Civilian Casualties

Civilian Casualties

Incident Code

RS1788

Incident date

December 12, 2016

Location

عقيربات, Akeirbat, Hama, Syria

Airwars assessment

In a major civilian casualty incident widely reported as a sarin gas attack, between 20 and 102 civilians, including women and between five and 28 children, were killed and between 100 to 500 civilians were injured in airstrikes against the village of Akeirbat in the eastern suburb of Hama, according to local media. Sources were conflicted as to whether Russian or regime planes were responsible for the airstrikes.

Initial estimates put the number of casualties between 20-35 but at the time of reporting, the correspondent for Orient, Saif Al-Abdullah, noted that “the number of [dead] is likely to rise due to the large number of seriously injured, the lack of atropine, and the absence of medical [locations].”

According to local media, more than 20 airstrikes carrying both bombs and sarin gas targeted civilians in Akeirbat, which was said to have been under the control of the Islamic State at the time.

The raids focused on the residential areas of Aquirbat, Nuaimiyah, Al Qstil, Al Hanouta, and Alsaliya, which were heavily occupied with refugees who had fled violence in other cities. The area of Akeirbat had been repeatedly bombed as part of a campaign against the city of Palmyra in Homs – and was facing a media blackout at the time.

There was no consensus among reporters of who who was responsible for the chemical bombing, with reports equally split between Russian and regime blame.

Many local sources, including Syria News Desk and Zaman Al Wasl, identified regime planes as the culprit while various other sources, including Al A’maq and Smart News, blamed Russian planes for the airstrikes.

Other sources, such as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, did not identify who was responsible for the bombing while others, such as Alarabiya, specifically pointed out that it did not know if the planes belonged to Russia or the regime.

Victims of the sarin gas attack were treated at local hospitals for fainting, suffocation, nausea, involuntary urination, paralysis, and eye swelling. Most victims reportedly had no signs of physical injuries or blood, offering evidence for a toxic gas attack. Local medics claimed that the gas had no colour or smell, which distinguishes it from chlorine.

Media activist Ahmed Al-Hamwi told Syria News Desk that entire families were among those killed in the airstrikes. Many of those killed had hidden in trenches before they knew that toxic gas was being dropped, which is heavier than air and therefore suffocated those in the trenches.

The London-based Guardian also reported on this event. It’s report said: “Up to 300 people were also reported to have been injured in the strikes on Monday morning around 130 miles west of the city of Palmyra, which was retaken from Syrian forces by the Islamic State group. Witnesses to the attacks say that none of those who died had blast injuries.

“’Most of the dead were families’,” said Ahmad al Hamawi, head of a regional council. ‘They had built primitive shelters and they ran to them, not knowing it was poison gas. While they were in the shelters the gas entered because of the wind direction, and killed dozens, mostly women and children.'”

@AleppoAMC said that up to 500 people had suffered from “suffocation”.

The incident occured at approximately 12:00 pm local time.

Summary

  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    20 – 102
  • (5–28 children1 woman)
  • Civilians reported injured
    100–500
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Contested
    Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
  • Suspected attackers
    Russian Armed Forces, Syrian Regime Armed Forces

Sources (23) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (4) [ collapse]

  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Children killed in airstrikes against the town of Akeirbat, Dec. 12th (via Alarabiya News)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Children killed in airstrikes against the town of Akeirbat, Dec. 12th (via Alarabiya News)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Massacre in Akeirbat that resulted in more than 100 killed and hundreds injured, Dec. 12th (via @Ahmadmuaffaq)
  • Victims receiving treatment at a local medical center following toxic gas attacks on Akeirbat, Dec. 12th (via @SyrianCoalition

Russian Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    Russian Armed Forces
  • Russian Armed Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Original strike reports

Russian Armed Forces

Russia has not reported any specific strikes between December 1st – 31st 2016.

On 6 January 2017, Russia, however, reported: “Since November 8, 2016, the aircraft carrier group of the Northern Fleet consisting of the heavy aircraft carrying cruiser Admiral Kuznetsov, the heavy nuclear missile cruiser Pyotr Velikiy, the large ASW ship Severomorsk, as well as auxiliary vessels of the Black Sea Fleet, has been fulfilling counterterrorist missions on the territory of Syria”, adding that ”in the course of two months of their participation in the combat actions, naval aviation pilots have carried out 420 combat sorties, 117 of them were night ones.”

Syrian Regime Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    Syrian Regime Armed Forces
  • Syrian Regime Armed Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    20 – 102
  • (5–28 children1 woman)
  • Civilians reported injured
    100–500
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Contested
    Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
  • Suspected attackers
    Russian Armed Forces, Syrian Regime Armed Forces

Sources (23) [ collapse]