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INVESTIGATIONS

Shelling of a fuel station and a home in the village of Termanin

March 3, 2022

An investigation into shelling of a fuel station and a home in the village of Termanin in Idlib governorate

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Initial Summary

  • Place of incident: The road connecting the village of Termanin and the city of Al Dana in northern Idlib
  • Impact site: A fuel station on the road between Termanin and Al Dana, and a home located 150 meters west of the station
  • Date: Wednesday, 16 February 2022
  • Time: Between 09:00 - 09:30 Damascus time
  • Victims: Four civilians killed and two injured
  • Type of attack: Artillery shelling allegedly with laser-guided missiles, according to Syrian Civil Defense and media personnel
  • Munitions likely used: Unidentified
  • Potentially responsible: The missiles were likely launched from the 46th Regiment Base of the Syrian government forces, located east of the city of Atarib in the countryside of Aleppo

Introduction

On 16 February 2022, between 09:00 and 09:30 Damascus time, at least four missiles directly hit a fuel station owned by the Watad Petroleum Company as well as a car, damaging a civilian home about 150 meters away from the station. Laser-guided missiles were reportedly used in the attack, which killed four civilians and wounded two others in addition to causing a large fire damaging the station.

Methodology

Syrian Archive conducted an investigation into the incident by:

  • Preserving, analysing, and verifying 73 videos, photos, and reports uploaded to social media, showing the impact site, the first moments of the attack including the locations the rockets hit, the initial rescue response, efforts to recover those killed, the treatment of those injured, firefighting, and resulting damage to the impact site;
  • Confirming the location of the attack by matching landmarks in the collected visual content with satellite imagery and coordinates reported to the investigations team;
  • Analysing satellite imagery showing the impact site as well as monitoring Telegram for alerts of the attack;
  • Tracking similar attacks on fuel facilities belonging to the same company throughout 2020-2021; and
  • Researching Watad Company and the reported victims of the attack.

This investigation is a summary of multiple stages of analysis of available open source information. These sources provided the team with information related to the date, timing, location, victims, and impact of the attack. By examining all available information about the attack, the investigation team developed an understanding of the incident and its likely perpetrator.

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

About the impact area

According to a report by Halab Today, the fuel station—or fuel distribution center—hit in the attack belongs to the Watad Company, which operates in areas under Syrian Salvation Government control in Idlib. The location, according to a report by the Syrian Network for Human Rights, is where fuel is stored in tanks and underground warehouses. As measured with Google Earth’s ruler tool, the facility covers an area of around 38 thousand square meters or 3.8 hectares. Fuel tanks and depots are located at the western edge of the facility on agricultural lands in the Hazara area on the road connecting Termanin village with the city of Al Dana in northern Idlib government. The station is 1.3 km southwest of Termanin village, about 2 km northeast of Al Dana, less than 200 m southwest of the Sham Al Khair Association, and more than 26 km west of Aleppo city.

A house with a floor area of 275 square meters located 150 meters west of the station was also impacted in the same attack incident by a shell that struck a car with civilians, a few meters from the home’s eastern side.

image23 Satellite imagery of the Termanin Fuel Center on the road between Termanin and Al Dana - Source: Google Earth

image25 Satellite imagery of the incident site, showing the facility and a house 150 meters west of the facility - Source: Google Earth

image24 A recent satellite image from 7 February 2022 showing the facility and home - Source: Maxar

Watad Company

Watad was established in January 2018 and is comprised of gas, stations, and markets. It is a joint stock company with a commercial registry that has obtained a license to sell fuel from the Syrian Salvation Government in Idlib, according to a report by Enab Baladi. According to a 2019 article by Euractive News Network, Turkish suppliers bring fuel shipments from Ukraine to Turkey, through an unidentified company. This fuel is then brought through the Bab Al Hawa border crossing and received by Watad. Watad stores the fuel in its warehouses before distributing them to its various centers and fuel dealers in the region. Watad had exclusive rights to import fuel and petroleum before the company Kaf entered the market in August 2020.

Watad is accused of affiliations with Hayat Tahrir Al Sham. A February 2020 report to the United Nations Security Council estimated Hayat Tahrir Al Sham’s estimated revenues from fuel and energy trade at about one million dollars per month. According to the report, Watad held a monopoly on fuel transactions in the region through a “front company,” headquartered in the Bab Al Hawa area, called “Watad Petroluem,” managed by Mohammed Ali Qadeer (also known as Abu Abd Al Rahman Al Zarbi).

Geolocation

On 16 February 2022, Syria TV posted a video report from the impact site showing the points of impact of rocket shells that destroyed a car and damaged a home surrounded by agricultural land. At minute 0:12 of the video, a water tank is visible in the horizon. This tank was used as a landmark for identifying the location of the incident.

The video also showed a fire at the station that members of the Syrian Civil Defense were working to extinguish.

Screenshots from a video report posted by Syria TV on Facebook

image31 Satellite imagery of the impact site, showing the house featured in the Syria TV video report. The house is 150 meters to the west of the fuel facility. - Source: Google Earth

Media outlets and social media pages posted pictures of the fire that broke out in the facility after the attack. The water tank is visible in the background of these photos.

By analysing the above photos, Syrian Archive determined the location of the house and the water tank.

The same Syria TV report also shows aerial footage of the damaged fuel station, the Syrian Civil Defense’s firefighters, the station’s area, and the surrounding agricultural land and homes.

The journalist Mohammed Dabaa also posted aerial photos of the burning fuel station.

A geolocation of the facility using an aerial photo posted by journalist Mohammed Dabaa

What happened (and when)?

Various media outlets, residents, and journalists posted timely news that a missile attack had occurred around Termanin village, hitting the fuel center/oil market in the village.

The first online reports of the incident began around 09:17 Damascus time on the day of the attack with a Facebook post by journalist AbdolHay AbdolHay. AbdolHay, who lives in Termanin, shared to his Facebook page urgent news of artillery shelling hitting Termanin.

image16 A picture of journalist AbdolHay AbdolHay’s Facebook post

Shortly afterwards, at 09:25, Syria TV published on its Facebook page a video showing shells hitting the village. The video shows black smoke coming from the impact site. At 09:28, Haitham Mohammed Hakim posted a video on his Facebook page showing shelling on the outskirts of the village. In addition to a cloud of smoke from the burning fuel station, white smoke in the video appears in locations nearby, indicating that several shells hit areas around the station. At 09:30, Thiqa Agency tweeted with breaking news of shelling on the outskirts of the village, including a picture of black smoke. At 09:46, the Facebook page Al Mohrar Moment by Moment posted on Facebook a video showing a black plume of smoke. Later, news pages and activists posted pictures of the same cloud of black smoke, including a video from journalist Ashraf Al Halabi and posted by the Al Mohar Media Network.

Pictures from a video posted by Haitham Mohammed on Facebook showing the moment of the bombing

Shortly after the attack, Mustafa Al Noyami tweeted at 09:48 stating that missiles had hit the fuel market on the outskirts of Termanin village. At 09:59, the Facebook page Watan FM posted that three were killed and a number of civilians were injured after a shell, identified as a Krasnopol missile fired by the Syrian Arab Army, hit a house between the city of Al Dana and Termanin. At 10:23, journalist Ibrahim Khatib posted pictures of the fire at the fuel facility. According to Khatib, three were killed and a number wounded in the artillery shelling, which he identified as “Russian” and with laser-guided shells.

The Abu Amin Observatory also tweeted at 10:54 of Krasnopol shells from Russian forces that hit the fuel market near Termanin village, killing four people. They also mentioned the efforts by the Syrian Civil Defense to extinguish the fires caused by the bombing.

At 10:03, a pro–Syrian government Twitter account tweeted about the Syrian government’s artillery targeting opposition headquarters and warehouses on the road between Al Dana and Termanin.

According to a report published on the Syrian Civil Defense website, more than four artillery shells hit a house and a car carrying civilians. One of the shells hit the Termanin fuel market, killing four civilians and wounding two others. According to the report, the bombing caused large fires at the facility, which Syrian Civil Defense firefighting teams were able to extinguish with 10 firefighting teams after more than 4 hours.

According to a report by the Syrian Network for Human Rights, 6 artillery shells hit Termanin coming from areas under Syrian and Russian government control. The Syrian Network for Human Rights reported that the bombing killed 4 civilians, two of them from a family living in a house near the fuel market, and injured other civilians as well as caused a large fire at the facility.

Media outlets, journalists, and pages supporting the Syrian government confirmed the attack on the fuel market by “Syrian Arab Army” artillery. These confirmations came from Phoenix, the Syrian Documentation Center, Al Mayadeen from the Heart of Syria, the Syrian News Window, Syrian National Youth Party - Tartous Branch, Sowt Al Sham, Sada Al Waqaa Al Souri, Al Quds Brigade - Syrian Arab Army Commando/Latakia Company, Mohammed Dabaa, Anas Zahira, Wael Ahtiyat, and Haydarah Shabal Al Assad.

By analysing all available footage and comparing it against satellite imagery and other reporting on the attack, Syrian Archive confirmed that a fuel center, a house, and a car were impacted in this attack on the road between Termanin and Al Dana.

Chronolocation

Chronolocating Haitham Mohammed Hakim’s video

To estimate the timing of the attack, Syrian Archive analysed the upload times of materials posted online and shadows shown in videos that appear to document the moment of attack and its immediate aftermath. Syrian Archive also consulted information from local aviation observatories.

Mentioned earlier, reports of the strikes began circulating on social media after 09:15 Damascus time. To analyse shadows and estimate the time of the attack, Syrian Archive examined a video posted by Haitham Mohammed Hakim, which shows the moment two, successive strikes hit the fuel station area. At 0:02, the video taker says “it hit the tanks,” meaning the fuel station, and at 0:32 the video shows another shell falling near the impact point of the first shell.

Gifs of a video uploaded by Haitham Mohammed Hakim showing where the first shell, at 0:02, and second shell, at 0:32, fell

The Syrian Archive team determined that the video was shot from the western side of Termanin village, facing west/southwest to show the road between Termanin and Al Dana and the Sham Al Khair Association. Syrian Archive can confirm that the first strike shown in this video did hit the fuel warehouses in the distribution center, whereas the second strike shown hit the house and car west of the fuel center.

image20 A geolocation of the video uploaded by Haitham Mohammed Hakim

image21 A picture from a video posted on Facebook showing the moment the fuel market was hit as well as the angle of shadows from the buildings in the video’s foreground. These shadows indicate the video was most likely filmed in the morning

Using the angle of the shadows shown in the video mentioned above, the Syrian Archive team determined the likely time when the two shells hit the area. According to the tool Shadowcalculator, the sun was at an inclination angle of 30 degrees and the length of a shadow was 1.73 meters long (for an object one meter long) around 09:17, matching the shadows shown in the video and indicating that the attack likely occurred between 09:00 - 09:30 Damascus time.

With this information, Syrian Archive estimates that the strikes likely occurred between 09:00 - 09:30 on 16 February 2022.

image9 By analysing the shadows shown in the video, our closest estimate is that Haitham Hakim’s video was filmed around 09:12. Accordingly, we estimate that the timing of the attack was between 09:00 to 09:30 with a margin of error of 15 minutes due to the possibility of slight inaccuracies in our analysis of the timing of the strikes.

The Damage

The Syrian Civil Defense’s Facebook page posted aerial footage of the burning fuel station and the firefighting operations.

Pictures taken from a video posted by the Syrian Civil Defense Facebook page of the burning fuel station

Syria TV also posted a video report on Facebook showing the damage to the fuel station.

A picture from Syria TV video report showing the less damaged western side of the fuel station

A video report posted by Halab Today shows the apparent blast radius damage to the eastern side of the home located to the west of the market, including the destruction of a Hyundai van east of the house.

A picture from a Halab Today video report showing the damage to the house and the destruction of the nearby car

The damage to the fuel storage center, specifically the significant damage to the center’s eastern side, while the western side remained intact, as well as the damage to the east side of the house and car located several meters east of the house suggests that the attack came from east of the station.

Journalist AbdolHay AbdolHay posted pictures showing the damage to the area around the fuel station.

By examining the pictures and videos taken after the attack, the investigations team concluded that at least 4 shells hit the fuel station and a nearby car, destroying the entire eastern side of the station, completely destroying the car, and damaging the east side of a nearby home. The team also concluded that the attack caused fires in warehouses at the fuel station, which led to additional, significant damage to the facility.

Victims

By corroborating open source information with information from confidential sources, Syrian Archive confirmed that four people were killed in the attack and at least two were wounded. Three of those killed, according to a report from Syria TV, were seated inside the destroyed car.

Qasioun News Agency posted a video showing the recovery of bodies near the house next to the fuel market. According to the reporter in the video, three people were killed in the attack. A Facebook page, under the name Umm Al Joud, also posted a video showing the recovery of the bodies next to the house west of the fuel station. According to a report by the Syrian Civil Defense, the bombing killed four civlians and injured two others.

The Termanin Media Office posted the names of three killed. The fourth was unidentified, according to the media office, because of the severity of burns to the body. The media office also reported several people injured in the attack.

Munitions used

Syrian Archive was unable to determine the exact type of weapon used in the attack because no photos or video showing the remnants of the munitions are available at this time. Claims by the Syrian Civil Defense and media correspondents suggest that the weapons systems used was the laser-guided “Krasnopol” system. Online reports claim between 4 - 14 missiles launched in the attack.

Claims of Krasnopol missiles used

Halab Today posted a video report on Facebook where its reporter said that several laser–guided Krasnopol shells hit the fuel distribution center in Termanin. The reporter said one of the shells hit a family fleeing the area. According to the correspondent, a Turkish base near the fuel center responded to the source of the bombing.

The report included testimony from a member of the Syrian Civil Defense who said: “The Regime and Russia this morning targeted the town of Termanin with several shells, one of these shells fell on a civilian home, killing four people and wounding two. And one of the shells fell on the fuel market, which caused a huge fire. The fire was extinguished by 6 civil defense centers, and the work lasted about four hours.”

On its Facebook page, the Syrian Civil Defense posted a video testimony from one of its volunteers, who said: “The Regime forces and their Russian ally have repeatedly targeted infrastructure with laser-guided Krasnopol missiles. This morning, Wednesday, 16 February 2022, a fuel market was targeted in the city of Termanin, north of Idlib. The attack resulted in the death of 3 civilians and a number of wounded, some in critical condition.”

Orient News’ Facebook page also posted a video showing a relative of a victim of the attack. The relative talks about the loss of two of his brothers. According to Orient News’ reporter, 14 Krasnopol missiles hit the area.

A video report from Syria TV, citing the Syrian Civil Defense, says 13 Krasnopol laser-guided shells hit the area. One hit the fuel depots, causing a fire, while another hit a nearby house. Other shells landed around the area. According to the correspondent, the attack came after reconnaissance aircraft, believed to be Russian, were flying over the area. Reconnaissance planes were also reportedly flying over the area at the time the report was filmed.

Local observatory data

According to the Al Ahrar Aviation Observatory group on Telegram, multiple—what the observatory group calls—“reconnaissance flights” were observed above Al Dana and Termanin around the time of the attack. A Russian reconnaissance aircraft was east of Al Dana at 09:19 Damascus time. A Russian reconnaissance aircraft was also spotted circling over Al Dana and Termanin at 09:22 and 09:27, according to the group. Observers in the group then reported multiple shells fired at 09:19, 09:20, 09:21, and 09:22. At 09:26, a member of the group added that the shells hit the road between Al Dana and Termanin. The monitoring of reconnaissance aircraft at the timing of strikes over the area may indicate reconnaissance flights corroborative of allegations that a guided weapon was used in the strike.

Screenshots of the Al Ahrar Aviation Observatory group on Telegram showing the monitoring of Russian aircraft and the observed times shells were fired. Messages say: “Russian reconnaissance circling Al Dana Termanin,” “Shooting on the road between Al Dana Termanin,” and “The reconnaissance aircraft are still circling, correcting fire.”

Flight observation data from a partner organisation showing the aircraft above Idlib governorate the day of the attack

Flight observation data from a separate partner spotter organisation shows drones above Al Dana, a town around 1.8 km southwest of the fuel station, at 09:15, 09:23, 09:36, and 10:10.

These observations of aircraft and drones over and near the town at the time of the strikes is consistent with allegations that a guided munition was used in the strike. Guided munitions often require an aircraft such as a drone to pinpoint the location a munition should land.

Potentially responsible

Pro-Syrian government media claims

Many media outlets, media professionals, and social media pages supporting the Syrian government have posted news, photos, and videos of the attack on the fuel station, attributing responsibility to the Syrian Arab Army artillery: Phoenix, the Syrian Documentation Center, Al Mayadeen from the Heart of Syria, the Syrian News Window, Syrian National Youth Party - Tartous Branch, Sowt Al Sham, Sada Al Waqaa Al Souri, Al Quds Brigade - Syrian Arab Army Commando/Latakia Company, Mohammed Dabaa, Anas Zahira, Wael Ahtiyat, Haydarah Shabal Al Assad, and Syria Al Watan. Given Watad’s reported affiliation with Hayat Tahrir Al Sham, many pro-government groups reported on the attack as a justified attack on terrorist groups. However, the station provides fuel for civilians in the surrounding area and, as is the case with this incident, civilians are often in or around the fuel station because of Watad’s monopoly on gas and petroleum in the area.

Identifying the likely launch location

Photos posted by journalist AbdolHay AbdolHay of the facility bombed on the eastern side of the fuel station show that only the eastern side of the facility is significantly damaged.

image1 Location the facility bombed, east of the fuel market, in photos posted by AbdolHay AbdolHay

By analysing the photos posted by AbdolHay, Syrian Archive was able to determine the location of a crater caused by one of the shells that landed near the facility. From the angle of the crater, Syrian Archive found that the launch point was likely from the east to southeast.

image13 Geolocating the photo posted by journalist AbdolHay AbdolHay that shows a crater caused by one of the shells

image2 The location of the crater shown in a photo posted by journalist AbdolHay AbdolHay - Source: Google Earth

The above images and analysis show that the fuel station and its surroundings were hit from the eastern side. This is consistent with the position of Syrian government forces and allies stationed at the 46th Regiment base and its surrounding area, about 13 km southeast of the impact sites.

image35 An image of the distance between the location of the 46th Regiment and the incident site - Source: Google Earth

The Syrian government and its allies had taken control of the 46th Regiment base in November 2020. Pictures from pages loyal to the Syrian government show the presence of the Saray Al Areen Forces, Tiger Forces, 25th Division, Suqur Idlib Brigade, and Iranian militias among other groups at the 46th Regiment base at that time. An interactive map from the Jusoor Center of Studies, published in July 2021, that shows foreign military presence in Syria, includes the presence of three Iranian bases in the vicinity of the 46th Regiment and the absence of Russian bases in the region.

The website XEBER24 reported that the targeting of the fuel center in Termanin was from within the 46th Regiment base, and that Turkish forces stationed in the town of Al Tawameh, in the western countryside of Aleppo, responded to the missile strikes by hitting the 46th Regiment base.

At 09:23, on the day of the attack, activist Ahmed Moaz reported continuous artillery fire from the 46th Regiment base hitting areas in northern Idlib and the western countryside of Aleppo.

Online news sources and social media pages have reported of previous attacks with Krasnopol missiles on fuel facilities in Idlib, allegedly by groups located in the 46th Regiment base. Reportedly on 16 October 2021, the groups targeted a gas plant in Sarmada where four people were killed. In March 2021, an attack by warplanes with shells reportedly hit the Watad fuel market in Sarmada. On 31 July 2020, a drone reportedly targeted a fuel market belonging to the Watad Company in Sarmada. Syrian Archive was unable to verify these reported attacks.

Media blackout on the incident

Activists on social media circulated a video originally posted by the Syrian Network for Human Rights showing—according to the source—a member of Hayat Tahrir Al Sham trying to take the cellphone of a media activist and prevent him from covering the Syrian government’s bombing of Termanin’s fuel market. From the video clip alone, Syrian Archive cannot corroborate these claims about the reasoning behind the attack or the identity of the attacker. However, this incident occurred during the drafting of a media law announced by Shaam News Agency, a media group affiliated with the Syrian Salvation Government which is affiliated with Hayat Tahrir Al Sham. Some believe this law will increase restrictions on journalists and violate the freedom of expression by requiring government involvement in the approval and publication of journalists’ work in Idlib.

Conclusion

Drawing primarily on open source documentation and investigative techniques, Syrian Archive confirms that at least four artillery shells were used in an attack damaging a fuel center and a nearby civilian home and car on the road between Termanin and Al Dana on 16 February 2022, between 09:00 - 09:30 local time. The attack killed four people and injured at least two others, in addition to destroying the fuel facility and car. Given the limited information about the weapon used, Syrian Archive is unable to definitively identify the party responsible for this strike. Although, available information strongly indicates Syrian government responsibility for the incident.

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