More than 32 civilians died in alleged US-led Coalition strikes on the city of Raqqah, according to local media. Field research by Amnesty International has since confirmed many of the civilian deaths. The civilians were in the basement of a building near Maari School when the airstrike hit, causing the building to collapse on them, killing dozens.
In the first week of February, a number of local sources reported on the exhumation of bodies from “the area south of Al Ma’ari school”. More bodies were found and after a query from an Airwars researcher, RBSS stated that more than 35 civilians had been present in the building when the airstrike took place. A number of these bodies could however not be identified due to the heavy decomposition.
On February 14th RBSS reported that the bodies of four children and their father were recovered “two days ago from the building next to the school of Al-Ma’ari.” Included in the report were photos of the family’s grave and a document reading their names.
In a video by France24 Khaled Khalaf al Salama’s wife, who survived the bombardment, mentions that she has also lost her mother, sister and niece. RBSS confirmed to Airwars that they were all killed in the same airstrike.
On April 4th, local sources reported that another four bodies were taken from under the rubble “in a building next to Al-Ma’ari school”. Euphrates Post did not specify the date on which the people died, only mentioning that they were killed “during the recent campaign against the city.” Still, only 27 of the 35 civilians that were killed in the incident have been found at this same location – making it likely that the four recently exhumed persons were killed in the same bombardment.
In a May 2nd interview with Arab24, a rescuer who is standing at the location of the incident, states that “Most of the bodies we are pulling out are unidentified. There were about 200 bodies that were identified, we handed those over to their families.” Later, he addresses that in al Ma’ari area, “we have pulled out about 20-25 bodies. Some of them were identified and others remain unidentified.” Due to the heavy bombardments in the area around that time, Airwars researchers cannot determine if these bodies are related to this specific incident.
This incident was initially assessed as being related to an October 3rd incident in Raqqa (S1396b). Further research found that the bombardment was dated September 25th. Airwars researchers created this separate incident on March 1st.
Many of these details have since been confirmed to be true, following the publication of the Amnesty and Airwars’s joint April 2019 report “War in Raqqa: Rhetoric versus Reality”. The report confirmed through interviews with survivors that “At least 32 civilians – 20 children, eight women and four men – from four families were killed when an air strike destroyed a five-storey building where the displaced families were sheltering.”
Khaled Khalaf Salama’s family were from Raqqa but were IDPs from another part of the city. His wife survived however has “bad burns”.
Hana’s family were displaced from Palmira. Hana’s husband and two children survived. The family had left Palmira to go to Rukban IDP camp (near Jordan border) but their situation was terrible therefore went to Raqqa in 2016. They were in building opposite (on opposite side of main road) but a few days earlier that building was set on fire by attack by (seemingly Rafale) aircraft and so fled to building across the road, which was then bombed on 22 August. This led them to the school.
Loay’s family were also displaced from Palmira. One of his daughters – named Malak – survived however she disappeared.
Aalawi al Nazzal’s wife and four daughters was also displaced from Palmira. Their son, Mohammad – aged 12 – allegedly survived, however he disappeared. According to testimonies he had down syndrome.
Ayat, a survivor of the raid told Amnesty in a testimony that “All my children, mother, my entire family, everyone who was dear to me, they were all killed. Wasn’t this war about saving and protecting the civilians? Why did they kill innocent people.”
Eleven of the victims were named in a Airwars incident CS1571. Sources stated that they had died on 7th October in an airstrike and their bodies were – according to RBSS – “recovered from the building adjacent to Al-Ma’ari school” on February 6th.
Seven victims of the Salama family were also named in Airwars incident CS1572. Sources stated that they had died on 3rd October. Since field research was conducted by Amnesty, we now know they were victims of the 25th September airstrike on Al Ma’ari school.
Similarly Aalawi al Nazzal and his family were listed under Airwars incident CS1573, however they died in this strike. They were previously listed as killed on October 3rd.
In Airwars incident CS1615, it was reported that the news of the deaths of Shahed Maher Hamada and Yasin Maher Hamada came “midst reports of 45 or more citizens of Palmyra killed in Raqqah “during the past 24 hours”. Following a lack of clarity surround their deaths, we now know that they were killed in this incident on the 25th, rather than October 9th, alongside five other members of their family.
Najah Abderrazzaq Hammada and Abderrazzaq Ali Taha were initially listed under Airwars incident CS1611, but we have since learnt they were killed in this strike. Their names have therefore been removed from incident CS1611.
On March 10, 2022 in the CJTF-OIR Civilian Casualty Report, the Coalition reported this incident to be “non-credible”, stating that “After review of all available evidence it was determined that more likely than not civilian casualties did not occur as a result of a Coalition strike.”
The local time of the incident is unknown.