During an exchange of small arms fire, an alleged Coalition helicopter strike hit a civilian home in the town of Al-Kashkiya, east of Deir Al-Zour. Between six and ten civilians from the same family were reported killed, including women and children.
In January 2020, the Coalition accepted responsibility for the deaths of nine civilians in the event and the injuring of two others. In May 2020, the Pentagon additionally informed Congress that this was a US-only action.
Manart Alforat 2018 posted at the time of the attack that six civilians died in the attack. @Deirezzor24 and Euphrates Post reported that seven civilians were killed, including one child and two women from the family of Ali Kalif al-Qatmir. Free Deir Ezzor Radio reported on nine civilian deaths, mostly women and children.
Meanwhile Shabab Al Latamna and Boukamalna put the death toll at ten civilians. So too did Sputnik, which added that among the dead were four children.
In a detailed description of the incident, Shabab Al Soussa reported that the attack occurred at 1am on Friday morning. Citing local sources, it described how “one of the wanted men of ISIS” was carrying and shooting his weapon, thinking that members of ISIS were trying to attack him. According to the accounts, his house and surrounding areas were then targeted which led to the killing of his relatives.
A Coalition spokesman denied that there were civilian casualties though admitted attacking the town that day, according to Stars and Stripes: “Military officials are refuting reports that civilians were harmed in a coalition airstrike on an Islamic State-held village in eastern Syria last week, while observers have warned of diminished transparency in the anti-ISIS campaign. Syria’s state news agency and the activist group DeirEzzor 24 both said the strike on the village of Kishkiyeh had killed at least 10 people, including four children, the Associated Press reported late last week. Both blamed the U.S.-led coalition.
A U.S. military spokesman indicated there had been a Coalition strike in the area but initially rejected the allegation of noncombatant deaths. “We are aware of reports of civilian [casualty] allegations, but we have no evidence at this time indicating any civilians were harmed in this strike,” Army Col. Scott Rawlinson, a spokesman for the Coalition, said via email. “We take every reasonable precaution to minimize harm to civilians in our pursuit of an enduring defeat of ISIS.”’
In a later report, Deir Ezzor 24 reported that the Coalition had in fact paid out 80,000 euros to Al-Shaitat victims who were killed “by mistake”. “Special sources” to Deir Ezzor 24 revealed that on Sunday 27th January 2019, a delegation from the International Coalition and the SDF met with elders from Abu Hamam town in the eastern Deir Ezzor countryside at the headquarter of the Public Relations office, where they paid money to 11 people who were killed “by mistake” by the Coalition and the SDF during this incident.
According to the source, Haval Razan was among the people who attended, the highest representative of the coalition, and the link between the international coalition and the SDF. Representatives of the victims’ families who attended according to the source were: Hassan Al-Obaid Al-Ghadir, Abdelkader Al-Hassan Al-Baqes, Ammash Al-Hussein Al-Ghadir, Fahim Al-Ghadir, Jassim Al-Qatmir, Hamad Al-Ahmad Al-Amin, and Ibn Badri Al-Hamad Al-Ghadir.
Deir Ezzor 24 added that the Coalition “admitted that it had obtained false information which led to the killing of two civilians in Al-Kashkiyah town east of Deir Ezzor” and that “they reiterated the need to hold accountable those who provided the SDF and the Coalition with wrong coordinates that caused the deaths of civilians.”
The UN Commission of Inquiry cited the case in its September 2019 report:
“In addition to front-line battles, the Commission received several accounts of night raids carried out by SDF with the aerial support of helicopter gunships provided by international coalition forces, which killed and injured civilians. For example, on 4 January 2019 at approximately 1.00 a.m., a night raid in SDF-controlled Kashmah village killed up to eight civilians including five men, two women and one boy, and further injured one man and one girl.
While the exact unfolding of events is still under investigation, accounts received by the Commission suggest an exchange of fire between some villagers and SDF with the support of helicopter gunships, which led to the killing of several villagers. The local community perceived the raid as an attack on fellow tribal members, while SDF claim that they responded to fire from ISIL elements in the village. The Commission received information and supporting documentation that, on 27 January, a settlement of $80,000 was offered by SDF to the family members of the deceased.”
In its civilian casualty report for November 2019 – published on January 2nd 2020 – the Coalition eventually conceded both the attack and its consequences, noting: “January 3, 2019, in Al-Khuskieh, Syria, via Human Rights Watch Report. Coalition aircraft conducted an airstrike against Daesh fighters. Regrettably, nine civilians were unintentionally killed and two civilians were unintentionally wounded as a result of the strike. 2774 37SFU550524”.
In May 2020, in its annual report to Congress, the Pentagon conceded this as a US-only civilian harm event: “As of March 1, 2020, CJTF-OIR assessed that 11 reports of civilian casualties during 2019 were credible, with approximately 22 civilians killed and approximately 13 civilians injured as a result of U.S. military operations.”
The incident occured at 1:00 am local time.