Two girls killed in a double tap attack on a house in BalyunDecember 7, 2023
In collaboration with Focus Aleppo
- Place of Incident: Jabal Al-Zawiya - Idlib countryside
- Impact site: Balyun, also written as Balyun, village - Civil Defence Volunteer House
- Date: 03 July 2021
- Time: Between 05:45 to 06:15 Syrian local time
- Victims: Two young girls
- Injured: A volunteer in the Civil Defence and his wife, the parents of the two girls
- Type of attack: Ground-to-ground attack
- Munitions likely used: Laser-guided ‘Krasnopol’ projectiles
- Potentially responsible: The Syrian and Russian governments
Nour Al-Iman was born weeks after her two sisters were killed and parents injured in a double-tap attack on their home by two suspected Krasnopol laser-guided projectiles. The newborn carries the names of both her sisters, Iman and Nour Al-Omar, who were killed while sleeping between 05:40 and 06:05 on the morning of 03 July 2021.
“A new life in exchange for death,” said the father of the two girls in an audio recording with the Focus Aleppo team via WhatsApp, confirming his continued work as a volunteer in Syria Civil Defence, also known as White Helmets, since its establishment in the village of Balyun in Idlib’s southern countryside.
The attack resulted in almost complete destruction of the family’s home. A report by the Civil Defence, published on 17 May 2022, highlighted the impact of Krasnopol projectiles on civilians’ lives and their ability to penetrate walls and cause significant damage. The report documented that most buildings hit with this type of ammunition were completely destroyed.
The attack on Omar’s house was one of 63 attacks documented by the Civil Defence which involved Krasnopol laser-guided projectiles in 2021. According to the report, these attacks hit 43 houses, 11 agricultural fields, two public buildings, two police departments, a medical center, a hospital, a Civil Defence center, and a camp. While Krasnopol attacks accounted for only 4% of the incidents responded to by the Civil Defence during that year, they resulted in over 20% of the fatalities (70 victims, including 29 children) and more than 10% of the injuries (102 wounded, including 33 children), according to the same source.
Videos, photos, and reports on social media, news channels, as well as aviation observatories, show the attack on the house of Civil Defence volunteer Omar Al-Omar in the village of Balyun. The footage shows the extent of the damage caused by the second attack and the first responders’ escape from the scene. The source of the attack, as well as the remnants of the Krasnopol laser-guided projectile used in the attack, were also documented. As a result of the attacks, residents fled the area.
Syrian Archive conducted an investigation into the incident by:
- Eyewitness testimonies, specifically from the father of the two fatalities, interviewed by the Focus Aleppo team;
- Preservation, analysis, and verification of 34 video clips and images uploaded on social media, reportedly showing the impact location of the attack that resulted in the death of the two girls;
- A visit by the Focus Aleppo team to the impact site, during which they documented the location, identified the point of impact of the projectiles, and estimated the extent of the damage at the scene through 37 videos and images; and
- Comparison of the images and videos with those published on social media, and identifying possible perpetrators and the launch site of the projectiles. This was done based on the examination of photos of remnants of the used ammunition, their effective range, and the direction of launch.
This investigation is a summary of multiple stages of analysis of available open and closed source information. These sources were related to the date, timing, location, injuries, and damages caused by the attack. To review the research methodology used in the Syrian Archive, please visit our website
Balyun village is located in the southern countryside of Idlib, in the area of Jabal Al-Zawiya. According to previous interviews included in Syrian Archive investigations, the area witnessed movement before the year 2020 to accommodate internally displaced people from various regions. However, a significant portion of its population, estimated to be around 30,000 at that time, has been displaced from the village since 2020.
Satellite images of Balyun Village captured by Syrian Archive on 25 July 2023.
With Syrian government forces and its allies’ control over significant part of the region, such as Maarat al-Numan and Kafranbel, the largest cities in Jabal Al-Zawiya and its surroundings, villages in Jabal Al-Zawiya, including Balyun, have become on the frontline of battles between government and opposition forces. The distance between Balyun and areas controlled by Syrian government forces is no more than fifteen kilometers, making it susceptible to continuous attacks with artillery shells and airstrikes, leading to significant damage in the town and the displacement of most of its inhabitants.
A map from Jusoor Center for Studies, showing the presence of Balyun Village on the frontlines with the Syrian government forces, captured by Syrian Archive on 20 July 2023. The black circle indicates Balyun Village as added by Syrian Archive.
The residents of Balyun depend on agriculture for their livelihood, which is why some of the population returns to the village during the summer months to harvest their crops and take care of their lands.
Balyun is located in the Idlib Governorate and is part of the Ariha region, which has also experienced frequent attacks over previous months, along with most of the villages in Jabal Al-Zawiya. All these areas are situated south of the M4 international highway and fall within the de-escalation zones designated during the sixth round of the Astana Process in 2017, through a Russian-Turkish agreement. They are also covered by the ceasefire agreement sponsored by Russia and Turkey, which was implemented on 5 March 2020.
Screenshots from Al Jazeera’s website captured by Syrian Archive on 4 July2023, demonstrate the de-escalation zones and their changes, as well as the M4 international highway between the years 2017 and 2020.
What happened (and when)?
The house of the Civil Defence volunteer, Omar Al-Omar, located to the east of Balyun Village and south of the main street was subject to a double tap attack with what was claimed to be be laser-guided Krasnopol projectiles between 05:45 and 06:05 on 3 July 2021. The attack resulted in the death of the volunteer’s two daughters, Iman and Nour, and the injury of the volunteer and his wife.
The top image was captured by the Focus Aleppo team in November 2021, while the bottom image was obtained by Syrian Archive on 25 July 2023, from Google Earth. It illustrates the prominent features of the attack site, with the transparent red color highlighting the damaged section of the house, which was impacted on its eastern side.
In the top right, a screenshot from Gaith Al-Sayyed’s video shows the hole in the roof of the house at the impact site. In the top left, an image posted by the Civil Defence on their page illustrates the smoke after the projectile’s fall. In the bottom, a picture from Google Earth, captured by Syrian Archive on 25 July 2023
The satellite images of the house before and after the attack show the significant destruction that occurred at the location.
The screenshot at the top shows the house’s location on Google Earth in January 2021 before the incident, while the screenshot at the bottom shows the same house on Google Earth in November 2021, illustrating the damage at the site. These screenshots were captured by Syrian Archive on 25 July 2023.
A video shows the arrival of the Civil Defence and the first responders to the impact site after the first projectile fell - it also documents the moments when a second projectile fell on the same location. In the video, a person can be heard saying, “guys it’s out!” in reference to the second projectile. Footage reportedly taken shortly after the second strike shows fleeing civilians and volunteers taking shelter in a nearby house and in agricultural lands close to the site of the attack. The same video shows, shortly thereafter, smoke rising after the second projectile hit with the same person appealing to his colleagues via radio to send a car (van) to the place specified by the individual to be Al-Omar’s house. The video also shows the survival of a child, who turned out to be Muhammad, the brother of the two girls who were killed in the attack, with traces of dust on him. The Syrian Network for Human Rights later published photos showing the impact site and rescue operations.
Screenshot from the website of the Syrian Network for Human Rights showing the house that was bombed in the village of Balyun, captured by the Syrian Archive in August 2022.
Screenshots from a video posted by the Civil Defence on their Facebook page shows the rising smoke after the projectile’s fall and the volunteers fleeing the location, while Mohammed, the child, survived with traces of dust on him. Screenshots were captured by Syrian Archive on 25 July 2023.
The investigation team analyzed prominent features in the video and compared them with specific photos of the location, in addition to satellite images, to confirm the exact location where the projectile fell, as shown in the video. They also examined the picture of the child, Mohammed, and his father, as well as the house where the volunteers sought shelter from the second projectile.
Screenshot from the video posted by the Civil Defence on their Facebook page showing people running away at the moment of the second projectile’s impact. The picture was taken from the side of the house where the projectile hit, and it shows the neighboring house as well. Screenshots were captured by Syrian Archive on 25 July 2023.
Screenshots from the video posted by the Civil Defence show the impacted house from the neighboring house’s garden. These screenshots were captured by Syrian Archive on 25 July 2023.
Syrian Archive created the path the photographer took while fleeing the attack based on the analysis of the Civil Defence’s video.
About the Attack
Saad Al-Zaidan shared news on his Facebook page, reporting that people were killed by laser-guided projectiles while reconnaissance aircraft were present in the area in Balyun Village at 07:07. Additionally, Mohammad Ahmad Gharib, a volunteer in the Civil Defence, expressed condolences to Omar Al-Omar. Additionally, Mahmoud Dibaan shared news on his Facebook page, stating that two people were killed in Balyun by projectiles, specifying them as of Krasnopol type.
Reports of the incident continued, with a video from the Civil Defence showing the location of the attack. A member of the Civil Defence narrated in the video, “A civilian house in Balyun Village was targeted in the morning, resulting in the death of two girls inside and the injury of their father and mother.” The investigation team verified the prominent features in the video and their alignment with other photos and videos showing the impact site.
An Anadolu Agency video includes clips of children arriving at the hospital after the area was attacked. According to the Anadolu Agency report, the villages of Iblin, Mashoun, and Balyun were all reportedly attacked on the same day.
A video posted by journalist Ghaith Al-Sayed, with the Associated Press logo, shows aerial footage of the destroyed house in the village of Balyunand the testimony of a member of the Syria Civil Defence, in which he talked about an attack on the village of Balyunand three other villages (Iblin - Basams - Mashoun) with rockets and guided missiles, which resulted in the death of eight people and injury of nine others.
An aerial shot from the Associated Press report of the house’s impact site in Balyun Village, captured by Syrian Archive on 25 July 2023.
Analyzing the aerial shot from the Associated Press report of the house’s impact site in Balyun Village and comparing it with satellite imagery.
The Civil Defence posted a video showing the moments after the attack, the burial of the two girls, and images of the girls, Iman and Noor, before their death. The video also included footage of the destroyed house.
Two photos of the two girls, Iman and Noor, who were killed in the attack, along with their father, were taken from the Civil Defence’s page and captured by Syrian Archive in August 2022.
In a tweet, Raed Al-Saleh, the director of the Civil Defence (White Helmets), shared his condolences to the volunteer Omar Al-Omar for the death of his two daughters and the injury of him and his wife in the attack in the village of Balyun on 3 July 2021.
On the same day of the attack, the Syrian Network for Human Rights also published a news report on its website about the attack and the death of the two girls, Noor and Iman. The report mentions the attack as a violation of the ceasefire agreement signed on 6 March 2020 and includes pictures of the impacted site, specifically remnants of the projectiles used.
Through analysing the prominent landmarks visible in the videos and comparing these to satellite imagery and the images documented by the Focus Aleppo team, it is possible to determine that the impacted house is the initial house on the southeast side of the village of Balyun and faces a wide, open area surrounded by agricultural lands from the south, west, and east. facing a wide open area
A screenshot of Google Maps—taken on 6 December 2023—showing Balyoun. An orange circle has been added by Syrian Archive to show the location of the attack.
Determining the timing
Omar Al-Omar, the father of the victims and a volunteer in the Civil Defence, mentioned during his conversation with the Focus Aleppo team that the projectile hit his house around 06:00 on 3 July 2021.
The time specified by Omar Al-Omar in his statement corresponds with the reports published in the Jisr al-Shughur and Al-Arhar for Aviation Telegram channels. A report mentioned the departure of a Russian reconnaissance plane from Hmeimim at 05:21 on 3 July 2021. Another report warned of a Russian reconnaissance plane circling over the villages of Bsams, Iblin, and Balyun at 05:39, and specifically over Balyun at 4:40 and 4:45.
Screenshot from Jisr al-Shughur Aviation Observatory shows the takeoff of a reconnaissance aircraft from Hmeimim Air Base and its arrival in the airspace of Jabal al-Zawiya, including the village of Balyun, at 05:39 in the morning. Captured by Syrian Archive on 25 July 2023.
Screenshot from Jisr al-Shughur Aviation Observatory warns of the presence of reconnaissance aircraft circling over Balyun village between 05:40 and 05:45 in the morning. Captured by Syrian Archive on 25 July 2023.
The Free Aviation Observatory reported an alert reconnaissance aircraft circling over Balyun village at 05:45. It also alerted of projectiles falling on the outskirts of Balyun at 06:04, before reporting the death of two people in Balyun village at 07:17.
Screenshot from the Free Aviation Observatory reported the presence of reconnaissance aircraft and a warning about the location of projectile fallings in Balyun village. Screenshot captured by Syrian Archive on 25 July 2023.
Sentry Syria reported the presence of a reconnaissance aircraft over Jabal al-Zawiya, which includes Balyun village at 05:39 on 3 July 2021.
A screenshot from Sentry Syria shows an alert of the presence of a reconnaissance aircraft over Jabal al-Zawiya at 05:39 on 3 July2021. The image was captured by Syrian Archive on 25 July 2023.
To further verify the timing of the incident, the position of the sun was analysed in various materials published online about the incident, including a video from the Civil Defence. The pictures from the Civil Defence video show the location of the attack and the position of the sun during the fall of the projectile as well as the responders and Civil Defence members fleeing the area.
Screenshots from the Civil Defence video shows the sun during the early moments of sunrise, taken by Syrian Archive on 25 July 2023.
As demonstrated using the SunCalc tool to calculate the sun’s position and comparing it with the video posted by the Civil Defence, the sun’s position in the screenshots from the Civil Defence video, which was posted on their Facebook page footage , matches the sun’s position as shown on SunCalc between 06:00 - 06:15 local time on 3 July 2021 at the impact site.
At the top, there are two images from the Civil Defence video showing the location of the attack and the appearance of sunlight, and they are compared with satellite images from Google Earth, captured by Syrian Archive on 25 July 2023.
A screenshot from SunCalc showing the position of the sun and shadows at the house that was attacked around 06:15 Damascus time on 3 July 2021, captured by Syrian Archive on 25 July 2023.
Based on the analysis of the videos, reports, witness testimonies from sources like Focus Aleppo and those were published to social media, along with the position of the sun in the captured images at the time of the incident, it can be concluded that the incident likely occurred between 05:45 and 06:15 in the morning of 3 July 2021.
Satellite imagery from Digital Globe of the impact site before and after the incident showing the damage to the area.
The Focus Aleppo team visited the site of the attack and, through videos and images, found extensive damage to the house that was attacked. Documentation shows destruction in the northeastern part of Omar Al-Omar’s house, including the balcony, as well as the collapse of one room’s ceiling. There was also partial damage to the concrete pillars, indicating the intensity of the explosions caused by the two projectiles.
Photos from Focus Aleppo’s visit to the house that was attacked in the village of Balyun, taken in November 2021.
The videos posted in the hours following the attack by Omar Hajj Kadour, SY site, Associated Press, in addition to the Civil Defence, show the extensive damage to the house, the collapsed room’s ceiling before the debris was removed, holes in the walls of the house, large amounts of rubble and stones, and damage to a motorcycle and household furniture, as well as the internal structure supporting the building’s roof.
Aerial images of the house that was hit in the attack from the channel of Omar Haj Kadour, captured by Syrian Archive in August 2021.
Two girls, Iman (14 years old) and Noor (7 years old), were killed in an attack on their home in the village of Balyun on 3 July2021. Omar Al-Omar, the father of the two girls, and his wife were also injured in the attack.
Omar Al-Omar, the father of the two victims and a volunteer in the Civil Defence, stated the following during his interview with Syrian television, which matched in detail with a special interview with Focus Aleppo: “I heard the sound of the shell; its sound grew louder, followed by a moment of silence before the explosion. My wife and I were in the opposite courtyard, but something prevented me from reaching the site immediately. The dust was thick, so I went around the other side of the house. The room where the girls were sleeping was destroyed; its ceiling collapsed on the floor, and its walls were demolished. My eldest daughter, Iman, was dead beneath the debris, showing signs of injuries, while my younger daughter, Noor, was under the rubble. As the Civil Defence teams arrived and attempted to search for Noor, another projectile landed at the same location. We moved several meters away from the place, only for the projectile to fall at the same spot again. My wife, my child, and I rushed to the hospital. There, the Civil Defence team informed me about the death of my second daughter.”
Possible munitions used
A video from the Associated Press showed remnants of the projectile that hit the location, while images from the Syrian Network for Human Rights revealed what they claimed to be the remains of the munitions at the house that was subjected to the attack.
Screenshots from an Associated Press video show remnants of one of the used projectiles that hit Omar Al-Omar’s house in Balyun, captured by Syrian Archive on 26 July 2023.
The Syrian Network for Human Rights stated that this image shows the remnants of the projectiles at the house that was attacked in the village of Balyun, captured by Syrian Archive on 26 July 2023.
Screenshot resembling the remnants of a projectile, captured by the Focus Aleppo team in November 2021, in front of the house that was hit in the village of Balyun.
The investigative team analysed the published videos and images and found similarities between some of these fragments and photos of Krasnopol munitions in terms of their fins, cylindrical bodies, and the numbers written on one of the fragments in the image published by the Syrian Network for Human Rights. However, several inconsistencies in the fragments including their shape and color after the blast make it difficult to definitively conclude that a Krasnopol projectile was used in the attack.
The top image is from the website Inform Napalm and is used to analyze Krasnopol munitions that were reportedly used in Ukraine. The bottom-right image shows remnants of a projectile obtained by the Focus Aleppo team during their visit to the location. The bottom-left image is from the Syrian Network for Human Rights and shows the remnants of the projectile that fell on the house in the village of Balyun, captured by Syrian Archive on 25 July 2023.
A picture of a laser-guided artillery projectile from the 3OF-39 series displayed at the IZHMASH Museum in Izhevsk, Russia (Source: Vyacheslav Bukharov).
Additional context provides further evidence of the use of a Krasnopol projectile in this incident. The presence of reconnaissance aircraft over the impact area aligns with the use of this type of munition, as it is one of the methods used to guide laser-guided Krasnopol projectile towards their targets. The Free Aviation Observatory reported at 5:45 local time via its Telegram channel that a Russian reconnaissance aircraft was flying over the Balyun area. Similarly, at 06:04 local time, the Jisr al-Shughur Aviation Observatory reported via its Telegram channel the presence of a Russian reconnaissance aircraft circling at 05:39, specifically above Balyun village at 04:40 and 04:45 local time.
The combination of technical and contextual evidence suggests at least one of the munitions may have been used in the attack on Balyun was a laser-guided projectile. However, due to the limited visual information available in the accessible images of the remnants as well as inconsistencies present in the photos of the munition, Syrian Archive is unable to definitively determine the type of Krasnopol, including the caliber, or whether any or all the munitions used in the attack were of this type and model.
Pictures taken after the incident, direction of destruction, and rubble scattering around the house were analyzed. It’s visible that the north-eastern part of the house suffered the greatest damage, and an opening can be seen on the north-eastern side of what may have been where the projectile penetrated the house.
An aerial photo from a video posted by Omar Haj Kaddour of the house that was bombed. The destruction is concentrated in the northeastern side of the house.
In addition, two lines of rubble can be observed towards the north and east. These two lines may be the “wings” that spread to the right and left of the projectile at the time of its explosion. This, in addition to the destruction of the eastern part of the house, increases the possibility that the projectile hit the home from the northeast.
Aerial photo from a video posted by Omar Haj Kaddour of the house that was hit. Arrows have been added to show the possible direction of the attack.
Illustrative image of wings that are formed when projectiles explode, source is Michael Hiske blog, captured by Syrian Archive on 27 July 2023.
The average range of the Krasnopol missiles is 25 kilometers, and there are, according to a report by Al-Jazeera, two different types of Krasnopol missiles with varying range, the first with a range of 20 kilometers and the second with a range of 31 kilometers. These projectiles are fired from field guns, or from cannons mounted on vehicles.
By drawing a circle with a radius of 31 km, the center of which is the house that was bombed, and matching the possible directions of the projectile’s fall with the damage left in the roof of the house from the northeastern side, the source of the projectiles s may be from Saraqib, which was under the control of the Syrian government forces after they recaptured the town in February 2020.
Screenshot of Balyun and surrounding areas within a radius of 30 km taken by the Syrian Archive on July 27, 2023 - Source: Google Earth.
The Syrian Civil Defence’s Twitter account, journalist Mustafa Hashem, Suheil Al-Mohammed, Idlib TV, Orient, journalist Hadi Al-Abdullah, Musa, as well as Syria TV, Civil Defence, Syrian Civil Defence - Idlib Governorate, Syrian Event, Syria24, and Saad Al-Din Zaidan on Facebook, held the Syrian government forces and Russia responsible for the incident.
Despite this, the images attached in this section and in the potential munitions used section are an approximate analysis of what can be seen through the open-source information, a further analysis would require the use of specialists and experts in the field of destruction and weapons analysis to determine the type of weapon, and the exact direction of the rocket by in-field examination of the location of the impact.
Based on the detailed information provided above, it can be confirmed that two projectiles, at least one of which may have been laser-guided, of the Krasnopol type, accompanied by a reconnaissance aircraft, hit the home of Omar Al-Omar, a Syrian Civil Defence volunteer, in the village of Balyun in southern Idlib countryside between 05:45 and 06:15 on 3 July 2021. The double tap attack resulted in the death of two girls and injuries to their father and mother in addition to causing extensive damage to their home.
Based on the limited information, Syrian Archive is unable to definitively determine the type of weapon used or the party responsible. However, the open-source information and data collected from the impact site and images of unexploded ordnance suggest that at least one laser-guided rocket may have been used in the attack and that the eastern side to the northeast of the impact site may be a possible source for the attack on the house in the village of Balyun. The information reviewed above—including the direction of the attack, its location, and the likely munition used— additionally suggests the Russian and/or Syrian government are responsible for this attack.