News

News

Published

March 27, 2024

One of ten winners from nearly 600 entries for prestigious journalism prize

Airwars has won a Sigma award recognising excellence in data journalism, while the organisation’s investigative work has also been nominated three times at the forthcoming Amnesty Media Awards.

The article, titled The Year of the Shahed, was one of ten winners selected by Sigma from a total of 591 submissions by more than 300 news organisations.

The investigation involved gathering all open-source allegations of Russia’s use of the Iranian-made Shahed drone to attack Ukrainian civilians, as well as researching the European links to the specific component parts found in them. It was produced in collaboration with the German newspaper Der Spiegel after a grant by Investigative Journalism for Europe.

A still image from the article

Commenting on the article, the Sigma prize committee said: “The increasing digitisation, mechanisation, and automatisation of warfare is a worrying trend that will likely accelerate in years to come. This story about affordable but highly effective Iranian drones (actually, pseudo-missiles) used by Russia in Ukraine is a good example of what investigative and data journalism can do to warn readers about such trends.”

“The piece combines in-depth data analysis of attack patterns, first-person accounts of their consequences, and plenty of context of both the history of this weaponry and of the way it’s operated. The story weaves the narrative with photographic and audio evidence, along with a simple but effective series of data visualizations, scrollytelling sequences, and well-executed vector 3D renderings of the drones. In summary, it’s a rich multimedia experience.”

The article was written by Sanjana Varghese, Nikolaj Houmann Mortensen, Iryna Chupryna and Rowena De Silva of Airwars, as well as Oliver Imhof and Alexander Epp of Der Spiegel. It was designed visually by Airwars’ Júlia Nueno and Azul De Monte.

Among the other projects recognised by the judges were international news organisations including the Financial Times and Bloomberg, as well as local news organisations in Nigeria, Bangladesh and elsewhere.

The full award ceremony can be viewed below and Nikolaj Houmann Mortensen will discuss the article at a panel discussion during the International Journalism Festival 2024 in Perugia, Italy on April 20, 2024.

Separately, Airwars received three nominations for the forthcoming Amnesty Media Awards. The awards celebrate vital stories related to issues of human rights, with the winners to be announced on on May 9th, 2024.

Airwars was the smallest organisation to have been nominated, with almost all other candidates major international news organisations. Only the BBC and The Guardian received more than three nominations.

Airwars and The Guardian were nominated in two categories for a joint investigation into the hidden civilian toll of British airstrikes in Iraq and Syria during the campaign against the so-called Islamic State. The two-year investigation combined months of document analysis to identify likely UK strikes, with reporting from the ground in Mosul speaking to victims.

The longform reportage from Iraq, written by Emma Graham-Harrison of The Guardian and Airwars’ Joe Dyke, was nominated for Best Written Feature, while the Airwars immersive article was nominated in the digital creativity section. The entire investigation has also been nominated in the Outstanding Investigative Reporting category at the forthcoming Fetisov Awards.

Separately Airwars’ Sanjana Varghese was among four nominees in the The Gaby Rado Award for New Journalist category for her work leading the Shahed investigation.

Incident Code

CI883

Incident date

February 3, 2024

Location

منطقة السكك, Al-Sikak area in the city of Al-Qaim, Al-Anbar, Iraq

Airwars assessment

Up to three civilians were reported killed and up to 15 others were wounded by declared US airstrikes on the Al-Sikak area in the city of Al-Qaim, Iraq early in the morning on February 3, 2024. Between three and five medical personnel in the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) were also allegedly killed. Another 11 PMF members were also allegedly killed and 36 injured. US forces claimed that damage was also caused by a secondary explosion that occurred after the strike.

Two of the three civilians alleged killed were named, Abdul Rahman Al-Rawi and Sattar Al-Jughaifi, with most sources stating that they were not members of any militant group; including sources spoken to directly by Airwars researchers. However one source, Usama Al Ma’mouri, listed the two individuals under the caption ‘martyrs of the Anbar and Al-Tafuf Brigade’. Airwars has therefore included the individuals only in our maximum casualty range.

ِAl Baghdadi News reported that a young man named Abdul Rahman Khaled Al-Rawi was killed in the city of Al-Qaim, and Nisreen Al Mousawi reported that the bodies of two civilians had been recovered after the US strikes, Abdul Rahman Al-Rawi and Sattar Al-Jughaifi. According to Nisreen Al Mousawi, at the time of reporting, “there are a number of martyrs and wounded from the Al-Sikak area who have not been reached yet, and ambulances are rushing to the area.” Local sources including ِAbu Ibrahim Al Sabhani offered condolence messages to the family of Abdul Rahman Khaled Al Rawi for their loss, and a post by Journalist Ali Qais Al-Rawi included details that Abdul Rahman was born in 2004 and was a student at Al-Qaim Industrial Preparatory School in his 5th year of the electricity department.

Aِ tweet from @AzharJumaili provided details that more than 10 houses had been burned in the Al-Sikak area, and that 15 civilians were injured so far, including those that lived near the PMF base. A post from Waleed al Obeidi reported that 3 civilians had been killed and 11 had been wounded in Al-Qaim district.

Journalist Ali Qais Al-Rawi spoke with people in Al-Qaim who said that the airstrikes “were the most violent and powerful”. Local sources told Reuters that the struck neighborhood in Al-Qaim is a residential area that was being used by armed groups to store large amounts of weapons, and that the US strikes and secondary explosion caused widespread damage.

A Facebook post by Usama Al Ma’mouri included the names of three people who were identified as medical assistants of a brigade: nurse Qasim Mohsen Sajet, nurse Zulfiqar Talaat Abd, and nurse Abdullah Ibrahim Abdul Jabbar. Medical professionals are considered protected persons under international humanitarian law.

The post also included the names of seven others identified as members of the Anbar and Al-Tafuf Brigade operations: Atheer Jaber Salman, Abdul Abbas Abdullah Abbas, Safaa Hussein Majeed, Hussein Ali Ismail, Hamza Qati Radi Al-Jamali, Abdul Rahman Khaled, Sattar Al-Jughaifi. This contests the sources who reported that Khaled Abdul Rahman and Sattar were both civilians. A post from Bani Hajeem added the name Ajami Dhidan Al-Ghanimi to the list of militants killed while Ghaith Ayed added the names Shammar Kawam Al-Khader and Kazem Abdel Hamza Alwan Al-Aifari.

The ِInformation Directorate of the PMF released a statement that strikes resulted in the death of 16 and the injury of 36 others, and that the search was still ongoing for bodies. The statement broke the casualties down to their specific rolls in the PMF: Anbar Operations Mobile Headquarters and the 13th Brigade Support Battalion (seven killed and seven wounded), Logistics support headquarters (one wounded), artillery location (one killed and four wounded), armor location (three killed and ten wounded), Tank battalion location (four wounded), Two sites belonging to the 45th Brigade (11 wounded), Issam Al-Baldawi Medical Hospital (five killed).

The Assistant for Medical Affairs in the PMF also accused the US of “targeting medical detachments and hospitals belonging to the Popular Mobilization Forces in the Al-Qaim district” and provided the names of those who were killed when hospitals affiliated with the PMU were struck: Qasim Mohsen Sajet, Zulfiqar Talaat Abd, Abdullah Ibrahim Abd al-Jabbar, Atheer Jaber Salman, and Abd al-Abbas Abd Allah Abbas.

The Iraqi government spokesman, Basem Al-Awadi, confirmed that the strikes resulted in the deaths of 16 people, including civilians, and caused “major damage” to homes and private property. In response, the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs also summoned the temporary Chargé d’Affairs at the United States Embassy in Baghdad, Mr. David Burger, and issued an official memorandum of protest which denounced “the American aggression that targeted Iraqi security forces as well as civilian sites in the Akashat and Al-Qaim regions, which led to martyrs and injuries, including civilians, in addition to damage to residential buildings and property.”

US CENTCOM released a statement that at 4pm EST (12:00am in Iraq and Syria) “U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) forces conducted airstrikes in Iraq and Syria against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force and affiliated militia groups. U.S. military forces struck more than 85 targets, with numerous aircraft to include long-range bombers flown from United States. The airstrikes employed more than 125 precision munitions. The facilities that were struck included command and control operations centers, intelligence centers, rockets, missiles, unmanned aerial vehicle storage, and logistics and munition supply chain facilities of militia groups and their IRGC sponsors who facilitated attacks against U.S. and Coalition forces.”

A statement from the Department of Defense added that “National security officials said the facilities targeted in today’s strikes were carefully selected to avoid civilian casualties and were based on clear evidence that they were connected to attacks on U.S. personnel” and John Kirby, National Security Council coordinator was quoted as saying “The Department of Defense is in the early stages of battle damage assessment, but we believe that the strikes were successful,” adding the details that the strikes were against seven facilities utilized by Iran’s IRCG, three of the facilities were in Iraq and four of them were in Syria, and more than 125 precision-guided munitions were fired over the course of 30 minutes. According to Army Lt. Gen. Douglas A. Sims II, director of operations for the Joint Staff, the strikes employed “multiple aircraft, including B-1 Lancers that flew from bases in the U.S.”

Arabi21 News also quoted Director of Operations for the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Douglas Sims, who stated that the strikes were “very successful, which led to large secondary explosions resulting from strikes that hit their weapons.” An unnamed American official also told Arabi21 that the US targeted “a small number of “dynamic targets” that appeared as the mission began, including a surface-to-air missile site and drone launch sites.”

The incident occured between 4:00 pm and 4:30 pm local time.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian infrastructure
    Healthcare facility
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1 – 3
  • (0–2 men3–5 other protected persons)
  • Civilians reported injured
    11–15
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known targets
    Iranian military, Iraqi militias (PMUs)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    11
  • Belligerents reported injured
    36

Sources (33) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (41) [ collapse]

  • A plane takes off from an unidentified location, as the U.S. launches airstrikes on targets linked to Iran's Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) and the militias it backs, in the screen grab from a handout video released on February 2, 2024. US Central Command via X/Handout via REUTERS
  • Security forces inspect a damaged car at the site of a U.S. airstrike in al-Qaim, Iraq February 3, 2024. REUTERS/Stringer
  • Shell casings in al-Qaim, Iraq February 3, 2024. REUTERS/Stringer Acquire Licensing Rights
  • A destroyed building is pictured at the site of a U.S. airstrike in al-Qaim, Iraq February 3, 2024. REUTERS/Stringer
  • Destruction from US airstrikes on a PMF site. (AP)
  • "With hearts that believe in God’s will and destiny, I extend my sincere condolences to the family of the deceased Abdul Rahman Khaled Shehadha, narrator A. The death of their son as a result of the bombing of the city of Al-Qaim"
  • Abdul Rahman Khaled Shehadha Al-Rawi, reportedly a civilian killed by US strikes in Al-Qaim on February 3, 2024. (Image posted by ِOmar Abed Husein via Facebook)
  • Abdul Rahman Khaled Shehadha Al-Rawi, reportedly a civilian killed by US strikes in Al-Qaim on February 3, 2024. (Image posted by ِِAl Boumahal Clan via Facebook)
  • Abdul Rahman Khaled Shehadha Al-Rawi, reportedly a civilian killed by US strikes in Al-Qaim on February 3, 2024. (Image posted by ِِِNashwan Al Mohammed via Facebook)
  • Abdul Rahman Khaled Shehadha Al-Rawi, reportedly a civilian killed by US strikes in Al-Qaim on February 3, 2024. (Image posted by @Iraq.nanoa via Twitter/X)
  • Members of the 13th Al-Tafuf Brigade reportedly killed by US strikes in Al-Qaim on February 3, 2024. (Image posted by ِِِِAl Saleh via Facebook)
  • Members of the 13th Al-Tafuf Brigade reportedly killed by US strikes in Al-Qaim on February 3, 2024. (Image posted by ِِِِAl Saleh via Facebook)
  • Members of the 13th Al-Tafuf Brigade reportedly killed by US strikes in Al-Qaim on February 3, 2024. (Image posted by ِِِِAl Saleh via Facebook)
  • Members of the 13th Al-Tafuf Brigade reportedly killed by US strikes in Al-Qaim on February 3, 2024. (Image posted by ِِِِAl Saleh via Facebook)
  • Members of the 13th Al-Tafuf Brigade reportedly killed by US strikes in Al-Qaim on February 3, 2024. (Image posted by ِِِِAl Saleh via Facebook)
  • Members of the 13th Al-Tafuf Brigade reportedly killed by US strikes in Al-Qaim on February 3, 2024. (Image posted by ِِِِAl Saleh via Facebook)
  • Members of the 13th Al-Tafuf Brigade reportedly killed by US strikes in Al-Qaim on February 3, 2024. (Image posted by ِِِِAl Saleh via Facebook)
  • Effects of the US strike in Al-Qaim district on February 3, 2024. (Image posted by ِAl Sharqiya TV)
  • Effects of the US strike in Al-Qaim district on February 3, 2024. (Image posted by ِAl Sharqiya TV)
  • Effects of the US strike in Al-Qaim district on February 3, 2024. (Image posted by ِAl Sharqiya TV)
  • Effects of the US strike in Al-Qaim district on February 3, 2024. (Image posted by ِAl Sharqiya TV)
  • Effects of the US strike in Al-Qaim district on February 3, 2024. (Image posted by ِMountather Al Zaydi)
  • Effects of the US strike in Al-Qaim district on February 3, 2024. (Image posted by ِMountather Al Zaydi)
  • Effects of the US strike in Al-Qaim district on February 3, 2024. (Image posted by ِMountather Al Zaydi)
  • Images taken in Al-Qaim district on February 3, 2024. (Image posted by ِMountather Al Zaydi)
  • Effects of the US strike in Al-Qaim district on February 3, 2024. (Image posted by ِMountather Al Zaydi)
  • Effects of the US strike in Al-Qaim district on February 3, 2024. (Image posted by ِMountather Al Zaydi)
  • Effects of the US strike in Al-Qaim district on February 3, 2024. (Image posted by ِMountather Al Zaydi)
  • Effects of the US strike in Al-Qaim district on February 3, 2024. (Image posted by ِMountather Al Zaydi)
  • Effects of the US strike in Al-Qaim district on February 3, 2024. (Image posted by ِMountather Al Zaydi)
  • Remnants in Al-Qaim district on February 3, 2024. (Image posted by ِMountather Al Zaydi)
  • Remnants in Al-Qaim district on February 3, 2024. (Image posted by ِMountather Al Zaydi)
  • Effects of the US strike in Al-Qaim district on February 3, 2024. (Image posted by ِMountather Al Zaydi)
  • Effects of the US strike in Al-Qaim district on February 3, 2024. (Image posted by ِMountather Al Zaydi)
  • A member of the "Islamic resistance mujahideen in Anbar" who was reportedly killed by US strikes on February 3, 2024. (Image posted by Ghaith Ayed)
  • Some of results of American strikes at AlQaem town on the border between Syria and Iraq

US Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    US Forces
  • US Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Original strike reports

US Forces

TAMPA, Fla. - At 4:00 p.m. (EST) Feb. 02, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) forces conducted airstrikes in Iraq and Syria against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force and affiliated militia groups. U.S. military forces struck more than 85 targets, with numerous aircraft to include long-range bombers flown from United States. The airstrikes employed more than 125 precision munitions. The facilities that were struck included command and control operations centers, intelligence centers, rockets, missiles, unmanned aerial vehicle storage, and logistics and munition supply chain facilities of militia groups and their IRGC sponsors who facilitated attacks against U.S. and Coalition forces.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian infrastructure
    Healthcare facility
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1 – 3
  • (0–2 men3–5 other protected persons)
  • Civilians reported injured
    11–15
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known targets
    Iranian military, Iraqi militias (PMUs)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    11
  • Belligerents reported injured
    36

Sources (33) [ collapse]

Incident Code

TI101

Incident date

December 28, 2023

Location

قرية كاركي, Karki, Sinjar District, Mosul Province, Iraq

Airwars assessment

Between 6 and 8 PM on Thursday, December 28th, 2023, at least five people were killed and two others injured after an alleged Turkish drone strike on the village of Karki in the Sinjar district of Mosul province. The civilian status of five of the men killed is contested within the sources.

Those killed were young men, originally from northern and eastern Syria; information on the wounded was not made available. Roj News, in conjunction with the Democratic Autonomous Administration of Shingal District identified the deceased as follows: 21-year-old Ramadan al-Hammadi, originally from Raqqa; 24-year-old Shaheen Ali, from Kobani; 20-year-old Hussein al-Hussein, also from Raqqa; 23-year-old Ahmed al-Mohammed al-Ali, from Raqqa; and Raqqa-born Munir al-Bakour. al-Bakour’s age was not publicly declared.

There remains dispute regarding the circumstances of the strike. While the local administration in Sinjar reported those killed were working digging wells to provide water for the villages of Kora Samukiya, Al-Arbay News stated that the bombing was a deliberate strike targeting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. Al-Araby claimed their source, members of Nineveh security, as saying the strike targeted “a group of Labor Party activists.” Al-Arbay also specified that the local Sinjar administration is “known for its association” with the PKK.

Haider Sheshu, a commander of local militia Ezidkhan Protection Units, stated that he was unsure “whether the dead were fighters or civilians.”

Roj News reported the belligerent bombed the area three consecutive times. All of the sources attributed the drone strikes to Turkish forces.

The incident occured between 6:00 pm and 8:00 pm local time.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian infrastructure
    Water station
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3 – 8
  • (0–5 men)
  • Civilians reported injured
    2
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Impact
    Food
    Impact on services or infrastructure relating to education, health or food supply. See methodology note for details.
  • Suspected attacker
    Turkish Military
  • Suspected target
    YPG/SDF
  • Belligerents reported killed
    0–5

Sources (11) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (8) [ collapse]

  • Source: Roj News
  • Source: Roj News
  • Source: Roj News
  • Source: Roj News
  • Source: Hawar News
  • Source: Hawar News
  • Source: Hawar News

Turkish Military Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    Turkish Military
  • Turkish Military position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian infrastructure
    Water station
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3 – 8
  • (0–5 men)
  • Civilians reported injured
    2
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Impact
    Food
    Impact on services or infrastructure relating to education, health or food supply. See methodology note for details.
  • Suspected attacker
    Turkish Military
  • Suspected target
    YPG/SDF
  • Belligerents reported killed
    0–5

Sources (11) [ collapse]

Incident Code

CI882

Incident date

December 25, 2023

Location

حي الجزائر, Algeria region, Hilla, Babylon Province, Babil, Iraq

Airwars assessment

On the 25th of December, 2023, a declared U.S. airstrike was conducted against the headquarters of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in Hilla, central Iraq, reportedly injuring two female civilians: Shadhadan Karim Mirza, and Wasnah Maher Kahem. One member of the PMF was also killed and up to 19 other members of the PMF and other militant groups were injured.

On the 25th of December, the White House released a statement revealing that President Biden had “directed strikes against three locations utilized by Kataib Hezbollah and affiliated groups focused specifically on unmanned aerial drone activities”.

On December 26th, US Central Command (CENTCOM) posted an acknowledgement on X / Twitter that “in response to multiple attacks against Coalition forces in Iraq and Syria, U.S. military forces launched airstrikes on multiple facilities used by Kataib Hezbollah and its affiliated groups in Iraq at around 8:45 PM (EST) on December 25th”.

During the course of the day on December 26th, Al-Jazeera stated that the US strikes had “killed one member of the Iraqi security forces and wounded 18 people, including civilians”, whilst ‘The New Arab’ reported that “at least one person was killed and 20 wounded in a U.S. strike that targeted a site belonging to the Iran-backed PMF (Hashed al-Shaabi) forces in the central city of Hilla”.

Several local news organizations also reported on the airstrike. Altaakhi News reported that “the number of wounded among the Hashd reached 8 members, in addition to killing one of them, 8 wounded from the Academy Police, two wounded from the rescue service and one wounded from the Civil Defense, in addition to the wounding of two civilians”. An identical statement on the bombing was made by ‘Observer Iraq’ and also by Rudaw News, which additionally posted a video showing the site of the bombing. On the 26th of December, ‘Jabla al Habiba’ posted several images of the wounded being treated at a local hospital.

One independent journalist, Yasser Al Shommari, posted a list of names of those harmed as a result of the airstrike, including members of the police, the Hashd and civilians. The two civilians injured were described as two “housewives”: Shadhadan Karim Mirza and Wasnah Maher Kahem, born in Babel in 1972 and in 1971 respectively. On December 26th, the news website ‘Jabla Al Khair’ also posted an image showing a Babylon Health Department document (Ministry of Health). This document contained the names of those who had been wounded in the airstrike (including Shadhadan Karim Mirza and Wasnah Maher Kahem), in addition to the name of the one individual known to have been killed.

The PMF’s information directorate, in a Facebook post dated the 26th of December, identified the man killed as a member of the ‘45th Brigade’: Derih Ali Hassan Al-Amiri, and confirmed that his funeral had taken place.

US Central Command (CENTCOM) denied that any harm to civilians had occurred as a result of the airstrike, stating “there are no indications that any civilian lives were affected”.    

The incident occured at approximately 8:45 pm local time.

The victims were named as:

Shadhadan Karim Mirza شهدان كريم مرزا
52 years old female injured
Wasnah Maher Kahem وسناء ماهر كاظم
53 years old female injured

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Civilians reported injured
    2
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Iraqi militias (PMUs)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1
  • Belligerents reported injured
    18–19

Sources (20) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (14) [ collapse]

  • Source: Altaakhi news
  • Source: Ziad al Shimari
  • Source: Abdullah Al Shammari
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Source: Jabla al Habiba
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Source: Jabla al Habiba
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Source: Jabla al Habiba
  • Source: Jabla al Habiba
  • Source: Jabla al Habiba
  • Source: Jabla al Habiba
  • Source: PMF media
  • Source: PMF media
  • Source: Yasser Al Shommari
  • Source: Jabla Al Khair
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

US Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    US Forces
  • US Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Original strike reports

US Forces

U.S. CENTCOM conducts strikes against Kataib Hezbollah terrorist group targets in Iraq

In response to multiple attacks against coalition forces in Iraq and Syria, U.S. military forces conducted airstrikes against multiple facilities used by Kataib Hezbollah and affiliated groups in Iraq at 8:45 p.m. (EST) on Dec. 25.

Earlier in the day, Iranian sponsored Kataib Hezbollah terrorists and affiliated groups attacked coalition forces at Erbil, Iraq resulting in several injuries.

Early assessments indicate that these U.S. airstrikes destroyed the targeted facilities and likely killed a number of Kataib Hezbollah militants. There are no indications that any civilian lives were affected. The U.S. military will continue to evaluate the effectiveness of these strikes.

"These strikes are intended to hold accountable those elements directly responsible for attacks on coalition forces in Iraq and Syria and degrade their ability to continue attacks. We will always protect our forces," said General Michael Erik Kurilla, U.S. Central Command Commander.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Civilians reported injured
    2
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Iraqi militias (PMUs)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1
  • Belligerents reported injured
    18–19

Sources (20) [ collapse]

Published

December 22, 2023

Written by

Megan Karlshoej-Pedersen

Header Image

The Dutch Ministry of Defence in the Hague.

In a major step forward, the Dutch Minister of Defence has announced a new mechanism for civilians and NGOs to report harm to civilians from Dutch airstrikes.

The announcement follows several years of advocacy and detailed discussions between the Ministry of Defence (MoD) Protection of Civilians team and a consortium of NGOs including Airwars, Pax, Utrecht University, and CIVIC, in the so-called ‘Roadmap process’.

In the letter to parliament, the Dutch format for setting out policy, the Minister of Defence, Kajsa Ollongren, outlined two major commitments; one for operations that have already finished and one for future engagements. To the former, the Minister acknowledged current gaps in the MoD’s approach, emphasising; “At present there is no specific counter for NGOs and victims/next of kin to report suspicions of civilian casualties to the Netherlands. The Defense Department will therefore set up a counter where these parties can report suspicions of civilian casualties in relation to [military deployments] that are already terminated”.

The Netherlands was one of several nations who contributed with air support to the US-led anti-ISIS coalition, Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), in Iraq and Syria between 2014 and 2019. Our evidence suggests that at least 8,199 civilians have likely been killed in Coalition airstrikes. The Dutch have admitted to some of these deaths – though often only after major international investigations have exposed Dutch involvement. This includes a strike on the Iraqi city of Hawijah in 2015, in which more than 85 civilians were killed, which prompted an independent inquiry and a major court case with a verdict expected in January 2024.

By establishing a dedicated civilian harm reporting mechanism, the Netherlands is following in the footsteps of the US and setting itself ahead of the other allies which contributed to OIR. This announcement comes shortly after Airwars took the UK Ministry of Defense to a tribunal, in part for its lack of clarity on mechanisms to protect civilians during its role in the same campaign.

If implemented well, this new Dutch mechanism will make it possible for civilians who have been affected by strikes to report the details directly to the Ministry of Defense. It will also provide NGOs, such as Airwars, which gather evidence of harm with a systematic approach to submitting allegations. This has long been identified by NGOs as best practice in civilian harm mitigation and response.

When it comes to civilian harm reporting in future conflicts, Ollongren states in the letter; “I consider it desirable that NGOs and victims/survivors can report to the relevant coalition. Where relevant, the Netherlands will therefore endeavor to organize this well in a coalition before the start of the Dutch contribution. Should a coalition in question be unable to adequately organize a reporting structure, Defense itself will ensure the possibility to report suspicions to the Netherlands“.

Coalitions, which have come to define engagement in recent conflict by Western states, often introduce uncertainty and bureaucratic complexity on the responsibility and accountability for civilian harm. It is notable that the Netherlands commit themselves to setting up a Dutch mechanism if a coalition one cannot be agreed upon.

As with all policy commitments, the eventual effect depends on how well it is implemented. This is particularly relevant in this case, as a new US-led coalition with Dutch participation was announced on the same day that the letter came out. The new coalition, Operation Prosperity Guardian, will respond to Yemen-based Houthi attacks on shipping in the Red Sea. Yemen has seen some of the most brutal and sustained civilian harm in the last decade, from both the Houthi forces, but also the US-backed Saudi Coalition.

The Netherlands participation in this new coalition does not yet meet the threshold required for an ‘Article-100 letter’, the system by which civilian harm considerations, such as a reporting mechanism, would be announced and established. However Dutch involvement in this and future operations will be a testing ground for these new commitments, which so far puts the Netherlands apart from many of its allies.

▲ The Dutch Ministry of Defence in the Hague.

Incident Code

TI100

Incident date

December 5, 2023

Location

بامرني, Bamerni, Amedi District, Dohuk Governorate, Iraq

Airwars assessment

At around 7AM on Tuesday, December 5th, 2023, a man was killed and up to three others injured after an alleged Turkish bombardment in the Bamerni subdistrict of Amedi, in Dohuk Governorate.

Gulan Media named the deceased as 44-year-old Ali Jamil Kalash, the father of four children. Kalash was near his home when he died: the strike hit 250 kilometers away from his residence.

While Gulan Media referred to Ali as an “off-duty Peshmerga fighter,” all other sources reported that he was a civilian. Erem News reported that the belligerent, who they named as the Turkish military, carried out “three strikes” and emphasized that those injured and killed had no affiliation with the PKK.

One of the injured was reported as 23-year-old Matin Sadiq, a shepherd. He was brought to the Duhok Emergency Hospital for treatment.

Jamil Kalash, Ali’s father, spoke about the hours leading up to his son’s death, commenting that he had been at his parents’ home, entertaining guests, until 10:30 the previous night. It is unclear whether Ali died immediately or after some time, as multiple sources from December 6th reported he died after he “succumbed to his injuries.”

The number of other injuries is unclear. While Bas News reported three injured and stated they had all been taken to hospitals in Duhok province, Kurdistan 24 and Ronahi TV both reported that there was only one injury. Hawar News reported that, along with the one death and one injury, another person was missing. It is unclear whether this missing civilian was one of the injured reported by other sources.

The strike occurred in a “populated area” near an irrigation project, and also caused property damage amongst residential buildings and farms.

All of the sources that reported on the incident attributed the strike to Turkish forces.

The incident occured at approximately 7:00 am local time.

The victims were named as:

Ali Jamil Kalash علي جميل كلش
44 years old male Contested as militant killed
Matin Sadiq
23 years old male injured

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian infrastructure
    Agriculture, Water station
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0 – 1
  • (0–1 men)
  • Civilians reported injured
    1–3
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Impact
    Food
    Impact on services or infrastructure relating to education, health or food supply. See methodology note for details.
  • Suspected attacker
    Turkish Military
  • Suspected target
    YPG/SDF
  • Belligerents reported killed
    0–1

Sources (9) [ collapse]

Turkish Military Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    Turkish Military
  • Turkish Military position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian infrastructure
    Agriculture, Water station
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0 – 1
  • (0–1 men)
  • Civilians reported injured
    1–3
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Impact
    Food
    Impact on services or infrastructure relating to education, health or food supply. See methodology note for details.
  • Suspected attacker
    Turkish Military
  • Suspected target
    YPG/SDF
  • Belligerents reported killed
    0–1

Sources (9) [ collapse]

Incident Code

TI099

Incident date

October 17, 2023

Location

قرية كاني كندي , Kani Kindi village, Koya District, Kurdistan, Iraq

Airwars assessment

On Tuesday, October 17th, 2023, one man was killed and up to three other civilians, women, were injured after an alleged Turkish drone strike on a car in the Kani Kindi village in the Koya district of Kurdistan, Iraq.

The car was reported to have belonged to citizens of the Makhmour refugee camp; the driver was killed immediately and three others belonging to one family were injured. 27-year-old Dolovan Işlik was driving, and appeared to have been traveling to visit a relative in the town of Rania. It is unclear whether the relative was his sister or sister-in-law; they were apparently visiting to help the relative with their work in fishing or livestock. It should be noted that while most sources referred to the deceased as Dolovan Işlik, Al Araby News, quoting the police director of the town of Koysanjak, referred to him as Delovan Salam Suleiman.

ANF reported that the injured were three women, which Roj News echoed. While Al Araby reported that only one person was injured, all other sources mentioned three wounded.

All of the sources that reported on the incident attributed the strikes to Turkish drones.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

The victims were named as:

Dolovan Işlik دلوفان إشليك
27 years old male killed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1
  • (1 man)
  • Civilians reported injured
    1–3
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attacker
    Turkish Military

Sources (5) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (3) [ collapse]

  • Dolovan Işlik, killed by alleged Turkish drone strikes in the village of Kani Kindi on October 17, 2023. (Image posted by Roj News)
    Source: Ronahi.tv
  • Source: Hawar News

Turkish Military Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    Turkish Military
  • Turkish Military position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1
  • (1 man)
  • Civilians reported injured
    1–3
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attacker
    Turkish Military

Sources (5) [ collapse]

Incident Code

TI098

Incident date

October 13, 2023

Location

مخيم مخمور, Makhmur camp, Erbil Governorate , Kurdistan, Iraq

Airwars assessment

A woman was injured after an alleged Turkish drone strike hit a home in the Makhmur camp at approximately 9:25AM on October 13th, 2023.

The woman, 50-year-old Aisha Muhammad Ahmed, was a resident of the camp, which houses between 10,000 to 12,000 displaced Kurds. Her injuries, many of which look to be on her face and head, appeared to be severe. According to the co-chair of the camp’s People’s Council, Youssef Kara, the strike his the house of Rojhat Saleh.

A source told Shafaq News Agency that “The bombing was carried out by a Turkish drone and targeted a location inside the camp where supporters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party live. The bombing site is close to the site that was bombed last week, and the damage is not yet known.”

The incident occured at 09:25:00 local time.

The victims were named as:

Aisha Muhammad Ahmed عائشة محمد أحمد
50 years old female injured

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian infrastructure
    IDP or refugee camp
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Civilians reported injured
    1
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attacker
    Turkish Military

Sources (9) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (4) [ collapse]

  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Source: Ronahi.tv
  • Source: هامسا الكردية Hamsa Kurdish
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Source: هامسا الكردية Hamsa Kurdish
  • Source: ANF

Turkish Military Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    Turkish Military
  • Turkish Military position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian infrastructure
    IDP or refugee camp
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Civilians reported injured
    1
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attacker
    Turkish Military

Sources (9) [ collapse]