Civilian Casualties

Civilian Casualties

Incident Code

CS1977

Incident date

February 3, 2022

Location

طمة, دير بلوط, Deir Balout, Atma, Syria

Airwars assessment

Up to thirteen civilians, including six children and four women, were reported killed and at least one child was injured after US forces targeted and subsequently killed the leader of the Islamic State (ISIS), Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, in Atma, northwest Syria on February 3rd 2022. Local reporting was conflicted as to whether the casualties were caused by US forces or in the detonation of a suicide device. Local sources were also conflicted regarding the civilian status of the adults harmed in the incident.

Al-Qurayshi had been the leader of ISIS since his predecessor Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was also killed in a US operation on October 26th, 2019.

Reports indicated that the operation began with Apache helicopters and drones circling the area, with heavy machine gun fire targeted at the residential building just after 1am. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, US forces “carried out an airdrop in that area, where soldiers had called, via loudspeakers, to evacuate women and children from a house”. After 15 minutes, the sound of gunfire was reported – marking the beginning of a two hour long standoff, culminating in the alleged detonation of a suicide device from inside the building.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby in a statement on February 3rd, noted that there was gunfire between US forces and ‘lieutenants’ of al-Qurayshi on the second floor of the building, as well as in the area surrounding the building. He reported that al-Qurayshi was on the third floor of the building when he detonated the explosive device.

Regarding civilian harm, Kirby stated that four civilians had been killed during the raid, including three children: the wife and two children of al-Qurayshi killed on the third floor, and another child when “one of [al-Qurayshi’s] lieutenants and the lieutenant’s wife [were] firing back at our forces. They were killed and it appears as if a child was also killed on that second floor.”

None of the deaths have yet been confirmed by the US to have resulted directly from US actions, with Kirby noting: “the lives of innocents taken in this operation were caused by Abdullah and his decision of blowing himself up”. In reference to the child killed on the floor below al-Qurayshi, Kirby noted that “it’s a loss caused by Mr. Abdullah and his lieutenant”, however he also stated that the information was as yet not definitive: “we’re willing to take a look to just examine and make sure that there wasn’t any action that we might have taken that could have also caused harm to innocents”.

Syria TV and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) instead noted that either one or two women had detonated the explosive device – with SOHR stating that at least one of the women was non-Syrian, and Syria TV stating that she was of Russian or Chechen origin. This was not corroborated by other sources.

In an eyewitness account, a woman living in the same building that was targeted in the raid said: “The planes came around 1am. They started shouting at us. There was a first, second and third floor. They were saying we needed to get out of the house – men, women and children – and that we would be killed if not. They fired a missile/shell while we were inside, then they fired bullets and we were inside.” The woman added: “I came out behind them but I didn’t see them on the ground. They said put your hands on your head and get on the ground and take off your hijab. I was very scared. I couldn’t tolerate it… They took the kids from me directly and they searched me and handcuffed my hands behind me.”

Graphic images were circulated in the early hours of February 3rd on social media of several young children killed in the attack. The Syrian Civil Defense (White Helmets) teams reported the death of at least 13 people, stating: “Our teams treated the injured and recovered the bodies, handed over two bodies to the forensic medicine in the city of Idlib and secured the place to protect civilians.”

The White Helmets also added that a girl and another individual were injured in the attack. In their statement they report that “our teams rushed an injured child to the hospital. The child’s entire family was killed in the operation. The teams also rushed another person to the hospital who was injured in the clashes when he approached the scene to witness what was happening.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the initial death toll at nine.

UNICEF also confirmed the deaths of the children in the incident: “UNICEF confirms that at least six children were killed and one girl was badly injured overnight in the border town of [Atme] in the northwest of Syria due to heavy violence”.

In his statement about the incident, President Joe Biden said that they had “made a choice to minimise civilian casualties” by conducting the attack with special forces rather than by an airstrike, given the presence of al-Qurayshi’s family, including children, in the area.

The Guardian reported statements from US Officials, who said “there were moments of tension, when one of the helicopters malfunctioned and had to be landed and then destroyed, and then when the special forces team called for family members to come out of the building, knowing there were children inside”.

Airwars will update this incident as new information comes to light.

The incident occured at 01:00:00 local time.

  • Israa Child female injured

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground)
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    9 – 13
  • (6 children4 women1 man)
  • Civilians reported injured
    1–2
  • 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.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    ISIS
  • Belligerents reported killed
    4–5

Sources (61) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (74) [ collapse]

  • A US forces raid on a house overnight on February 3rd caused significant destruction and at least eleven civilian were killed by the first reports (Image via Ahmad Bakkar/ Facebook)
  • A US forces raid on a house overnight on February 3rd caused significant destruction and at least eleven civilian were killed by the first reports (Image via Ahmad Bakkar/ Facebook)
  • A US forces raid on a house overnight on February 3rd caused significant destruction and at least eleven civilian were killed by the first reports (Image via Ahmad Bakkar/ Facebook)
  • 1 of 2: Syria TV published "pictures of the house that was targeted by the American forces at dawn today" on February 3rd 2022 (Image via Facebook)
  • 2 of 2: Syria TV published "pictures of the house that was targeted by the American forces at dawn today" on February 3rd 2022 (Image via Facebook)
  • 1 of 2: Syrian Civil Defense respond to the scene in the morning of February 3rd 2022 after a US air raid (Image via Syria TV)
  • 2 of 2: Syrian Civil Defense respond to the scene in the morning of February 3rd 2022 after a US air raid (Image via Syria TV)
  • "All that's left of the home the COalition targeted" (Video via @NotWoofers)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    A young girl wounded in the fighting after a US air drop operation targeted a house in Dayr Balut on February 3rd 2022 in the early hours of the morning. Reports indicate that at least eleven civilians were killed (Image via @NotWoofers) / Twitter)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    1 of 4: Pictures showed the remains of child victims after a US air drop which has reportedly killed at least eleven civilians, including at least six children (Image via Shaam)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    2 of 4: Pictures showed the remains of child victims after a US air drop which has reportedly killed at least eleven civilians, including at least six children (Image via Shaam)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    3 of 4: Pictures showed the remains of child victims after a US air drop which has reportedly killed at least eleven civilians, including at least six children (Image via Shaam)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    4 of 4: Pictures showed the remains of child victims after a US air drop which has reportedly killed at least eleven civilians, including at least six children (Image via Shaam)
  • 1 of 7: Shaam news uploaded photographs of the destruction and remains of the house which was targeted by a US air drop operation on February 3rd in the Atma region of northern Syria (Image via Facebook)
  • 2 of 7: Shaam news uploaded photographs of the destruction and remains of the house which was targeted by a US air drop operation on February 3rd in the Atma region of northern Syria (Image via Facebook)
  • 3 of 7: Shaam news uploaded photographs of the destruction and remains of the house which was targeted by a US air drop operation on February 3rd in the Atma region of northern Syria (Image via Facebook)
  • 4 of 7: Shaam news uploaded photographs of the destruction and remains of the house which was targeted by a US air drop operation on February 3rd in the Atma region of northern Syria (Image via Facebook)
  • 5 of 7: Shaam news uploaded photographs of the destruction and remains of the house which was targeted by a US air drop operation on February 3rd in the Atma region of northern Syria (Image via Facebook)
  • 6 of 7: Shaam news uploaded photographs of the destruction and remains of the house which was targeted by a US air drop operation on February 3rd in the Atma region of northern Syria (Image via Facebook)
  • 7 of 7: Shaam news uploaded photographs of the destruction and remains of the house which was targeted by a US air drop operation on February 3rd in the Atma region of northern Syria (Image via Facebook)
  • Shaam news uploaded photographs of the destruction and remains of the house which was targeted by a US air drop operation on February 3rd in the Atma region of northern Syria (Image via Facebook)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    1 of 4: Photos of those killed and their remains after a US forces airdrop on February 3rd 2022 in Atma, Idlib (Image via @ahmedalqaaa / Twitter)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    2 of 4: Photos of those killed and their remains after a US forces airdrop on February 3rd 2022 in Atma, Idlib (Image via @ahmedalqaaa / Twitter)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    3 of 4: Photos of those killed and their remains after a US forces airdrop on February 3rd 2022 in Atma, Idlib (Image via @ahmedalqaaa / Twitter)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    4 of 4: Photos of those killed and their remains after a US forces airdrop on February 3rd 2022 in Atma, Idlib (Image via @ahmedalqaaa / Twitter)
  • Wreckage of the US helicopter which allegedly participated in the air drop operation (Image via @Ali9aa9 / Twitter)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    "One of the targetes in the landing of Atma" (Image via @Ali9aa9 / Twitter)
  • "The killing of Abu Satif Zaidan of the Al-Jolani Authority, shot by the #coalition, when he was near the target place for the landing in #Atma." (Image via @mzmgr941 / Twitter)
  • A picture of a child allegedly killed in the US air drop on February 3rd 2022 (Image via @MzmjerSh / Twitter)
  • 1 of 3: "Remnants of the airdrop of the American occupation in the town of Atma on the Syrian-Turkish border." (Image via @jamlyyyyy_ / Twitter)
  • 2 of 3: "Remnants of the airdrop of the American occupation in the town of Atma on the Syrian-Turkish border." (Image via @jamlyyyyy_ / Twitter)
  • 3 of 3: "Remnants of the airdrop of the American occupation in the town of Atma on the Syrian-Turkish border." (Image via @jamlyyyyy_ / Twitter)
  • Syrian Civil Defense report that at least 13 people were killed in an US air drop operation on February 3rd 2022 (SCD / Facebook)
  • Drone footage of the location of the US air raid on February 3rd 2022 (Euphrates / Facebook)
  • Drone footage of the location of the US air raid on February 3rd 2022 (Euphrates / Facebook)
  • Footage of site where US air raid took place on February 3rd 2022 (Andalou Agency)
  • The site of US air raid on February 3rd 2022 (Syrian Network for Human Rights)
  • Syrian Civil Defense attend rescue mission after US air raid on February 3rd 2022 (Syrian Network for Human Rights)
  • Hipa Press reported from the site of US air raid on February 3rd 2022.
  • Hipa Press reported from the site of US air raid on February 3rd 2022.
  • Hipa Press reported from the site of US air raid on February 3rd 2022.
  • Destruction and remnants of US air raid on February 3rd 2022 (Image via Anadolu Agency / Ezzedine Al-Qasim)
  • Destruction and remnants of US air raid on February 3rd 2022 (Image via Anadolu Agency / Ezzedine Al-Qasim)
  • Destruction and remnants of US air raid on February 3rd 2022 (Image via Anadolu Agency / Ezzedine Al-Qasim)
  • Destruction and remnants of US air raid on February 2nd 2022 (Image via Anadolu Agency / Ezzedine Al-Qasim)
  • Destruction after the US air raid near Atma on February 3rd 2022 (Image via Rozana / Facebook)
  • Destruction after the US air raid near Atma on February 3rd 2022 (Image via Rozana / Facebook)
  • Destruction after the US air raid near Atma on February 3rd 2022 (Image via Rozana / Facebook)
  • Destruction after the US air raid near Atma on February 3rd 2022 (Image via Rozana / Facebook)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Abdullah Qardash, the leader of ISIS, declared killed during a US-air raid (Image via Ahmad Rahhal / Facebook)
  • Abdullah Qardash, the leader of ISIS, declared killed during a US-air raid (Image via Ahmad Rahhal / Facebook)
  • The wreckage of the US helicopter during US raid on Atma on February 3rd 2022 (Image via @GHpeFLa8lXjtE5X / Twitter)
  • The wreckage of the US helicopter during US raid on Atma on February 3rd 2022 (Image via @GHpeFLa8lXjtE5X / Twitter)
  • The wreckage of the US helicopter during US raid on Atma on February 3rd 2022 (Image via @GHpeFLa8lXjtE5X / Twitter)
  • The wreckage of the US helicopter during US raid on Atma on February 3rd 2022 (Image via @GHpeFLa8lXjtE5X / Twitter)
  • The wreckage of the US helicopter during US raid on Atma on February 3rd 2022 (Image via @Step_Agency/ Twitter)
    Hello
  • The wreckage of the US helicopter during US raid on Atma on February 3rd 2022 (Image via @Step_Agency/ Twitter)
  • The wreckage of the US helicopter during US raid on Atma on February 3rd 2022 (Image via @Step_Agency/ Twitter)
  • The wreckage of the US helicopter during US raid on Atma on February 3rd 2022 (Image via @Step_Agency/ Twitter)

US Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    US Forces
  • US Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground)
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    9 – 13
  • (6 children4 women1 man)
  • Civilians reported injured
    1–2
  • 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.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    ISIS
  • Belligerents reported killed
    4–5

Sources (61) [ collapse]