At least 6 people were killed by airstrikes in the vicinity of Hassadjek village in Aleppo, though the circumstances were unclear.
Initially, Voice of Kurdistan blamed the US-led Coalition for a strike occurring around 3am, which it said left six people dead and four wounded.
The Russian Ministry of Defense said that Russian and Syrian government aircraft were not operating in the vicinity, but in a statement claimed that “Aircraft of the international coalition were performing tasks near Hassajek village at night on October 18. Air situation control systems have detected two F-16 of the Air Force of the Kingdom of Belgium at the specified time and area.” This report was quickly picked up by the Russian press, including RT.
The accusation led to a spat with Belgian authorities, who denied that their planes were involved or were nearby. In a tweet, the country’s Minister of Defense called Moscow’s assertion “Russian disinformation.” The Minister also denied the Russian account to the Belgian parliament. A spokeswoman for the Belgian ministry additionally told Airwars that “we did not fly there yesterday, nor the days before.”
A spokesperson for the Coalition told Airwars that “Contrary to what Russian media reported, there is no evidence of this incident, nor were any Belgian aircraft conducing kinetic operations at the time.”
The incident became further confused after Turkey announced it had carried out strikes on Kurdish militants in numerous locations north of Aleppo on the night of October 19th-20th. As the Syrian Observatory noted regarding the Hassadjek strikes, at the time “factions supported by Turkish warplanes and tanks,” as well as the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces and ISIL were all present and engaged in the area. Other local outlets, including Smart News and Izaz Media Center reported that the Syrian Democratic Forces had gained control of Hassadjek.
Among the strikes carried out on the 19th-20th, Bellingcat was able to geolocate one “very close to the village of Hassadjek,” which it noted was “the location where Russia accused Belgium of killing six civilians” on the morning of the 18th.
On October 21st, Russia called for Belgium to set up an investigation into the incident.
In their May 2020 civilian casualty report, the US-led Coalition assessed reports that they were responsible for civilian harm in this strike as “non-credible”, stating that no Coalition actions were conducted in the geographical area at that time.
The incident occured at approximately 3:00 am local time.
Sources (14) [ collapse]
Reports of the incident mention the village of Hassadjek (حساجك), for which the generic coordinates are: 36.3960003, 37.2467422. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.
Attached to this civilian harm incident is a provisional reconciliation of the Pentagon's declassified assessment of this civilian harm allegation, based on matching date and locational information.
The declassified documents were obtained by Azmat Khan and the New York Times through Freedom of Information requests and lawsuits filed since March 2017, and are included alongside the corresponding press release published by the Pentagon. Airwars is currently analysing the contents of each file, and will update our own assessments accordingly.
US-led Coalition Assessment:
Civilian casualty statements
May 1, 2020
Oct. 18, 2016, in Hassadjek, Syria via Airwars report. After a review of all available records it was assessed that no Coalition actions were conducted in the geographical area that corresponds to the report of civilian casualties. 3069/CS343 37SCA427292
Original strike reports
For October 17th-18th the Coalition reported “Near Mar’a, four strikes engaged four ISIL tactical units and destroyed two fighting positions and a vehicle.” For October 18th-19th the Coalition reported “Near Mar’a, one strike engaged an ISIL tactical unit.” In a statement to Airwars, the Coalition said that “there were no Belgian aircraft conducting strike operations at the time.