At around 1:00 am on February 3, 2022, three Apache helicopter gunships from the US-led international coalition fired heavy machine guns to provide cover for parachutists from the coalition’s special forces to carry out a landing on a residential building to the north of Atama village in the northern suburbs of Idlib governorate near the road running between Atama village and the Deir Ballout crossing in Afrin area north of Aleppo governorate. Following this, a shootout took place between the soldiers and armed individuals who we have so far been unable to identify. The operation continued until around 03:00 am, according to residents of the village, when the helicopters left the skies above the area, with unmanned drones subsequently overflying the same area.
The US Department of Defense announced in a statement issued today that in the early hours of the morning the US special forces under orders from the US Command Center carried out a counter-terrorism operation.
For SNHR, our focus on documenting civilian casualties means that we documented the deaths of six children and three women in this operation, rather than focusing on any military casualties. We emphasize that the international coalition forces should have considered the civilians’ presence beforehand while planning their operation, and should have complied with international humanitarian laws, particularly those concerning the Principles of Distinction between Civilians and Combatants, and of Proportionality in Attack, throughout the operation. The international coalition forces must investigate this incident, show the precautions taken, and explain the reason behind the loss of civilian lives, including details of whether any of the women present were armed, as well as providing other related information. We are still investigating the incident to obtain more details, and will shortly issue a report on it once this investigation is concluded.