In the early morning hours of February 3, US special forces carried out a helicopter attack in the northeastern Syrian city of Atmeh. Islamic State (IS) group leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi died during the attack. At least 13 people died in the strikes, according to the Syrian civil defense, including three children and four women. A resident of the neighborhood told the JowharObservers team what he witnessed.
In the middle of the day on February 3, US President Joe Biden said in a statement that IS group leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi had been “taken off the battlefield”. Al-Qurayshi died after setting off a bomb, killing himself and members of his own family, according to a senior U.S. official.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 13 people were killed in the operation. There were no American victims, the White House confirmed.
The military arrived by helicopter in Atmeh, Syria, near a camp for displaced people before the clashes broke out. Videos of the raid were filmed by local residents and documented heavy shootings.
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– انس المعراوي (@ anasanas84) February 2, 2022 Video from US Special Forces night tree on February 3. “We had no idea that a leader of the Islamic State organization was staying in the house” Ahmed (not his real name) lives 200 meters from the home targeted by US special forces. He works for a local NGO that helps refugees.
We were awakened by deafening noises from helicopters flying over the area at very low altitude. The time was 01:10. In a panic, my wife and two children and I took shelter in the living room on the ground floor.
Then we heard soldiers who had landed on the ground. A voice in a loudspeaker demanded, in Arabic, that the occupants of the house come out with their hands on their heads, “for the safety of women and children.” All this happened in the space of an hour.
# طمة طلعت الكراسي تصاعد نار بسبب القصف
ع ز ز ل ع ع ع ع ع و ز ع ع ع ع ع ع ع ع ع ع
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– ليث حداد (@ layth_hadad12) February 2, 2022 A man demands, in Arabic, that the residents come out of the house “for the safety of women and children”. After that, the helicopters started hitting the house. The rubbish smashed the windows of my house and my car. The children were scared and crying. We also heard what sounded like gunfire, but it was short.
At 3:00 they were gone. I went out to check. The white helmets [also known as the Syrian Civil Defense, a volunteer rescue group in Syria’s rebel-held regions] rescue units were already there. I saw the bodies of three children, including women, and pieces of meat everywhere, in and around the house.
According to reports from our neighbors this morning, the family living on the ground floor was evacuated by the US Special Forces before they hit the upper floor with the helicopters. [Editor’s note: the mother of the family confirmed this account in an interview with a local TV channel].
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– الدفاع المدني السوري (@SyriaCivilDefe) February 3, 2022 A video shows members of the Syrian civil defense searching the house’s rubble on Thursday, February 3. We had no idea that a leader of the Islamic State organization was staying in the house. All we knew in the neighborhood was that there was a couple with two children. So we were very surprised to see so many dead bodies.
We are even more surprised by the news that Islamic State leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi was in the House, as the Idlib region is militarily controlled by the Ahrar al-Sham organization, which considers the Islamic State to be an enemy organization.
We were able to locate the home that US special forces were targeting in the raid, with Ahmed’s help. The building that was demolished was a three-story house surrounded by olive trees. The site corresponds to images broadcast by Syria TV.
The home targeted by US special forces, in the city of Atmeh. © Google Maps Photos of the house targeted by US special forces, taken by Ahmed in Atmeh. Observers destroy US helicopter After US special forces withdrew around 3am, according to eyewitnesses, one of their helicopters landed near the town of Jindires, about 10 km north of Atmeh. It was forced to make a landing due to a mechanical problem, according to the New York Times. It was later destroyed with an American weapon.
We were able to identify the vehicle as a UH-60 Blackhawk using images of the helicopter shared on social media.
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The wreck of the American plane that was found in the countryside in #Afrin and which was destroyed during the operation near the city #Atma. pic.twitter.com/dSA2SauuXb
– سن جنيد – Hasan Jneed (@Hasan_Jneed) February 3, 2022 A video showing the remains of the US military helicopter in Jindires, about 10 km from Atmeh. The helicopter was a UH-60 Blackhawk. In October 2019, US special forces carried out another raid in the Idlib region, resulting in the death of the then leader of the IS group Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. There are several jihadist groups in the region, which is the last bastion held by opponents of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Millions of people displaced by ongoing conflicts are also there, in crowded camps. It is suspected that jihadist leaders used the camps to hide.
Thursday’s operation comes after an attack on a jail in Hasaka, where jihadists freed dozens of detained IS group members, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The ensuing fighting killed 373 people, including 268 IS members, 98 members of the Kurdish forces responsible for the prison and seven civilians, according to the latest reports.