Eight to 12 internally displaced civilians were killed, and dozens more were wounded, following an air and artillery airstrike on a residential area in Tafas, local media reported.
According to sources, the raids struck the courtyard of Martyr Kiwan middle school which was being used to house internally displaced peoples from Etman. Sources were conflicted as to who was to blame, with some attributing blame to the Syrian regime while others blamed Russia. Human Rights Watch pointed to the “Syrian-Russian” alliance.
Human Rights Watch published a report which dubbed this a double strike as prior to the raid on Martyr Kiwan school, “artillery attacks roughly an hour earlier on the same day killed two other civilians, including one child, near the school. At least five people were wounded.” Hours later a huge crater was formed following the strike which killed eight civilians.
According to Sdu Syria news, wounded civilians were being transferred to field hospitals by members of the civil defence. Many of the cases were serious and it was reported by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that the numbers were likely to rise.
Orient News reported that many of the civilians caught up in the strikes, including a young girl under the age of ten, were returning from lessons on the Qur’an.
One source said that while members of the civil defence were rescuing vulnerable civilians, another missile struck a car being used to transport civilians to safety.
Aletihadpress added that there were as many as 10 raids, with 26 barrel bombs and 12 rockets, causing huge material destruction. Many civilian homes were damaged in the strikes.
According to Baladi, Tafas had been under continuous bombardment for the past two weeks with almost daily artillery shelling. But they did not attribute blame for these raids. Aletihadpress supported this statement.
In a report published by Human Rights Watch, witness statements were reviled. “Witnesses said that to their knowledge no members of non-state armed groups fighting the Syrian government were killed or injured in the attacks, and that they did not know of any military objects in the vicinity of the attacks. A local resident said that anti-government armed groups known as Fajr al-Islam and al-Mutaz Bellah are present in Tafas, 13 kilometres north of the city of Daraa, but that neither had any presence in or near the school.” According to Abu Wesal, a civil defence worker, “The rebels are far from the town, on agricultural lands and in old bases,”
They provided a detailed description of the raid: “At around noon on June 14, 2017, an artillery attack killed Hiba al-Hasan, a 12-year-old girl, and Mohamad al-Salkhadi, who was selling vegetables, near al-Omari square, a residential area in the middle of town, Abu Wesal and another civil defense worker in Tafas who responded to the attacks told Human Rights Watch separately. Other artillery attacks hit areas in Tafas to the north and west at around the same time but without casualties, and attacks continued later in the day, the men said. Abu Wesal said the artillery attacks originated from the direction of areas controlled by Syrian government forces near Tafas: Tal al-Khedr and Dara’a al-Panorama. Tafas has been subjected to repeated artillery attacks from government-held areas, witnesses said.
“Beginning at around 1 p.m., a fixed-wing jet aircraft dropped four bombs in short succession on Tafas, witnesses said. The first airstrike hit an open area immediately behind the Kiwan middle school, about 300 meters south of the square hit by the earlier artillery strike. Another civil defence worker said he arrived at the site of the explosion within a few minutes, and that a second airstrike hit the school’s front courtyard shortly thereafter. “I saw the [second] bomb hit the school, because I was very close,” he said. “Me and my team went inside the school.” Human Rights Watch saw a video that the civil defence worker said he filmed at the time showing at least five bodies, blood, and body parts in the school entrance.
“Abu Wesal also arrived at the school shortly after the second attack, “about three minutes after the first one, just enough time for the plane to circle around.” Among the victims whose bodies he removed was that of his cousin, Ahmad Naji Kiwan, whose home was next to the school.
“It was the first time I’d seen something like that – the remains were splattered all over. There were six bodies, amputated heads, amputated hands, amputated legs, not one was left intact. We tried to look for survivors and heard children screaming. The only two survivors we found are the boy [Bara’a al-Masri] and a girl. They were […] stuck under mattresses and furniture. I swear, to this moment, the smell of blood and remains is stuck on the metal. The [bomb], when it fell, tore down the door, the metallic front gate of the school. We found one body with part of the door having pierced him from the chest onto his back. Something indescribable.
“The other seven people killed and wounded at the school were among roughly 15 members of an extended family who had been sheltering there since Syrian forces captured their hometown of Ataman, about 10 kilometres away, in February 2016, said a resident who lives near the school. Witnesses and Syrian rights groups identified the family members killed as Yasmin al-Masri, a 13-year-old girl, and her relatives Rami, Mohamad Ahmad, Mohamad Ayed, Ahmad, Mahmud, and Mahmud’s wife, Basma al-Hari, 31. Al-Hari died while in surgery due to shrapnel wounds in the head, chest, and stomach, according to a written statement from Tafas hospital.
“The hospital statement said it had received the bodies of seven people who were killed in the attack, as well as al-Hari, who died in surgery, and four other al-Masri family members who were wounded: Bara’a Mohamad al-Masri, 3, who had abdominal wounds and a ruptured leg artery; another boy, a girl, and a woman, 55, who had abdominal wounds and was transferred to Jordan. A video uploaded to YouTube on June 24 by Orient News shows a boy identified as Bara’a al-Masri, and a doctor who describes performing surgery on him.
“The aircraft conducted two other airstrikes shortly after hitting the school, witnesses said. The third strike wounded two children when it hit a former military barracks about 2.5 kilometres east of the school that is being used as shelter for displaced families from the towns of Sheikh Maskin, Ebtah, Garfah, and Ataman, Abu Wesal said. The fourth airstrike hit land next to a former cigarette warehouse which also shelters displaced people on the edge of Tafas without causing casualties.
“Another resident who lives near Tafas told Human Rights Watch that he visited the school the day following the attack on behalf of a children’s organisation, and that he also met Bara’a al-Masri in the hospital: “He had no one anymore. No mother. No father. Only his uncle, who was devastated. I went to visit him the next day as well, and offered some help.” The boy was discharged from hospital five days later. A family member said that the boy had been transferred to a hospital in Jordan, with another relative.”
The incident occured around dawn.
- Hiba Mo'taman al-Hasan 12 years old female killed
- Ahmad Naji Mouhammad Kiwan Adult male killed
- Mouhammad Kheir Yousef al-Salkhadi Adult male killed
- Mouhammad Ayed Raja al-Masri Adult male killed
- Mahmoud Kaseem al-Masri Adult male killed
- Yasmin Rami al-Masr Child female killed
- Ahmad Kaseem al-Masri Adult male killed
- Mouhammad Ahmad Kaseem al-Masri Adult male killed
- Basma Mouhammad al-Hari Adult female killed
- Rami Ahmad Kaseem al-Masri Adult male killed
Sources (24) [ collapse]
Russian Armed Forces Assessment:
Original strike reports
Russia has not reported any strikes between June 1st – 31st 2017.