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INVESTIGATIONS

Saraqib's Market and Mosque Destroyed in Airstrike

July 13, 2020

Investigation reveals an attack by multiple missiles that hit and severely damaged Al Zaweya mosque and Market Street in Saraqib

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Initial Summary

  • Place of Incident: Idlib: Saraqib
  • Location Hit: Al Zaweya Mosque as well as the nearby Market Street and residential areas.
  • Date: 21 December 2019
  • Time: Between 11:30 - 11:40, according to open source information and flight observation data.
  • Killed: 8 civilians, according to open sources and hospital records reviewed by the Syrian Archive’s investigations team.
  • Wounded: 23 civilians, according to open sources and hospital records reviewed by the Syrian Archive’s investigations team.
  • Type of Incident: Airstrike
  • Munitions Used: N/A
  • Potentially Responsible: The Russian or Syrian Air Force, according to open source information and flight observation data.

Introduction

One day before receiving her diploma in biomedical engineering, Abeer Al Daher was killed in an airstrike that hit the city of Saraqib. The plane, allegedly belonging to the Syrian Air Force, dropped a purported three missiles onto the city’s Al Zaweya Mosque, market, and surrounding residential areas killing 8 civilians and leaving 23 others wounded. This airstrike is one of many currently happening in cities in the Idlib Governorate, the last opposition stronghold.

Methodology

Syrian Archive conducted an investigation into the incident, based on 3 steps:

  1. A local investigations team collected testimonies from hospital staff treating those injured in the strike;
  2. Secured, analyzed, and verified 73 videos and images uploaded to social media networks purportedly showing the incident;
  3. Analysing satellite imagery showing the town after the incident as well as flight observation data revealing the planes over the town at the purported time of the strike;

The combined analysis of these sources has culminated in the present investigation report. Complementing each other, they provide information regarding the incident’s date and time, location, casualties, extent of damage, and potential perpetrators.

Examining all information available on the strike, the investigations team developed an understanding of the incident and all potential perpetrators.

For more details on Syrian Archive’s methodology, visit our site.

Background on Saraqib

image12 Satellite imagery of Saraqib and its neighboring towns from Google Earth Pro.

Saraqib is a large town (around 50,000 residents) in eastern Idlib 17 km away from Idlib city, the governorate’s capital. Because of its location, the city is a frequent target of Russian and Syrian government led attacks in their attempt to retake the province. The government recently regained control of Saraqib on Febraury 7, 2020.

In the past year, as reviewed below, these attacks have hit the city center of Saraqib as well as the town’s other civilian populated areas. Systematic targeting, like the latest attack on December 21, has forced civilians to flee towards the Turkish border and IDP camps for refuge.

Previous Attacks on the Town’s Markets

image2 An image showing damage to one of Saraqib’s markets after an airstrike hit the area on April 22, 2019.

22 April 2019

The Syrian Network for Human Rights reports that the city’s market was targeted, allegedly by the Syrian government, killing residents Ahmed Mahmoud Haj Qassem and Shaha Al Hammadin in addition to damaging a number of shops and buildings within and around the market.

Hassan Mukhtar uploaded a video report onto YouTube showing the direct aftermath of the airstrike. The video shows the extensive damage to the market as well as the rescue efforts by first responders. Additionally, Mahmoud Al Bakour and Al Jisr Satellite Channel posted videos showing rescue efforts as well as the damage to the market’s shops and surrounding homes. The correspondent for Al Jisr reported one civilian killed and multiple wounded.

24 April 2019

Saraqib, including its countryside and market, was hit by an airstrike killing one child and wounding 10 civilians, according to the Syrian Civil Defense. The Civil Defense posted a video of its first responders arriving at the site of the incident. Local news sources and journalists, such as Step News Agency and Abu Al Hoda Al Homsi posted about the strike suggesting the usage of cluster bombs.

22 July 2019

image5 A still from a video taken by SMART News of the market and surrounding areas after the airstrike.

The Saraqib city market and surrounding areas were hit by airstrikes on July 22 ultimately killing eight people and wounding 4 others. SMART News and Facebook user Fawzi Ghozlan reported on the incident with videos showing the arrival of ambulances and first responders as well as the severe damage to the market and the surrounding civilian areas. Alongside local journalists, the Syrian Civil Defense uploaded a video onto YouTube of their arrival at the attack site. The video shows the recovery of two victims from the rubble of a destroyed building as well as fires that started in the market after the airstrike. The Civil Defense confirmed eight, four of whom were children, killed by the blasts with another civilian dying later from severe injuries. The Syrian Network for Human Rights claimed the attack was committed by a fixed wing aircraft belonging to the Syrian government.

The Syrian Archive’s investigations team documented and verified the names of those killed in the strike:

  1. Asma Muhaimid
  2. Mohammed Anwar Khattab
  3. Mohammed Husam Al Zouri
  4. Mohammed Nasr Ajaj
  5. Husam Al Zouri
  6. Abdul Karim Al Sattouf
  7. Aya Al Zouri
  8. Ali Ibrahim Al Ali

26 July 2019

The Syrian Network for Human Rights reported that a Syrian fixed-wing aircraft targeted Al Hal Market in Saraqib killing town resident Hikmat Al Hamdan Al Ezzo as well as damaging the market and surrounding buildings. Baladi News Network published a video from after the incident showing the extensive damage to the market, its shops, and the surrounding cars. A resident interviewed in the video report claimed the Syrian government committed the attack to reduce and push out the civilian population in the city. Facebook user Hamzah Al Khatib uploaded a video showing the moments directly after the strike with the arrival of the Civil Defense teams.

28 August 2019

image10 A still from a video uploaded by the Syrian Civil Defense showing the moment of the strike on the market.

According to the Syrian Civil Defense, the city’s market was targeted, injuring eight civilians and damaging the surrounding areas. The first responders group uploaded a video onto YouTube of their arrival at the scene and their rescue efforts. A video uploaded by Facebook user Mahmoud Al Bakour, taken from security footage inside one of the market’s stores, shows residents and shop owners taking cover right before a missile hit nearby. The Syrian Network for Human Rights additionally reported on the incident blaming the Syrian government.

2 December 2019

The Syrian Network for Human Rights reported that a fixed wing aircraft belonging to the Syrian government hit Saraqib’s market killing Nashaat Ahmad Al Shahoud and wounding five others. Hossam Ahmed Al Salloum posted on Facebook a video showing the crater from the missile. The Facebook page Saraqeb Now posted a video on Facebook showing the rescue effort as well as the severe damage to the market. The video features cars flipped over and completely burned. A video uploaded by the Civil Defense shows similar damage as well as features the first responders team arriving at the scene and recovering those injured including a resident killed in the attack.

Additionally, the Facebook page Saraqib and Its Countryside News posted that a MiG-23 plane targeted the Al Hal market in Saraqib on December 2 killing Nashaat Ahmad Al Shahoud and wounding:

  1. Mohammed Nassan (from Tal Mardikh)
  2. Ahmed Al Asaad (From Al Zerbeh)
  3. Mohammed Fayaz (from Afes)
  4. Mustafa Al Omar (from Afes)
  5. Ghassan Entabi (from Kafr Amim)

This attack was followed 19 days later by another airstrike on the city of Saraqib and one of its market.

What Happened (and When)?

image3 An image posted on Facebook by Ghiath Haj Kassem showing damage from the strike.

On December 21, 2019 at around 11:35, a warplane, allegedly affiliated with the Syrian Air Force, dropped three to four missiles on the areas surrounding Al Zaweya Mosque and Market Street in Saraqib. In addition to the severe destruction to the market and its surrounding buildings, the airstrike killed 8 civilians and left 23 people wounded.

Satellite imagery from Google Earth of Saraqib, Al Zaweya Mosque and its neighboring Market Street, the general location of the attack.

Posts with videos and images confirm the time of the attack. At slightly before 12:00, local news sources such as the Macro Media Center as well as Facebook users and pages such as Mohammed Khattab and Saraqib Now posted alerting of a Su-22 warplane attacking the town. At 12:20, Al Jazeera additionally confirmed that an airstrike hit the town’s market area.

image1 A geolocation by the investigations team of images from Saraqeb Today and Orient News of one of the attack sites in Saraqib. This site was near Al Zaweya Mosque which is in central Saraqib. This location suffered the majority of the damage from the attack on the city.

image14 Using a video originally uploaded by the Syrian Civil Defense showing their arrival at the attack site, the Syrian Archive’s investigation team was able to confirm that the airstrike hit around 11:30-12:00. The shadows shown in the video from the first response team, which was taken directly after the attack as dust is still in the air from the strike, match the length and direction of shadows in the area around the city’s markets and Al Zaweya Mosque on December 21 at around 11:30-12:00.

Videos and pictures uploaded online show the damage and lives lost from the airstrike including the moments aid arrived at the impact sites. Videos posted by Al Jazeera, the Syrian Civil Defense, and the Facebook page Saraqib Al Hadath show first responders’ arrival at the scene and the effort to rescue those injured by the blasts. Additionally, images posted later in the afternoon following the strike show the damage to Al Zaweya mosque and the stores nearby on Market Street.

Images posted by Saraqeb Today, Ghaith Haj Kassem, and Al Hadath Saraqib.

Reports published in the days after the incident additionally survey the damage to Market Street and Al Zaweya mosque. A report published by Baladi News features interviews with residents of Saraqib who claim and affirm that no militias or military headquarters were in or near Saraqib and its market at the time of the attack. Orient News published two reports on the strike, one featuring an interview with the Director of Idlib’s Civil Defense in Saraqib, Laith Al Abdullah. Al Abdullah confirmed that 8 civilians were killed in the strike, including two children and one woman. A citizen also interviewed in the same report claimed that a Su-22 warplane was responsible for the attack.

Syrian Network for Human Rights additionally confirmed the airstrike reporting that Abeer Al Daher, a biomedical engineer, died in the attack while working in a laboratory near the market. Dr. Hassan Kaddour, working in the laboratory with Al Daher that same day, spoke of the incident confirming Al Daher’s death. Kaddour remarked that she was always excited to work and serve her community. Al Daher was one of eight confirmed by the Syrian Archive as killed in the strike.

Killed and Injured

Images of hospital records showing the names of those injured and killed in the strike posted by Facebook user Maged Almhmad.

Through hospital records, open sources, and interviews with hospital staff, the investigations team confirmed eight were killed by the strike including one unidentified civilian dying later from injuries sustained in the blast.

Killed

  1. Abeer Al Daher
  2. Rayyan Mohammed Al Qasim
  3. Seif Hawash Al Farhan
  4. Farhan Hawash Al Farhan
  5. Mohammed Louay Daaboul
  6. Renad Louay Amarah
  7. Khadir Farij Farij
  8. Unidentified Civilian

Injured

NameAgeHometownType of Injury
Ahmed Al Karmo25SaraqibHand and Foot Injuries
Alaa Habib10SaraqibFoot Injury
Sameh Kfartoni8SaraqibFoot Injury
Omar Kfartoni52SaraqibN/A
Mohammed Hammoud31N/AFoot Injury
Alaa Al Sabbagh23SaraqibFoot Injury
Ali Haji17Maaret DibsahAbdominal Trauma
Kamal Haji25Maaret DibsahAbdominal Trauma
Suraaqah Bakkour31SaraqibBroken Leg
Ibrahim Al AbdullahN/ASaraqibBroken Leg
Louay Dobel23SaraqibInjuries in Both Feet
Fadl Ubaid42SaraqibHead Injury
Malik Amarah5SaraqibHead Injury
Yahya AmarahN/ASaraqibShrapnel in the Head
Daha Amarah2SaraqibBroken Hand
Manahil Bareek25SaraqibShrapnel in the Head
Hany Bareek5SaraqibShrapnel in the Head
Najla Yassin35Maaret DibsahFoot Injury
Rhonda Al Qassim15SaraqibBroken Hand and Foot
Nahid Al Qassim40SaraqibShrapnel in the Head
Yamin Al Qassim6SaraqibShrapnel in the Head
Israa Al Wassim1SaraqibBruises
Muhannad Al SufiN/AN/AN/A

Flight Data Analysis

To provide a further layer of verification, the Syrian Archive cross referenced findings from open source media and information provided by the investigations team with flight observation data from a spotter organization. Data for flights occurring briefly before, during, and briefly after the time of the strike (11:30-11:40) on December 21, 2019 around Saraqib and its neighboring towns was closely analyzed.

Flights taking off around the time of the incident were spotted first at Lattakia’s Hmemim airbase with a fixed-wing Russian aircraft taking off at 11:07. Shortly after this aircraft, in Homs, Su-22 (Fitter) warplanes took off at 11:12 and 11:20 from the T4 West and, at 11:27, Shayrat air bases. At 11:22, a Su-22 (Fitter) was seen circling over Tah, a town just 35 km south of Saraqib, around 15 minutes before the strike. Also at 11:23 and 11:29, a Su-22 (Fitter) was spotted over Maaret Al Numan and Jarjanaz, cities just north of Tah and around 26 km south of Saraqib. A Russian fixed-wing aircraft, one of which was spotted earlier taking off from Hmemim airbase, was seen at 11:34 flying southwest over ICARDA, an agricultural school around 20 km north of Saraqib. Lastly, at the estimated time of the strike, a Russian fixed wing aircraft and an Su-22 (Fitter) were spotted circling over Saraqib at 11:34 and 11:36. The practice of circling by warzone aircrafts usually indicates target acquisition and/or preparation for an imminent attack.

The circling by a Russian fixed-wing aircraft and a Su-22 (Fitter) over Saraqib further corroborates the estimated time of the strike as reported by and shown in open source media. This data additionally corroborates posts from social media purporting the Russian or Syrian Air Force as potentially responsible for the strike. However, there is no direct information available that one of the observed aircraft was involved in the attack on Saraqib and its residential areas. Nevertheless, the presence of aircrafts above Saraqib and neighboring towns increases the likelihood that the Russian or Syrian Air Force hit the mosque and market during the time reported and corroborated by open sources.

Conclusion

Through the information outlined above, the Syrian Archive was able to confirm that Al Zaweya Mosque as well as the nearby Market Street in Saraqib were hit around 11:30-11:40 on 21 December 2019. The airstrike killed eight and injured 23 civilians leaving the market and mosque severely damaged. Local news sources and flight observation data points towards the Russian or Syrian Air Force as potentially responsible for the strike. However, given the limitations of open source information, the Syrian Archive is unable to definitely identify the perpetrators of this incident.

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