At least 13 civilians, including four hospital staff and a pregnant woman, two to five other women, and one to three children, were killed and up to 50 others, including 11 hospital staff, were injured in alleged airstrikes and/or artillery shelling of Al-Shifaa Hospital in Afrin on June 12, 2021. Responsibility for the strikes is contested, which sources reporting that the Syrian Democratic Forces, Russian forces, and/or Iranian forces carried out the attack(s).
The Syrian American Medical Society issues a statement that “SAMS-supported Al-Shifaa Hospital in Afrin, Syria was directly targeted by two missiles. Initial reports from the ground indicate that thirteen people have been killed. Tragically, of this number, two were hospital staff and two were ambulance drivers. Eleven staff were injured, including one midwife in critical condition”. Additional details are that “the first missile hit the emergency room, and the second missile hit the labor and delivery room. Both units have been completely destroyed, in addition to the outpatient department that was partially destroyed. The hospital has been taken out of service, evacuating patients to nearby facilities.”
@hsasmar also identified Mahmoud Al-Dabbas Abu Khaled as someone who was “trying to provide aid to the wounded who fell as a result of the bombing on the city of #Afrin.”
@BilloMohemed gave the context that Zalloukh Hanan Muhammad, 85 years old was killed “when a missile fell on her house in the vicinity of Marati roundabout in the center of Afrin city”.
The victims “Zeinab Sheikh Daoud“, 21 years old, and her two-year-old son, “Yusuf Qilij”, from the village of Ma’arat were both killed as well, according to @SheroAlo1. Afrin Rights Watch reported that the husband and father of the deceased was being held in Marati Prison / Marata, under the control of the Turkish, and was denied a request to be released to attend their funeral.
According to @Zoher__kh, a friend of one of the victims, Majed Kbeish was a member of the Shafak Organization. @rame0alsayed also identified Anwar Al-Daher as an employee of the Shafak Organization and pointed out that he was helping one of the wounded when he was killed.
Syrian Archive spoke with the daughter go Anwar Al-Daher, who told them “Baba’s name is no longer on the door, Baba was killed, there’s no longer a door.” Al-Daher had been forcibly displaced from Kafr Aweed in the southern countryside of Idlib and was visiting Afrin with his Majid Kubaish for their work with Shafak and were treating patients at the hospital when they both were killed.
Maaret alnuman posted on Facebook that Rana Fawzi Al-Manfoukh, the wife of Mahmoud Khashan, was also killed in the bombing of Al Shifaa Hospital.
A Facebook post by Mustafa Sheikho identified the death of Malak Othman Khalil from the village of Konde Khalil and the injury of her daughter, Mazkin Hassan Muhammad, from Alkana.
An image posted by @Marea_Elshame shows a child in a wheelchair who was paralyzed prior to the incident and was killed in the strikes.
@SyrianCoalition published a full list of the names of those killed: Zaloukh Hanan Muhammad Afrin, 85 years old (F); Zainab Sheikh Daoud Afrin, 21 years old (F); Yusuf Kilij Khushan Afrin, 2 years old (M); Muhammad Osama Mamdouh Homs, 33 years old (M); Dana Al-Manfoukh (F); Ghaith Abbas, 23 years old (M); Samira Al-Sufi, Damascus, 41 years old (F); Mahmoud Dias Homs, 35 years old (M); Fadel Haj Ibrahim (M); Laith Al-Hamwi (M); Lian Mustafa Al-Amiri (F); Lana Mustafa Al-Amiri (F); Anwar Ahmed Daher (M); Majed Kbeish (M)
Syrian Civil Defense published the names Ismail Al-Naasan, Zaher Hamsho, and Ahmed Ibrahim, three volunteers of the White Helmets were injured while performing their humanitarian duty.
Syrian Archive reported that “a picture shows Ahmed Al Ibrahim, 35 years old, injured in a Civil Defense car. Ahmed, who has only worked as a volunteer in the Civil Defense for four months told the Syrian Archive team, “I was sad because I could not complete my mission after I was hit in the bombing, corpses and body parts were all over the place, there were many injured people everywhere.” Pictures and a video posted by the Syrian Civil Defense show Ahmed’s face covered in dust and blood, following the bombing of a residential community and later Al Shifa Hospital in Afrin with a total of 14 rocket shells”.
Afrin Post included additional names of civilians injured from Afrin: Fatima Sager Ahmed, 56 years old (F); Mazkin Muhammad Hassan, 39 years old (F) //daughter of Malak Othamn Khalil; Ali Ali Mahmoud, 21 years old (M); Awfa Al-Nasir Muhammad, 50 years old (?); Nidal Hajj Ibrahim, 55 years old (M); Laith Al-Amiri Mustafa, 4 years old (M); Layan Al-Amiri Mustafa, a year and a half old (M); Nisreen Al-Aroor Abdul Karim 2 years old (F); Aisha Kılıch Colin, 56 years old (M)
Afrin Post also named civilians injured from outside of Afrin: Mohieddin Al-Zein, age 55 (M); Ismail Nassan 39 (M); Muhammad Saleh. 23 (M); Zahid Hamsho 36 (?); Douaa Kamel Saad Eddin 60 (F); Abdullah Al-Abed 33 (M); Iman, Ghadab Zakaria (5 years) (F); Jalal Al-Qassab Omar (30 years old) (M); Iman al-Akhras Muhammad (22 years old) (F); Muhammad Qadriya (27 .) (M); Muhammad Hamidi Attia (36 years old) (M); Qusay Muhammad Khalil (31 years old). (M); Muhammad Zaher Al-Sakka (41 years old) (M); Bilal Ramadan (29 years old). (M); Hossam Noureddine Farouk (37 years old) (M); Tariq Najm Muhammad Faisal (31 years old) (M)
Syrian Archive identified three of those killed as being soldiers: Mahmoud Khalid Debbas, Ghaith Bassam Al Abbas, and Mamdouh Osama Al Abish.
Nurse Samir Aghwani, one of the staff members at Al Shifa, told Syrian Archive “While working, I heard several consecutive rockets and explosions at 18:05 on Saturday, June 12. I immediately went to the emergency room after a call came about injuries in the Al Filat and Al Siyasiya streets. Ambulances began transporting those injured to Al Shifa Hospital, which was closest to the attack. While we applied first aid and a number of doctors entered the operating room to conduct surgeries, and about an hour after the first bombing, the hospital was targeted by two missiles. One of them fell in the emergency room where I was. The second fell in the middle of the hospital. I froze as horrific scenes passed in front of me before I regained my senses and opened my phone. I documented what had happened and then went to treat the injured. The place was filling with blood and corpses, and my colleagues, the Civil Defense teams, and I treated the wounded.”
The director of the hospital, Hossam Al Hamdan, told Syrian Archive that the shelling completely destroyed the emergency and gynecology departments as well as the operating rooms and clinics.
Naim Al Qasim, director of the Civil Defense Center in Afrin, said in an interview with the Syrian Archive team that, “At 18:05 Afrin was hit by rockets. The shelling concentrated around the vicinity of the Ibn Sina Hospital and Al Shifa Hospital, hitting civilian homes. The Civil Defense went to the location hit. The results of the shelling was one killed and four wounded. Other than a patient who was sent to Afrin Hospital, we transported the wounded to Al-Shifa Hospital. When the vehicles returned at around 19:00, the city was hit by a second attack. Among the locations hit in this attack was Al-Shifa Hospital. The Civil Defense paramedics present at the hospital were injured as well as some of the hospital staff in addition to civilians. They were treated and taken from the hospital. The initial outcome was around 15 dead and 43 injured, in addition to severe damage to the hospital and residential buildings as well to equipment belonging to the Civil Defense.”
Mohammed Al Youssef, an ambulance driver, told the Syrian Archive team, “We received an emergency response call at 18:05 of civilian casualties on Al Siyasiya street, near Al Filat, from rocket fire. We immediately went there and were the first teams to arrive. The moment we arrived there was a high number of those injured. So, we transported two cases to the hospital and came back to evacuate more of the injured. Here was when the paramedics and Civil Defense teams arrived. After we transported another injured individual, we headed towards Al Shifa Hospital, as it was close to the area shelled, to provide first aid to the injured and to try and rescue them. We stayed in the hospital, ready for any emergency that may happen. There was huge crowd in the hospital, including civilians, injured people, and their families. We stayed in the ambulance because there were patients with critical injuries that required transportation to Turkish territories. An hour after the first bombing, a second attack happened and here the horrific massacre occurred. The missiles directly hit the hospital, the number of people was very large. The nurse that was with my ambulance was inside the emergency room in the hospital and I was outside the hospital. The rising smoke, shrapnel, and the sounds I began to hear sounded as if it was Youm Al Qiyamah. Most of the people present were killed or injured. We managed the situation and tried to rescue the injured and pull them out of the rubble. What I saw was very difficult. I saw a child in a wheelchair who died in the bombing, women, children, and young people, and ambulance teams and nurses and doctors. While working as an ambulance driver for two years now, these were the toughest moments I ever experienced.”
Ahmed Al Ibrahim, a volunteer in the Civil Defense who was wounded by the shelling, told the Syrian Archive team that the first attack was around six o’clock in the evening. He accompanied two of his colleagues, Ismail Naasan, division commander, and Zaher Hamsho, driver, in transferring the injured to Al Shifa Hospital and then Afrin Central Hospital. When they returned to Al Shifa Hospital, rockets hit the facility and he and his colleagues were injured.
In a recording sent to Syrian Archive, Abu Taym Al Halabi, a media activist who lives in Afrin and about 50 meters away from the hospital, said that seven to eight rockets hit the town in the first attack. He told Syrian Archive he inspected the impact site, determining that rockets fell between civilian homes and on farm land on Al Filat street. He said he photographed those injured at the site. About an hour later, when he was arriving back home, he heard shooting and loud explosions. When he went to the location of the explosions, he saw many injured people leaving the hospital. He helped them and saw significant destruction to the hospital. He said he saw at least six bodies in the area and that because the police were present he was afraid to document what he saw. Abu Taym told Syrian Archive that he took a picture from afar of a man next to his pregnant wife, who was killed in the attack, before the Civil Defense removed her from the hospital. He asked the captain present whether he was permitted to document what was happening. The captain allowed Abu Taym to take pictures. According to Abu Taym, the scene was tragic, “I saw body parts and corpses, severed hands and feet, dismembered bodies.” He added, “after a few minutes, a person who spoke Turkish stopped us and other journalists from filming.”
Qasioun News reported that “the authorities of the Turkish state of Hatay announced killing 13 civilians and injury 27 others as a result of the attack carried out by SDF.”
A tweet from @ahmadal_shame put the number of civilians killed in the strikes “at more than 18” and @SyrianCoalition tweeted that the number of people killed had risen to 19. A higher count was given by Step News, putting that the strikes “killed 23 people and injured more than 40 civilians and medical staff” and Al Modon reported that more than 50 civilians were injured. However, other sources gave lower estimates, with @SEMA_Org tweeting that “at least 6 civilian casualties were killed, and 15 were injured,” but this seems to be an early estimate.
Syrian Archive reported that Al Shifa Hospital is located on a block that includes military and government institutions, including the headquarters of the city police, the political security branch, and the court in Afrin.
Orient News provided information on the victims: “killing of at least seven people in the initial toll, including three women from the medical staff (a midwife and two nurses), a civil defense volunteer and two civilians, in addition to the injury of dozens, including three civil defense volunteers and a number of medical staff and civilians, especially women”. Enab Baladi gave information that of the seven killed, that included “four medical personnel and three members of the “Syrian Civil Defense” team” and Syrian Network for Human Rights identified one child and five women among those killed.
In addition, Orient identified Iran as responsible for the bombardment on the hospital and added that the bombing “originated from the Iranian “sectarian” militia points in the areas of Aleppo countryside”.
A tweet from @NagiNajjar blamed the strikes on the regime and Iran.
Various sources, including @itsnotsuhad and Syrian Civil Defense, attributed the strikes to the Syrian Democratic Forces and/or the PKK. Syrian Arab News Agency, the regime controlled news agency, reported that the civilian casualties resulted from “mutual shelling between the Turkish occupation forces and their terrorist mercenaries on the one hand, and the US occupation backed-QSD militants on the other hand”.
However, Farhad Shami, Director of the Media Center of the Syrian Democratic Forces released a statement that “some media published incorrect news about the targeting of the city center of Afrin this evening and attributed it to our forces. We in the Syrian Democratic Forces confirm that we do not have any presence in those areas, and we call on all media outlets to adhere to credibility in publishing news related to our force”. The head of the SDF also denied that they were responsible, blaming Russia for the strikes.
Afrin Post reported that “Turkish soldiers in six military vehicles (with Turkish flags on them) had evacuated their military headquarters located in the building (formerly Ronahi Press) adjacent to Afrin Hospital (al-Shifaa now) just 4 minutes before the start of the missile shelling on the city, which indicates that they were on Aware of the missile targeting and its timing” and that Turkish forces prevented activists and media from entering the hospital following the strikes. In addition, “the missile shelling was launched from the outskirts of the towns of Nubl and al-Zahra, which are under the control of the Syrian regime army.”
A tweet from @maamo_walid provided an image of the “Krasnopol missiles that the Syrian regime bombed the city of Afrin are Russian laser-guided missiles that are precision-guided by reconnaissance”. Using the same image, @AKMcKeever referred to it as ” a 122mm BM-21 rocket (spring-loaded fins) taken ~175m from the site of the Afrin hospital”.
The US State Department issued a statement condemning the attack and pointed out that “this hospital’s coordinates have been shared with the UN deconfliction mechanism for Syria” but did not identify who was responsible. The World Health Organization also issued a condemnation of the attack and did not attribute responsibility.
The incident occured between 6:10 pm and 7:15 pm local time.