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INVESTIGATIONS

Attack on civilian areas in the town of Ariha, south of Idlib

May 31, 2022

An investigation into shelling along the main road in central Ariha

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Initial Summary

  • Place of incident: The town of Ariha in Idlib’s southern countryside, located along the strategically important M4 Highway
  • Impact sites: Along the main road in a central area of town, with 7 schools and a popular food market located in the near vicinity
  • Time: Between 8:00 -8:15 am, Damascus time (EET - UTC +3), or 8:00 - 8:15 am, in Ariha local time
  • Date: October 20, 2021
  • Victims: Syrian Archive verified the identities of 11 victims, including four children and a woman. More than 35 people were reportedly injured.
  • Types of attack: Artillery shells and missiles
  • Munitions likely used: Not specified
  • Potentially responsible: The attack most likely originated from the Hamidiya camp or the town of Khan Assubul in Idlib’s southern countryside

Introduction

On October 20, 2021, between 8:00 - 8:15 am Damascus time (8:00 - 8:15 am Ariha local time) – just as students were going to school and workers and shop owners were going to work – the main road and surrounding area in Ariha, in the southern countryside of Idlib, was targeted with artillery and missile strikes. The attack killed four children on their way to school, their teacher, and six other people. The attack was estimated to include more than three strikes and targeted a popular market as well as nearby residential areas. According to Idlib Aviation Observatory’s Telegram channel, the attack was launched from the Hamidiya camp or the town of Khan Assubul in Idlib’s southern countryside. Other observatories, media outlets, and activists reported the presence of reconnaissance planes over the targeted area at the time of the strikes.

Methodology

The Syrian Archive conducted an investigation into the incident by:

  • Preserving, analysing, and verifying 106 videos, photos, and reports uploaded to social media, which show the impact sites, the first moments of the attack, where the missiles landed, the initial rescue response, and later operations to recover the bodies of casualties, assist the injured, and extinguish fires;
  • Verifying the impact sites by comparing the landmarks shown in the visual content with satellite images, and confirming the coordinates sent by the investigation team on the ground as well as the first reports of the attack;
  • Analysing satellite images of the location and following alerts/reports in the local observation data on Telegram.

This investigation is a summary of multiple stages of analysis of available information, with each piece of information carefully analysed by the Syrian Archive investigation team. From this information, the team assessed the incident date, time, location, victims, and the overall impact of the attack. By examining all the available information on the attack, the investigation team developed an understanding of the attack and its likely perpetrators. For more details on the Syrian Archive’s methodology, please visit our website.

Area of the Attack

The attack struck the main road in the city of Ariha, which is strategically located adjacent to the areas under the control of the Syrian government. Ariha’s main road is lined with residential buildings as well as several shops and a popular market for vegetables and fruits.

Ariha’s strategic significance comes from its location on the M4 Highway, which the Syrian government, Russia, and Turkey seek to control. The M4 links the northern Syrian governorates of Aleppo and Latakia, which are under the Syrian government’s control.

image106 Map showing the M4 Highway - Source: Google Maps

image16 A map showing the M4 highway and the areas under control of the Syrian government in orange, and areas under control of the Syrian opposition in green and Ariha’s location in blue - Source: map by Jusoor for Studies

The town of Ariha is surrounded by two mountain ranges, al-Arbaeen and al-Zawiya. A 13-kilometre-long road branches off the main road through the town and leads to Idlib province. Ariha is also linked to dozens of villages and towns that currently form a front line for Syrian government forces, which took control of a number of the villages in early 2020.

Ariha is also located within northern Syria’s de-escalation zones. It was included in a ceasefire agreement reached between Russia and Turkey in March 2020, which made it relatively safe for the return of a significant number of internally displaced peoples.

image9 Map showing the location of the town of Ariha on the M4 Highway (indicated in orange) - Source: Google Maps

image29 Map of Ariha showing the main road (in green) and the M4 Highway (in orange) and the impact areas (in blue) - Source: Google Earth

What Happened (and When?)

According to available information, shells and missiles were fired at a popular market in Ariha, as well as nearby homes and shops, between 8:00 and 8:15 am Damascus time on October 20, 2021.

Timeline and summary of online reporting

Presented here is an approximate timeline of the attack as it was reported online.

Media outlets and activists both reported on the attack, which killed at least 11 people: 4 children on their way to school, their teacher, and six other people. In addition, more than 35 people were reportedly injured, including women and children. Those injured were treated at the city’s sole hospital as well as nearby hospitals in Idlib city, with some in critical condition transferred to Turkish hospitals for treatment.

Radio AlKul posted the first reports on the attack. At 8:14 am local time, the radio station posted the breaking news on Twitter: “Regime forces have launched an artillery attack on the town of Ariha.”

image56 Radio AlKul’s post on the artillery shelling of Ariha reportedly by Syrian government forces at 8:14 local time – Source: Radio AlKul on Twitter

In a tweet five minutes later, Mustafa Hashem – who identified the time as “now” in his tweet – reported news of successive missile strikes on the town as well as civilian casualties, and attached a photo showing a burning vehicle and shop. This photo can be geolocated to the popular market street in Ariha.

Both Al Jazeera and the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) published photos of this same vehicle, after the fire was extinguished.

image89 A picture of the place where one of the shells fell, showing the burning vehicle and a shop - Source: A photo posted by Mustafa Hashem on Twitter

image33 Photo of the location of the previous shell, showing the same vehicle and shop after extinguishing the fire - Source: A photo published by the SNHR Twitter page

At 8:20 am, Ahmed Assi tweeted about the artillery and missile strikes on Ariha, and claimed that they were carried out by the Syrian government. At the same time, journalist Fayez al-Daghim tweeted that Ariha had been subjected to missile strikes by “regime forces and Russia,” and attached two photos, one of which shows where the missiles fell.

Milad Fadl, a local journalist, tweeted about the “Assad army’s missile attack on the town of Ariha” minutes after the strikes and attached two photos, one of which shows smoke from the attack.

At 8:21 am local time, the Syrian Observatory reported the presence of what it describes as a ”reconnaissance plane” flying over Ariha. This was followed by reports from Syria TV, Thiqa Agency, and Orient News about artillery shelling targeting the town.

image35 Syria Observatory’s post on Twitter about a reconnaissance plane flying over Ariha at 8:21 local time - Source: Syria Observatory on Twitter

At 8:11 am, the pro-Assad Twitter page “Syrian”” reported that “units of our Syrian army are targeting the locations of militants in Ariha with heavy artillery.” The tweet was accompanied by two photos of the attack, which matched those published by journalist Fayez al-Daghim.

image76 Pro-Assad tweet confirming the Syrian army’s responsibility for the Ariha attack - Source: Syrian’s post on twitter

Journalist Milad Fadl was the first to post photos of the victims. Fadl posted a photo showing two dead children in front of a shop in Ariha. About an hour after the attack, Ariha News posted a video showing a dead body in the area, and two destroyed motorcycles in flames. In the video, a person can be heard calling for an ambulance, before another shell is heard.

The apparent sounds of the shells can also be heard in a video posted by Al Jazeera, which shows where the shells fell. The video was shot from a nearby balcony, and white smoke can be seen following the fall of the shells. The impacted market in Ariha (Al Qassabin market) appears 30 seconds into the video alongside rubble, collapsed roofs, and the damaged facades of shops.

image44 Still from a video posted on Facebook by Al Jazeera showing the moment shells hit Ariha - Source: Al Jazeera Facebook page

About two hours after the attack, the Syrian Civil Defence announced on Facebook, in a text post and video, that “Seven civilians, including children, were killed and 20 others were injured, some of them critically” as a result of the attack on residential areas and the popular market in Ariha. It claimed in its posts that “the regime forces and Russia” are responsible for the attack. The Syrian Civil Defence posted on Facebook photos that show the aftermath of the attack, a body, and an impact site on the main street near Jatal Pastries shop (its location identified later in this report).

Ibrahim al-Tarisi, a journalist from Ariha, shared a series of detailed Facebook posts on the attack, which included photos and videos. Minutes after the attack, al-Tarisi wrote on his Facebook page about the artillery shelling on Ariha as children were on their way to school. He went on to share a photo of a fire, a post about the deaths and injuries that resulted from the attack, and a video on the artillery shells and missiles that struck Ariha.

Al-Tarisi also spoke about the impact of the attack in a video report published by Alaraby TV. The report included an interview with one of the town hospital workers, who in turn spoke of the large number of injured people, some of whom were transferred to other hospitals. The video showed a crater in the ground where one of the missiles fell.

image88 Still from a video report published by Alaraby TV — Source: Alaraby TV on Twitter

Baladi Media also posted a video that shows the shelling of Ariha from more than one angle: the videographer mentions multiple shells falling in the same location, which appears to be corroborated by the sounds and smoke captured in the footage.

Ariha TV posted on Facebook a series of news updates and photos that show the trail of destruction in the market and the shelling’s location. Others show the Tekiya Mosque, a body, the location of the attack, Fatih Mosque, and the market at the time of the attack.

Muhammad Qashash, a journalist, posted a video showing the location of the crater created by the shell in the market’s main street.

image28 Still from Muhammad Qashash’s video showing a crater caused by one of the shells - Source: Muhammad Qashash’s Facebook page

image62 Satellite imagery of the location of the crater caused by a shell

Syria TV posted a video on Facebook that shows the destruction of the targeted location and includes witness testimony of the two successive shelling attacks.

The Syrian Civil Defence posted on Facebook a video showing the general panic and fear, children crying and others running away with their books. The video also shows the initial response at more than one impact site as well as the operations of recovering the bodies and aiding the injured.

In addition, videos and testimonies concerning the attack were published by numerous media professionals, media outlets, and news agencies such as: Muhammad Belaas, Qasioun News Agency, Hadi al-Abdullah, Baladi News, Sham News Network (S.N.N), Ariha News, Syria TV, Halab Today TV, Macro Media Center, Almoharr News Channel, Muhammad Rashid, Alaraby TV, and Al Jazeera.

By analysing the videos, matching the landmarks, and verifying the locations of the shells, in addition to analysing three videos taken from surveillance cameras, Syrian Archive confirmed that the city of Ariha was hit on the morning of Wednesday, October 20, with three shells. Syrian Archive was able to determine the locations of the shells’ fall, which led to the death of 11 people whose identities have been verified, and three others whose deaths Syrian Archive could not confirm, in addition to wounding more than 35 others.

Geolocation

Syrian Archive has identified and geolocated 3 impact sites from the October 20, 2021 attack on Ariha. This was done by analysing unique identifiers in available video documentation against satellite imagery, confirming the locations of the shells by our team inside Syria, and a close examination of available security footage recorded on surveillance cameras.

The Syrian Civil Defence posted on Facebook a photo apparently depicting the immediate aftermath of the attack. The picture also shows a damaged minaret located near smoke, a destroyed building, and flames.

image48

Photo of the location where on of the shells fell on Ariha, a damaged minaret of a mosque is visible in the photo - Source: Syrian Civil Defence on Facebook

Ariha TV posted on Facebook additional photos of the town under attack. One of the photos shows smoke with this same, damaged minaret in the foreground.

image41 Photo of the location where one of the shells fell on Ariha, showing the same damaged minaret - Source: Ariha TV on Facebook

With the aid of a video posted by journalist Ahmed Barbour on YouTube, Syrian Archive’s investigation team was able to identify the mosque with the damaged minaret as the Tekiya Mosque in Ariha, which had been previously bombed in March 2012. This mosque’s minaret matches the shape, damage, and style from the minaret shown in the footage shared by the Syrian Civil Defence.

image74 Photo of the Tekiya Mosque minaret in Ariha - Source a video posted by journalist Ahmed Barbour in 2012

image14 The Tekiya Mosque minaret, as shown in a picture posted by the Syrian Civil Defence, is identical to the one seen in a video posted by journalist Ahmed Barbour in 2012

This geolocation places the documented impact site at a chicken shop located in the Al Qasabin popular market.

image104 Geolocation of the picture posted by the Syrian Civil Defense, which shows the Tekiya Mosque minaret and the location where one of the shells fell – Source: Syrian Civil Defense on Facebook

Researchers from the Syrian Archive visited the site of one of the shops near where a shell fell. The site, which is a chicken shop, had surveillance cameras that recorded in two videos the moment a shell hit the area.

image55 CCTV footage still showing the moment a shell fell near a chicken shop - Source: Abu Ali on Twitter

Impact site 2 (The main road at Jatal Pastries)

The Almoharr News Channel posted on Facebook a video showing the main street where at least one shell fell. The video shows the exterior and storefront signage of Jatal Pastries shop near the shell’s impact site.

image54 Still from a video showing Jatal Pastries shop - Source: Almoharr News Channel

Journalist Ibrahim al-Tarisi also posted on his Facebook page a video that shows Ariha’s main street, where one of the shells fell, as well as Jatal Pastries shop.

image69 A still from a video of Jatal Pastries shop - Source: Journalist Ibrahim al-Tarisi

By analysing the two previous videos, the Syrian Archive team was able to identify the location of Jatal Pastries shop, as well as the location of the shell’s impact.

image38 Identifying the location where another shell fell near Jatal Pastries shop: the location and angle of each shot appear in orange

Impact site 3 (The main road at a grocery shop)

The researchers on the ground affiliated with Syrian Archive visited impact site No. 3, which is in front of a grocery store located on the main road in the city of Ariha. A surveillance camera in the shop documented the shell’s impact as per a video posted by Al Arabiya on Facebook. The video shows the impact of one of the shells at 8:04 am on October 20, 2021.

In determining the location, Syrian Archive relied on the coordinates provided by its researchers on the ground and was unable to geolocate the site depending only on open sources due to the lack of visual information available at this time.

image73 CCTV footage still showing the time of one of the shells fell near a grocery shop - Source: Al Arabiya channel on Facebook

At least two of the munitions launched in this attack fell on Ariha’s main street, while a third struck a secondary street, just south of the market.

image93 Satellite imagery of the impact sites of three shells, as confirmed by Syrian Archive - Source: Google Earth

There are 7 schools located near the identified impact sites: Thawra School, Orouba School, Abido School for Girls, Ariha Girls School, Badriya Koren School, Abdul Ghani al-Sayadi School and Gil-al Ghad School.

image79 Satellite imagery showing the locations of schools near the sites targeted by shelling (in orange) and the popular market location (in blue) - Source: Google Earth

Chronolocation

To estimate the time of the attack, Syrian Archive analysed: the upload timestamps of content published online, the direction and length of shadows depicted in videos of the attack or its immediate aftermath, data from local aviation observatories, and the timing indicated in available surveillance footage.

From analyzing the surveillance camera videos that will be referred to in the following paragraph, the Syrian Archive was able to confirm that at least 10 shells fell within less than 10 minutes, starting at 8:01:57 local time and ending with the tenth shell at 8:10:08 local time.

The first reports came from Radio Alkul at 8:14 am, followed by a tweet from Mustafa Hashem. Minutes later, media outlets and activists began reporting on the attack.

Shadow Analysis:

For shadow analysis, the Syrian Archive investigation team looked at the shadows in some of the photos and videos of the attack, including one posted by the Syrian Civil Defence on Facebook, which shows the minaret of the Tekiya Mosque, already identified in the report.

image48 Photo of Tekiya Mosque minaret - Source: Syrian Civil Defence on Facebook

Using the online tools SunCalc and ShadowCalculator to estimate the position of the sun and compare it to the examined photos, Syrian Archive was able to approximately match the shadows appearing in the photo posted by the Syrian Civil Defence on Facebook with the position of the sun on October 20, 2021, between 8:00 - 8:15 am local time.

image121 Position of the sun and shadows in Ariha around 8:02 am local time on 20 October 2021 – Source: ShadowCalculator website

image207 Examining the postion of the sun in Ariha around 8:02 am local time on 20 October 2021 - Source: SunCalc

Surveillance Camera Videos

Syrian Archive analyzed two videos from surveillance cameras in the two shops which were affected by the previous strikes. The first video of a food store was published by the Syrian Network for Human Rights channel on YouTube, and a second video of a poultry store was published by the Syrian Network for Human Rights on its SharePoint website. The two videos were around 10 minutes long and taken at the same time, allowing Syrian Archive to count the number of shells that hit Ariha and the time of their landing. The Syrian Archive verified the location captured by the surveillance camera and the people in the targeted location by visiting the impact sites.

The first CCTV video shows the moment of a munitions impact. The date on the video reads, October 20, 2021, and the time 8:04:53 local time.

firstshell CCTV footage still showing the time one of the shells fell near a shop – Source: Syrian Network for Human Rights

From the analysis of the two videos, the Syrian Archive was able to establish the following timeline for the frequency and time of the shelling:

The first video:

  • 8:01:57 The first shell is heared in the first video
  • 8:04:53 The second shell is heared in the first video, where the store owner says that he was hit in the head and calls for help.
  • 8:05:29 The video documents the sound of a third shell falling, and a person appears in the video hiding from it
  • 8:05:46 A distant sound is heard, and it may be the sound of a shell being fired.
  • 8:05:51 After 5 seconds, a whistle is heard and a fourth shell falls. The camera appears shaking, which may suggest that it is close to the food store.
  • 8:06:28 A beep is heard and the video documents the sound of a fifth shell falling.
  • 8:06:56 A sound is heard, and it may be the sound of a shell being fired.
  • 8:07:01 After 5 seconds, a beep is heard, and the video documents the sound of a sixth shell falling.
  • 8:07:37 A sound is heard, and it may be the sound of a shell being fired.
  • 8:07:42 After 5 seconds, a beep is heard, and the video documents the sound of a seventh shell falling.
  • 8:08:20 He hears a sound, possibly the sound of a shell being fired.
  • 8:08:25 After 5 seconds, a beep is heard, and the video documents the sound of a eighth shell falling.
  • 8:09:29 He hears the sound of a shell being fired.
  • 8:09:34 After 5 seconds, a beep is heard, and the video documents the sound of a ninth shell falling.
  • 8:10:03 A sound is heard, and it may be the sound of a shell being fired,
  • 8:10:08 After 5 seconds, a beep is heard, and the video documents the sound of an tenth shell falling.

The frequency and time of the shelling in the CCTV video of the food store match what is seen in the CCTV video of the poultry store which documents a shell hitting the chicken store and injuring children there at 8:05:29.

From the timeline, it can be confirmed that at least 10 shells fell within less than 10 minutes in the city of Ariha on October 20, 2021.

Local Aviation Observatories Reports

As for the local aviation observatories, the Al Ahrar Aviation Observatory reported nine artillery strikes on the town of Ariha at 8:11 am, and the presence of a reconnaissance plane over the area at 8:33 am Damascus time. Jisr al-Shughur Aviation Observatory reported strikes on Ariha at 8:06 am, and the presence of a reconnaissance plane over the area at 8:10 am. The Idlib Aviation Observatory reported the presence of a reconnaissance plane over al-Arbaeen area at 8:02 am, and the strikes on Ariha at 8:04 and 8:06 am. It also named the Hamidiya camp and Khan Assubul as the launch sites of the attack. This observatory reported the presence of a reconnaissance plane at 8:07 and 8:09 am, reportedly to adjust the direction of the strikes.

Screenshots taken from flight observatories show the presence of reconnaissance aircraft over the city of Ariha, the timing the the alerts posted on the channels is consistent with the estimated time of the bombing - Source: Al Ahrar Aviation Observatory, Jisr al-Shughur Aviation Observatory, and Idlib Aviation Observatory

Having identified the first online reporting about the incident, analysed the direction and length of shadows appearing in footage documenting the bombing’s near-aftermath, examined CCTV footage, and collected the reports of local aviation observatories, Syrian Archive’s investigation team estimates that the attack struck between approximately 8:00 and 8:15 local time on the morning of October 20, 2021.

CCTV documents the killing of school children as they sheltered in the chicken shop

[Warning: this section contains graphic content, including images of the remains of children killed in the attack]

The Syrian Archive tracked the moments before and immediately after the fall of a shell which were documented by several sources, to study the impact of the shelling on civilians in the area.

A still from CCTV footage shows a group of people inside a shop in Ariha: three boys, a girl, and four men. In the first seconds of the video, or around 8:05:06 local time, everyone in the video moves inside to take shelter.

Stills from CCTV footage showing four children and four men in a shop - Source Abu Ali on Twitter

At the second 0:22, at 8:05:28 local time, a child wearing an orange shirt and black pants, carrying a green school bag, tries to exit the shop, but when he reaches the door, an explosion occurs. CCTV footage also shows two other boys: one wearing black clothes, the other also wearing black clothes and carrying a schoolbag.

Stills from CCTV footage showing the moment the shell fell near the shop - Source Abu Ali on Twitter

As the dust settles, at 8:07:06 local time, about a minute and a half after the shell hit the area, the remains of two boys are shown: the boy in the orange shirt and the boy wearing black, without a schoolbag. The CCTV video then shows the third boy attempting to flee, dragging his clearly injured feet to the interior of the shop, leaving traces of blood behind him. The boy appears to faint inside the shop.

Still from CCTV footage showing the bodies of the two children, after the shell fell near the shop – Source: Ammar al-Hassan

Many sources published pictures of the children before and after the attack, including videos and photos by Abdullah al-Mousa,a Syrian journalist from Syria TV, The Syrian Civil Defence, Ariha TV, Milad Fadl, Alyamany Pharmacy, and Mumtaz Abu Muhammad’s video of ambulance operation. A video posted by Akkad al-Jabal on Twitter shows the injured boy in the hospital, crying and saying goodbye to his brother, who was killed in the attack.

image25 Victims of the shelling attack - Source: Milad Fadl

In another photo, a girl also shown in the CCTV footage is documented receiving medical treatment, with traces of blood on her body. Her yellow outfit and hairstyle are identical to those seen in the CCTV footage.

image11 On the right, a photo of the girl who was injured in the attack. On the left, stills showing the same girl in the CCTV footage – Source: Reem Radwan al-Shadeedi and Abu Ali on Facebook

Multiple sources have identified the children killed and injured in the attack. Without having secured consent from their families, Syrian Archive will not reproduce this information here.

Victims of the Attack

Syrian Archive collected open source reports naming the victims of the attack: Ammar Dakkak’s Facebook page; a video posted by Mohamed Rashid; Ariha News; Macro Media Centre; Ariha Today; a list posted by Ariha TV of the names of the dead and injured inside Ariha Hospital; and several, additional photos and videos of the casualties posted on social media.

From the available information, Syrian Archive determined that there were at least 11 fatalities linked to this attack: 4 children, a Palestinian-Syrian teacher who used to live in the town, and six others, the last of whom died two days later in a hospital in Turkey as a result of the attack.

Resulting Damage

A video from Al Jazeera, as well as photos from “Aylol” Facebook page shows fire and destruction ravaging the popular market, as well as several nearby shops. Mohammad Atrash and Syria TV posted two videos showing the destruction of shops and crater in the ground, rubble, destroyed walls and broken windows, and shrapnel on iron doors.

Syrian Civil Defense, Qasioun, S.N.N, Halab Today TV, and Ahmad al-Mohammed all posted videos and photos showing the destruction in the main market and the residential area, several fires, and the burning of two motorcycles and a vehicle.

image102 Destroyed shops - Source: Al Jazeera Syria on Facebook

image86 Still from a video showing the destruction caused by the shell that struck near Jatal Pastries shop on Ariha’s main street – Source: Almoharr on Facebook

Damage Assessment Resulting form the Attack

On the day of the attack, the Jatal Pastries shop posted a photo on Facebook, showing the ruins of the second and third floors of the building it is located in.

image6 A picture showing the destruction caused by the shell that struck the main street in Ariha - Source: Jatal Pastries shop on Facebook

By examining the videos and analysing the photo posted by Jatal Pastries on Facebook, it’s apparent that the shell hit the building in which the shop is located, and that the majority of the rubble fell to the north or northwest on the opposite street corner. This suggests that the shell came from the south to the southeast at a 75-degree angle.

image7 Satellite imagery showing the location of the shelling and the location of the rubble northwest of the impact site - Source: Google Earth

The extension of the same line from the impact site at a 75-degree angle, indicates that its possible source may be located in the south-southeast side, near Maarat al-Numan, which is about 18 kilometres away, or Al-Hamidiyah, which is about 22 kilometres away from the site of the attack in Ariha.

image68 Analysis of the missile’s origin - Source: Google Earth

Pictures of the impact site of one of the shells with a burning car and a shop - Source: Mustafa Hashem, SNHR, and journalist Muhammad Qashash

International Response

Local and international condemnations of the attack on Ariha poured in. In a tweet, The United States condemned the escalation of violence and the attacks on October 20, 2021, and called for the protection of civilian lives.

image61 A tweet shared by the U.S. Embassy in Syria, in which it denounces the escalation of violence and the Ariha attack – Source: U.S. Embassy in Syria on Twitter

The British Embassy in Damascus described what happened on Twitter as “a series of brutal attacks by the Assad regime and its backers on civilians in Ariha,” and condemned “these despicable acts in no uncertain terms.”

image101 A tweet posted by the British Embassy in Damascus, in which it denounces the 20 October attack – Source: UK for Syria on Twitter

In its report, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) condemned the killing of four children on their way to school, stating that children are not targets and must be protected at all times, especially in times of conflict.

image72 UNICEF post - Source: UNICEF on Twitter

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) expressed on Twitter its concerns about the “increasing hostilities in northwest Syria, and the killing of ten people and injuring of more than 30 civilians, including many school-age children, in the Ariha attack.” Additionally, OCHA emphasised “the need to protect children and civilians.”

image96 OCHA post - Source: OCHA on Twitter

Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General, spoke in a press conference about “reports of civilian casualties following artillery shelling in the town of Ariha, south of Idlib,” describing the latest escalation as “the greatest in northwest Syria since the March 2020 ceasefire agreement.”

In a statement posted on Twitter, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces described the attack as “a massacre, and a new war crime committed by the regime forces in Ariha, which coincides with the convening of a new round of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva.” The Syrian National Coalition urged the international community to “take responsibility for what is happening.”

image37 Syrian National Coalition post - Source: Syrian National Coalition on Twitter

Conclusion

On October 20, 2021, between 8:00 and 8:15 am Damascus and local time, at least 10 artillery shells and missiles were fired into a civilian area of Ariha, impacting a market, other shops, residential areas, and the town’s main road.

The attack killed 11 people and injured at least 35 others. It damaged the popular market, as well as several residential buildings and vehicles.

Given the limited information available about the weapons used in the attack, Syrian Archive is unable to definitively identify the party responsible for the attack, though open-source information indicates that Syrian government forces are likely responsible for the incident.

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