation in which the casualty occurred. And we only record civilian casualties, not military casualties. When we have the slightest hesitation that a person might have been Directly Participating in Hostilities, we don’t include them in our figures.

In the current context I would put it like this. Because the amount of material we have to process is enormous and the time constraints are also enormous, we cannot go too deeply into each individual incident. I would describe this as ‘temporary superficiality’.

How is UN civilian harm monitoring presently structured in Ukraine? How big is the team? And are you still able to operate?

Most of the team is located in Ukraine in various places – not in the places where the hostilities are going on but in other places, sometimes nearby, which allows us to reach out to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), to people who evacuated from the conflict-torn areas, and to get access to first hand witnesses and victims. And we are still physically present in Donetsk and Luhansk, which Russian-affiliated armed groups control. We have been in those areas since 2014 and 2017 respectively, and we are still physically present in Donetsk, with certain restrictions on our operations there, and also those stemming from the security situation.

We have 37 human rights officers and several interns who have been working on monitoring and to a certain extent everyone is engaged in civilian casualty recording as well. But dedicated work on civilian harm is done by a small unit which I am in charge of.

From 24 Feb—5 April, we recorded 3,776 civilian casualties in context of Russia’s armed attack against #Ukraine: 1,563 killed, incl 130 children; 2,213 injured, incl 188 children, mostly caused by shelling & airstrikes. Actual toll is much higher. Update https://t.co/vwkx5vqofP pic.twitter.com/OMRgAIM9r1

— UNHumanRightsUkraine (@UNHumanRightsUA) April 6, 2022

How have you been able to continue this critical work following Russia’s invasion in February?

We apply the global [UN] guidance on how to record civilian casualties and it is fairly simple – we collect information from the best sources we can, preferably at least three independent sources and then based on the body of information we collected, we assess the sources based on their credibility and reliability. We also follow the patterns of violations which also allow us to assess, to verify, and to corroborate – so we collect a lot of information about the hostilities in general which also allow us to better understand the specific incident.

Basically we have three or four types of information. Definitely we take stock of all available official information – local authorities, national authorities, regional authorities, medical institutions, emergency services, police, very often military experts and some others – any state official or a person working in a facility who has some information on casualties. We take stock of all the information they provide.

We often reach out with requests for specific information but in the current context we see that the state agencies are overwhelmed with the numerous challenges, and they don’t have time to respond to our questions. But they do still report on civilian casualties – for example giving totals per region. Not only figures but we also receive a lot of descriptive narrative for specific incidents.

And when someone says ‘ok there was an incident in settlement X and there were a lot of civilian casualties’, in our records, as you can understand, it would be recorded as zero casualties unless we can understand the specific incident. But we take stock of all this information, it is extremely valuable, and we do analyse it systematically. So we have a mosaic of all these official reports.

Within weeks we saw which of these authorities provide consistently reliable information, and those which unfortunately are giving extremely vague information based on plausible assumptions and these assumptions do not get additional credibility simply because they are made by an official. They are definitely free to make any assumptions or judgements based on intuitive thinking but we clearly see in some cases it is not factually based.

The second source for our team is publicly available information on these incidents. In that regard the situation in Ukraine is extremely transparent – available through publicly available sources – Telegram, Facebook, Internet. Roughly speaking, we are talking about a lot of video footage, a lot of photos, and a lot of narrative reports. The number of channels in which people report is enormous. We do systematically follow as much as we can on these channels – very often it’s a local channel for a specific village or something. If you think about Mariupol – which is besieged and the situation is really bad and information is imprecise – people are reporting per quarter what happened in a specific house or area. We use all this information for our analysis and we collect it systematically.

Then there is our outreach to informed individuals. We had, for example, developed a broad network of contacts prior to the present high intensity conflict. All our offices and field presence were mostly in the east of Ukraine. And we are reaching out to these people to get information that is extremely valuable. I will give you just one example – we had a trusted partner NGO which had worked a lot in the east and there were for instance two towns in the Lugansk region which were well known to those who follow Ukrainian events. Shastiya and Staniska-Uganska. And there were hostilities from the very beginning there, and the NGO reached out to medical professionals working in the area to get very detailed medical records about casualties. So we use this network of contacts. They proactively provide us with some information but we also request them to provide us with some information.

And finally, we also publicly announced that we are interested in receiving information about civilian casualties – and so people send us information through Telegram, Facebook and by email.  We cannot cover it (fully) as we don’t have the capacity but we increasingly interview IDPs from the conflict affected areas – and also receive first hand accounts of individual incidents in which civilians were killed or injured.

So altogether we collect this information systematically – not only what happened yesterday but about what happened three weeks ago. If there is a (new) photo of a grave with the names on it from the town recently retaken by Ukrainian forces we go back to the records and check the names. All of that together.

Then we analyse this information, and once we come to conclusions that we have reasonable grounds to believe it happened, then it goes to our figures – the case is corroborated. It doesn’t mean we have all the information – maybe we don’t know the sex of the victims or something – but we still believed it happened and it goes into our figures.

Those cases which have not yet reached this stage we call ‘yellow cases’, which are still pending further verification and corroboration and we have many such cases which are in the process of corroboration. Some of them could stay marked as pending corroboration for months, if not years, some of them could be corroborated tomorrow if new information comes. So we are always reassessing such cases and seeing if anything is new. It’s like a mosaic – sometimes you get new information, and the puzzle  comes together and a case becomes corroborated. This is how we do it.

An elderly woman clears the rubble of her house in the aftermath of a Russian airstrike in the village of Ulica Szkolna, Kyiv Oblast, 29 March 2022. 📸 epa / @AtefSafadi #Ukraine #War #Ukrainewar #epaimages pic.twitter.com/peWQXNfLUr

— european pressphoto agency (@epaphotos) March 29, 2022

The volume of casework you are dealing with must be staggering. What adjustments have you had to make?

It is not a dramatic shift compared to what we did before. We did roughly the same from 2014-2021 – the only thing was the intensity of hostilities was much lower starting from 2015 and we then had the luxury (of) following each individual incident really deeply – going to the place, speaking to the people, getting forensic records etc

And today? Let’s say there is a report of an airstrike in Kiev with reported civilian casualties. Then we take note of this report. Then the city council says it was a centre for the distribution of humanitarian aid and 20 people have been killed on the spot – without specifying whether they were civilians or militants. That’s ok but it is not enough for us. Then video footage becomes available, and in that footage we see four bodies of people who appear to be civilians, some of them women, some can’t be identified but they don’t look like military or paramilitary. And there are also some people in the local chat groups saying a ‘horrible thing happened in this street and I was there and it was a Hell.’

So once again having analysed all this information we believe we have reasonable grounds to believe that the incident happened, and the overall context that the city was under fire, the military actors reported that incident, the General Staff is reporting that there was heavy shelling of this city, we have records from previous days that this area is being targeted, probably we will get some satellite imagery showing the neighbourhood affected. We can reach out to our partner in that area and ask if there was something and they might say “I don’t know what happened, I was 5km from that place, but there was something horrible.” And then, we say we saw five bodies. We don’t write ‘many’, we don’t write 20, we write five people were killed in that incident – including perhaps one man and two women – on that day.

This is roughly how we arrive at a conclusion, but once again it depends on the situation

From our experience usually reports of civilian casualties are not fake – sometimes there could be deliberate attempts to present certain incidents, to portray the other side as a perpetrator. But it is so easy to debunk such fakes so I don’t believe it happens often. Mostly reports are accurate, there could be some sort of natural imprecision or mistakes – very often when you receive a report about a civilian and the name – how the family name is spelled may not be found in the registration of population. But then you realise this family name is accurate –  it was just a (spelling) mistake in the report – and you realise it’s indirect evidence that the report is authentic, because most likely the report was made on the phone and the person who wrote down the family name just didn’t hear it properly.

UNOCHA conflict map of Ukraine for April 4th 2022.

Civilians have been urged by some to take up arms during the present conflict and to Directly Participate in Hostilities. How does that affect categorisations for you, when you’re making a determination of civilian harm?

Methodologically it is fairly simple – civilians are those who don’t take direct participation in hostilities. You don’t have to be a member of the armed forces or paramilitary formations to be counted as not a civilian – it could be purely a civilian who took his or her arms to fight. As soon as you directly participate in hostilities you are not a civilian any more. If such people are killed or injured we exclude them from the UN count.

There could be some marginal cases where there could be questions and you cannot be 100% sure how to classify this person as a civilian or not, but statistically these cases are extremely insignificant and for methodological purity we exclude such debatable questions from civilian casualties.

And we have a fairly clear definition. If there is a policeman who is performing regular police functions in the conflict zone and is killed or injured by hostilities and he or she is not taking part in hostilities – just patrolling the area in the conflict zone when he or she was killed or injured by shelling – we consider them a civilian casualty. If a police officer is present in a conflict zone to maintain law and order as part of enhanced police deployment, and basically also controlling the area recently taken under control, or doing some sort of paramilitary function, he or she is not a civilian any more.

We even excluded cases which could be very marginal – for instance if there is a military unit which is stationed in a certain location and there is a civilian who regularly brings some food to this unit – maybe paid or not, but somehow helps them to sustain. It is easy to argue that this person is not taking part in hostilities but we exclude such cases.

Statistically such cases are marginal but we exclude even very marginal cases so probably decreasing the toll a little. But statistically, it’s pretty clear whether a person participates in hostilities or not.

What is the situation for civilian harm in breakaway and Russian-occupied areas? How able are you to capture that?

For us it doesn’t make any difference – we are covering the entire territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders, and we do follow all the reports and do our best to corroborate all civilian casualties wherever they happen. And we do it in regard to territory controlled by the Russian-affiliated armed groups or the territory which is currently under the control of the Russian armed forces. We have certain difficulties in getting the information but it is roughly the same as getting the information from government-controlled territories. We also do breakdowns for Donetsk and Luhansk regions, for government controlled territory, and for territory controlled by Russian affiliated armed groups.

We haven’t yet published figures from the places which had been controlled by Russian Armed Forces – say from the Kharkiv or Chernihiv or Kherson regions. But we are also coming with those figures fairly soon. So once again, we do take stock of all civilian casualties, including in the territory which is presently outside of Ukrainian government control.

In your own daily press releases you are very clear that the true casualty figure is likely much higher. How wide a gulf might there be between UN estimates and the actual civilian toll?

I wish we had this interview in the next week or two. We are working right now on a realistic estimate of the actual death toll of the conflict. We have a big mass of information which allows us to triangulate or somehow approximate the actual death toll. I wouldn’t give you specific figures right now because it is extremely sensitive and we are under enormous pressure because we are criticised heavily – they are saying ‘your figures are irrelevant. It’s nice that you give these at least figures but they are irrelevant because the real death toll is higher’ as we ourselves point out in our daily updates.

But we have data, we have information, we have a really solid methodology – it is not pure maths, it is looking at patterns, correlations, available information per region and per type of casualties to come (up) with this realistic estimate and once again we will soon come up with an estimate fairly soon.

We believe it would be pretty accurate. The figure would be fairly reflective of the actual scale – it will be also conservative, not to go too broad, but we believe it will be fairly close to the actual death toll. All in all we would come with a rather accurate total and the gaps within the estimate of actual total and real total would not be so big. We believe we will give a gist of what the scale is – of the true scale we believe of the casualties – especially of those killed.

To put things in some perspective, the official civilian death toll after the first 6-8 weeks of the US invasion of Iraq was more than 8,000 — due to "Shock and Awe."

The civilian death toll in Ukraine is just over 1,000. It's all hideous, but calls for *WW3* require *sobriety. pic.twitter.com/z0Y5OEVxib

— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) April 3, 2022

Low UN estimates have been cited to downplay deadly effects of Russia’s invasion.

The city of Mariupol reports more than 5,000 civilian deaths so far. What do you make of that estimate?

When we speak about Mariupol, it is definitely the deadliest place in Ukraine currently. We have been in touch with city authorities, with the city council – we do follow the data they provided and we requested additional data and they committed to providing us as much as they can, but they have been working in extremely challenging conditions as you can understand. Even so, they estimate 5,000 civilian deaths from just three weeks of hostilities in March.

Our own UN estimate should come hopefully fairly soon as we managed to collect information about Mariupol, we analysed all the narrative reports, official figures and official reports from medical (authorities) – sometimes fragmented but also some information which allows us to see the pattern from emergency services and video footage. We also do satellite imagery analysis – not only on damage. So we hope to come with a rather realistic, from our perspective, estimate.

The amount of conflict death is enormous, but also surely people kept dying in besieged Mariupol because of regular mortality, many people died as indirect casualties because of stress and the collapse of medical aid. And reportedly many suicides have occured in Mariupol. We have had several reports saying that the suicide rates increased, that’s for sure.

So it needs also to be factored in that all these people died during this one month of hostilities – though the UN Mission ourselves strive to single out the civilians who have been directly killed by hostilities, and we will come up with our estimate pretty soon.

Given this scale of harm, how long might it be before the UN has a comprehensive tally of civilian deaths at Mariupol?

When will the world know for sure when hostilities are over the exact number of civilians who have been killed in Mariupol from day one until the last day of hostilities? That will surely take time. It will take time to recover all the bodies, to identify them, and because there was a mass displacement for example, some people who were evacuated from Mariupol, some injured people who could have died in medical facilities outside of Mariupol. So the ultimate accurate figure won’t arrive quickly.

We have credible reports that there are still many bodies in the debris. Some bodies are unattended in the apartments – no one was (able) to take care of the bodies. Many bodies have been buried in improvised graves – they also need to be exhumed and reburied individually and with proper decency. That will also be an enormous challenge for the city.  We have seen a lot of footage of graves in peoples’ yards, which is appalling.

So we will analyse all the information and try to come up with our own estimate but surely for the future that will be a horrible and heartbreaking task – not only to count people, but to ensure decent treatment of those who perished. And then once again to work for reparations and bring the perpetrators to justice. The preservation of evidence – which is what dead bodies are – will be extremely essential.

Маріуполь: відео з дрону та знищений драмтеатр зсередини pic.twitter.com/tAxK8Tyeza

— Радіо Свобода (@radiosvoboda) April 5, 2022

Radio Svoboda’s recent drone footage showing the devastation of Mariupol.

▲ A woman passes bodies buried at the side of the road during Russia's siege of Mariupol, April 3rd 2022 (Reuters)

Published

April 7, 2022

Written by

Sanjana Varghese

Crunch talks in Geneva aim to hammer out protocol on explosive weapons in urban areas

The shadow of the Ukraine conflict loomed large over the first day of the informal UN-backed consultations on a political declaration on restricting the use of wide area effect explosive weapons in populated areas (EWIPA), currently underway in Geneva.

Delegates from more than 65 nations have gathered to fine tune the language of the political declaration, along with more than 15 civil society organisations including Airwars. The chairperson, Michael Gaffey of Ireland, opened the proceedings by calling for a minute of silence for Ukraine.

Nujeen Mustafa, who had fled the war in Aleppo, then powerfully testified via a video message, saying, “throughout history, diplomats have discussed world problems while sitting at a table with a nice coffee. People trapped in a conflict zone cannot do that. Today, you have the possibility to change a terrible situation and protect civilians.”

Nujeen Mustafa, a Syrian who fled Aleppo after it was largely destroyed by explosive weapons, addresses delegates:“While you’ve been negotiating whether a declaration should be made, 11,076 people have fallen victim to these weapons" she sayshttps://t.co/DI9vYhD6nq

— Airwars (@airwars) April 6, 2022

While there are two days of discussion left before proceedings close on Friday evening, many of the most pressing issues arose in proceedings on Wednesday – particularly as states laid out their own positions during opening remarks. Here are five key themes from the first day of EWIPA negotiations.

1. The conflict in Ukraine adds a sense of urgency

The first statement was made by the Ukrainian delegate, who noted that “our cities and towns have been turned into dead ash because of the use of these explosive weapons” – highlighting a new sense of urgency and relevance which the negotiations have taken on.

Every delegate who spoke made reference to the Ukraine conflict, with many emphasising that the violent and horrific violence against Ukrainian civilians must move states to act more effectively. The French delegate noted that Russia did not attend the proceedings, while the Japanese delegation emphasised the importance of documenting civilian harm in Ukraine.

Many other states called on Russia to cease its aggression and indiscriminate bombing of civilians and it was noted multiple times that Russia’s campaign has targeted and destroyed civilian neighbourhoods using wide area effect explosive weapons – referring to the scenes of destruction in Kherson, Mariupol, and Kharkiv.

2.  The gap between ‘IHL is enough’ and ‘IHL does not go far enough’

Broadly the delegates and countries fall into two groups – those that believe international humanitarian law (IHL) is enough to protect civilians under attack in urban areas – and those that argue more is needed to protect civilians.

States such as the USA, UK, France and Israel argued that any political declaration could not introduce new legal requirements (which it cannot) and that the requirements currently set out under IHL should be sufficient protection for civilians. Currently, these frameworks emphasise for example that deliberately attacking civilians and civilian infrastructure constitutes a violation of IHL – and that any military actions must be both proportionate, and distinguish between civilians and combatants.

Those backing strong wording to the political declaration text – from Ireland to the ICRC – insist that adherence to IHL alone is not doing enough to protect civilians during much urban fighting.

The US nevertheless called on those states gathered not to produce an “unrealistic impression” that civilians would not be harmed in conflict, while emphasising that explosive weapons are “considered a legitimate and lawful means of warfare when used in accordance with IHL.”

But other states, as well as civil society organisations such as Human Rights Watch, emphasised that any resolution which merely restated the value of IHL – and how states must abide by it – would effectively be useless, as it would be an iteration of what states have already committed to.

States such as Finland and Sweden remarked that there are gaps within IHL around EWIPA , and mere compliance with IHL is not enough to protect civilians.  This has been an ongoing fissure during previous consultations, and continues to be a major fault line.

3.  Reverberating effects

The particularities of the language used in the eventual political declaration are at the heart of the ongoing consultations in Geneva – with discussions about whether to “avoid” or “restrict” the use of explosive weapons in populated areas already a key sticking point.

An additional area of tension appears to the so-called “reverberating effects” of EWIPA, which are essentially the long-term effects.

An example of a reverberating effect would be the destruction of a bridge. If destroyed, it has the immediate effect of removing a crucial piece of civilian infrastructure. But even after the conflict finishes the destruction could also mean that people can’t travel across a certain river, making it harder to access other kinds of civilian infrastructure such as hospitals or schools.

These long-term impacts were the subject of much discussion on Wednesday – with some states, such as the US, Israel, and the UK all noting that ‘reverberating effects’ is neither a legal term nor – they claimed – a widely accepted term with a clear definition. The US also said it would not accept a ‘novel’ term such as reverberating effects in the eventual political declaration.

However, civil society organisations such as PAX and observer states such as the Vatican suggested that it would be difficult to meaningfully understand the full implications of how civilian populations were impacted without incorporating ‘reverberating’ effects.

4. Focus on the humanitarian impacts

The Holy See opened its own remarks by noting that it believes conventional weapons should be named “weapons of mass displacement,” a nod to the ongoing long term effects that explosive weapons can have. The Danish Refugee Council also noted that the use of EWIPA can contribute to displacement, and in time, continuously produce forms of renewed displacement.

Some other states such as Uruguay emphasised the need to collect and monitor the impacts of EWIPA on specific groups – such as those with disabilities, or those who face discrimination because of their gender. Organisations such as CIVIC, PAX and Humanity and Inclusion also spoke about the psychological and mental effects of the use of explosive weapons, notably the need for a survivor-centric approach to any kind of political declaration.

 5. The impact of non-state actors 

While the political declaration is primarily a matter between states, the UK, Israel, the US and others asked that the considerations around EWIPA must also extend to non-state actors, such as armed groups, in the interest of maintaining what they termed a balanced account of how explosive weapons are actually used in populated areas.

The US noted for example that “the declaration has to make it clear that all belligerents, including non-state armed groups, must take steps to address the harms to civilians and civilian objects.” The Turkish delegation argued that asking non-state actors to really consider these impacts would also mean they would be considered as legitimate parties to an international armed conflict – which they are currently, for the most part, not.

The declaration has to make it clear that all belligerents, including non state armed groups, must take steps to address the harms to civilians and civilian objects,” says the USA, intervening for the second time today. pic.twitter.com/cNBYvzncqN

— Airwars (@airwars) April 6, 2022

▲ MPs from various European countries attend the first day of EWIPA talks on April 6, 2022 (Photo: INEW)

Incident Code

R4445

Incident date

April 4, 2022

Location

معارة النعسان, Maaret Al Nassan, Idlib, Syria

Airwars assessment

Four children were killed on their way home from school and others, including women, were wounded by alleged Russian or regime shelling of the town of Maaret Al Nassan on April 4, 2022.

Syrian Human Rights Committee reported that four children were killed by a bombing carried out by the regime forces “backed by the Russian and Iranian occupation”. The four children were killed by heavy artillery shelling at noon while they were returning from school.

The names of the children are: Yamen Juma Yassin, Hamza Mansour Aswad. Malek Anas Daoudi, Nasr Hajj Ahmed. Syrian Observatory for Human Rights specified that the students were under the age of 18.

Al Jazeera reported that in addition to the four children killed, “others” were wounded, but didn’t specify how many. Resala Post added that “among the wounded were women, some of them seriously”.

Syrian Network for Human Rights identified the location of the strikes as occurring in the al Shamali neighborhood of the village, adding that the regime forces used “shoulder-fired missiles”.

A video posted by Shaam News shows the father of one of the children killed in the attack crying over the body of his son. Syrian Civil Defense also pointed out that the children that were killed were carrying UNICEF notebooks distributed to them and images they posted show the notebooks covered in blood.

One of the Syrian Civil Defense volunteers named Laith Al-Abdullah who was involved in the rescue operation described “seeing a father kissing his son’s two legs while a man wrapped his son’s body and hugged her while he was talking to her and he was feeling and smelling her, and at the same moment a mother said goodbye to her son and called him kindly. Goodbye Yamo, greetings to all your loved ones who came here and preceded you, there were many harsh moments and many that burn the heart.”

Sources were conflicted as to who was responsible for the bombing, with the majority of sources referring to both the regime and Russian forces as responsible, while @Almohrar1 blamed only Russia and @AsharqNewsSYR blamed only the regime.

The incident occured at 12:00:00 local time.

  • Yamen Juma Yassin Child killed
  • Hamza Mansour Aswad Child killed
  • Malek Anas Daoudi Child killed
  • Nasr Hajj Ahmed Child killed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Artillery
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    4
  • (4 children)
  • Civilians reported injured
    2–3
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Contested
    Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
  • Suspected attackers
    Russian Military, Syrian Regime

Sources (49) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (48) [ collapse]

  • A man cries his child who was killed by Assad's shells with his companions while returning from school in the town of #Maarat_Al-Naasan in #Idlib countryside
  • The bodies of children killed in alleged Russian or regime strikes on Maaret Al Nassan on April 4, 2022. (Image posted by Shaam News)
  • People morn over the bodies of children killed in alleged Russian or regime strikes on Maaret Al Nassan on April 4, 2022. (Image posted by Shaam News)
  • People morn over the bodies of children killed in alleged Russian or regime strikes on Maaret Al Nassan on April 4, 2022. (Image posted by Shaam News)
  • People morn over the bodies of children killed in alleged Russian or regime strikes on Maaret Al Nassan on April 4, 2022. (Image posted by Shaam News)
  • People morn over the bodies of children killed in alleged Russian or regime strikes on Maaret Al Nassan on April 4, 2022. (Image posted by Shaam News)
  • Civil Defense forces respond following alleged Russian or regime strikes on Maaret Al Nassan on April 4, 2022. (Image posted by Syrian Civil Defense)
  • Items from the children killed in alleged Russian or regime strikes on Maaret Al Nassan on April 4, 2022. (Image posted by Syrian Civil Defense)
  • Items from the children killed in alleged Russian or regime strikes on Maaret Al Nassan on April 4, 2022. (Image posted by Syrian Civil Defense)
  • Items from the children killed in alleged Russian or regime strikes on Maaret Al Nassan on April 4, 2022. (Image posted by Syrian Civil Defense)
  • Items from the children killed in alleged Russian or regime strikes on Maaret Al Nassan on April 4, 2022. (Image posted by Syrian Civil Defense)
  • Items from the children killed in alleged Russian or regime strikes on Maaret Al Nassan on April 4, 2022. (Image posted by Syrian Civil Defense)
  • People morn over the bodies of children killed in alleged Russian or regime strikes on Maaret Al Nassan on April 4, 2022. (Image posted by Syrian Civil Defense)
  • "Muhammad and Mustafa" are friends at school for the four martyred children "Hamza, Nasr, Malik and Yamen" who were killed today, Monday, April 4, by bombing of the regime forces and Russia on #Maarat_Al-Na'san. (Image posted by Syrian Civil Defense)
  • The first moments of our teams' response to the bombing of the town of #Maarat_Al-Na'san in the #Idlib countryside today, Monday, April 4th, which led to the death of four children while they were returning from school to their homes.
  • People morn over the bodies of children killed in alleged Russian or regime strikes on Maaret Al Nassan on April 4, 2022. (Image posted by @IdlibPlus)
  • People morn over the bodies of children killed in alleged Russian or regime strikes on Maaret Al Nassan on April 4, 2022. (Image posted by @IdlibPlus)
  • People morn over the bodies of children killed in alleged Russian or regime strikes on Maaret Al Nassan on April 4, 2022. (Image posted by @IdlibPlus)
  • The victims of alleged Russian or regime strikes on Maaret Al Nassan on April 4, 2022 bring buried. (Image posted by Macro Media Center)
  • Items from the children killed in alleged Russian or regime strikes on Maaret Al Nassan on April 4, 2022. (Image posted by Macro Media Center)
  • The victims of alleged Russian or regime strikes on Maaret Al Nassan on April 4, 2022 bring buried. (Image posted by Macro Media Center)
  • Items from the children killed in alleged Russian or regime strikes on Maaret Al Nassan on April 4, 2022. (Image posted by Macro Media Center)
  • Items from the children killed in alleged Russian or regime strikes on Maaret Al Nassan on April 4, 2022. (Image posted by Macro Media Center)
  • Painful scenes of the father of one of the four children "Hamza, Nasr, Malik and Yamen" who were killed by the bombing of the regime forces and Russia on Maarat al-Naasan, west of Idlib this morning.
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Very graphic image of children killed in Russian or regime strikes on Maaret Al Nassan on April 4, 2022. (Image posted by @DeirEzzore)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Very graphic image of children killed in Russian or regime strikes on Maaret Al Nassan on April 4, 2022. (Image posted by @DeirEzzore)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Very graphic image of children killed in Russian or regime strikes on Maaret Al Nassan on April 4, 2022. (Image posted by @DeirEzzore)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Very graphic image of children killed in Russian or regime strikes on Maaret Al Nassan on April 4, 2022. (Image posted by @DeirEzzore)
  • People morn over the bodies of children killed in alleged Russian or regime strikes on Maaret Al Nassan on April 4, 2022. (Image posted by @syria_Asmaaa)
  • Funeral for the children killed in alleged Russian or regime strikes on Maaret Al Nassan on April 4, 2022. (Image posted by @ahsaeedhd)
  • Funeral for the children killed in alleged Russian or regime strikes on Maaret Al Nassan on April 4, 2022. (Image posted by @ahsaeedhd)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Painful scenes of parents mourning their martyred children east of Idlib, the third day of Ramadan 4 children were killed by a missile from the militia of Russia and Iran while they were on their way to their school in the village of Maarat al-Naasan, east of Idlib.
  • The village turned black instead of being decorated with decorations for the holy month.. 4 children were killed on their way to school as a result of artillery shelling by the Assad regime forces targeting the town of Maarat al-Naasan in Idlib countryside
  • Funeral for the children killed in alleged Russian or regime strikes on Maaret Al Nassan on April 4, 2022. (Image posted by @ShehabAgency)
  • Funeral for the children killed in alleged Russian or regime strikes on Maaret Al Nassan on April 4, 2022. (Image posted by @ShehabAgency)
  • Funeral for the children killed in alleged Russian or regime strikes on Maaret Al Nassan on April 4, 2022. (Image posted by @ShehabAgency)
  • Funeral for the children killed in alleged Russian or regime strikes on Maaret Al Nassan on April 4, 2022. (Image posted by @ShehabAgency)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    The collapse of the father of the child "Hamza Aswad", one of the four children who died today in the bombing of the #Assad militia on #Maarat_Al-Naasan in the northern countryside of #Idlib
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Four student children died as martyrs today, on the third day of #Ramadan_Mubarak, in the sleepy town of #Maarat_Al-Nassan, with the criminal hatred of sectarian shells supported by the occupiers #Russia and #Iran
  • 4 children were killed on their way to school as a result of the bombing by Assad's gangs on the city of Maarat al-Na'san in Idlib countryside.
  • Four children were killed by a Assad militia on their way to school in the town of Maarat al-Naasan, northeast of Idlib
  • Four children were killed in the town of Maarat al-Naasan in Idlib countryside, after artillery shelling by Bashar al-Assad's militias targeted the town.
  • Funeral for the children killed in alleged Russian or regime strikes on Maaret Al Nassan on April 4, 2022. (Image posted by @ShehabAgency)
  • Funeral for the children killed in alleged Russian or regime strikes on Maaret Al Nassan on April 4, 2022. (Image posted by @ShehabAgency)
  • Funeral for the children killed in alleged Russian or regime strikes on Maaret Al Nassan on April 4, 2022. (Image posted by @ShehabAgency)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Child victims of regime bombing on #Maarat_Al-Naasan in #Idlib countryside

Russian Military Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    Russian Military
  • Russian Military position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Syrian Regime Assessment:

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

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Artillery
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    4
  • (4 children)
  • Civilians reported injured
    2–3
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Contested
    Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
  • Suspected attackers
    Russian Military, Syrian Regime

Sources (49) [ collapse]