Flash Report about Tuesday and Thursday's Massacre in Raqqa 25- 27 November

Dec 4th, 2014


Flash Report about Tuesday and Thursday's Massacre in Raqqa

25- 27 November

Horrific Indiscriminate Attacks against Civilians

Violations Documentation Center in Syria

November 2014


First: Tuesday's Attacks

On Tuesday 25 Nov 2014, Raqqa city witnessed several air strikes launched by two warplanes of the Syrian regime forces. They systematically, deliberately and indiscriminately targeted the city's civilian residents, infrastructure, places of worship, in addition to educational, historical and public places; including places that are usually crowded especially during noon hours when the residents head toward the markets.. The attacks resulted in carnages, and the fall of more than (220) martyrs, as well as a hundred injuries, according to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and a doctor who was at one of the hospitals that received the victims on that day. The Violations Documentation Center (VDC)  documented more than (85) victims, using several local sources, coordination committees and eyewitnesses, which the VDC contacted via Skype, following  its own methodology of verification. A list of the names of civilian victims is compiled and enclosed in this report.  

One of the city's media activists, who was an eyewitness to the event, told the VDC that the first attack, which was launched by a MIG warplane that appeared from the south-west side of the city, took place at about 11:30 am, when a missile fell near a warehouse of the Consumer Foundation, known as the Yellow Warehouse because of the color of its  façade color, in the western side of the city. Eyewitness also indicated that the nearest military headquarter of ISIL was more than 800 m away from the targeted area. This attack resulted in five injuries.

However, the second attack was the fiercest and deadliest , according to the same eyewitness, who believed that it was carried out by Sukhoi warplane as it was larger than the first one with wider wings. This attack targeted the entrance to the industrial city, east of Raqqa,  near the traffic lights and opposite the Shrine of Sheikh Owais al-Qarni. First, a missile fell on the area killing and injuring dozens of people. When civilians present nearby rushed to rescue victims, another missile hit the area causing a horrific massacre, killing and injuring.  over (150) people.. An eyewitness related the great number of victims with the nature of the area itself, which connects the city to  its eastern countryside; a place that is usually crowded and full of cars and oil barrels.

As for the third attack, it targeted al-Henni Mosque at about 12:15 pm. A missile hit the minaret of the mosque causing its immediate fall. This area had been targeted by two missiles launched by the Syrian government air forces two weeks before. The attack not only destroyed the minaret but also a part of the mosque's roof and caused several injuries.


A Special VDC Image of Henni Mosque's Minaret after It was Targeted

Although it was away from any military targets, in the fourth attack two missiles hit Muhammad Othman's house near a long-abandoned music institute in Mashlab neighborhood destroying  the house and killing  six members of the same family (two men and four women).

The Fifth and last attack of the day targeted  the public market opposite the National Museum south of the city, according to an eyewitness. This museum is a historical building dating  back to the Ottoman era. Because of the electricity generators and the several oil shops nearby, the attack was extremely damaging  with  more than (51) people killed and over a hundred  injured, according to one of the doctors who  witnessed the incident. The witness  also stressed to the VDC that he had inspected several targeted areas and that when he went to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent branch, he found more than 40 completely burned and charred bodies put in the building's yard for  families to identify them.

An image of the Targeted National Museum (Source of image: Raqqa News Network)


A Satellite Image showing the areas targeted on 25 Nov 2014


Second: Thursday's Attacks

In spite of the numerous international ‘condemnations’ of the attacks that took place on Tuesday 25 Nov 2014, the government warplanes launched other attacks one day after. On Thursday, 27 Nov 2014, warplanes first launched an attack at about 10:30 am targeting a place near the Othmans' house in al-Mashlab neighborhood causing no casualties  as residents had evacuated the targeted house  after Tuesday's attacks. The second attack targeted the house of Judge Muhammad Abdulaziz al-Buhbal, near the Engineering Faculty, causing the deaths of the judge's wife,  son Dawood  and his wife, in addition to two of the judge’s grandchildren.  Many others were injured in the attack.. The third attack targeted a girls' high school south of the city with two missiles that fell in the school's yard without causing any casualties. A few minutes later, two other missiles fell on the southern bank of the Euphrates without causing any casualties either. The fourth attack targeted an inhabited building in a well-known commercial street in al-Bayatra neighborhood, in the center of Raqqa. The attack completely destroyed the third and the fourth floors of the building. Casualties were limited to average injuries as most of the residents had rushed to the shelters when they heard the sounds of the warplanes. In this respect, an eyewitness stated to the VDC  that the attack caused massive destruction and that shrapnel  flew all around which was attributed, according to the witness, to using a special kind of explosive rockets that are rarely used by the regime forces. The witness added:

“In Raqqa, we don't have any ambulances currently as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) confiscated them all.. Thus, relief operations are carried out only by the Red Crescent, which lack medical personnel and supplies. The attacks burned  more than 20 cars and destroyed several buildings and shops. The regime concluded the attacks of Thursday by targeting Dar al-Salam schoolyard to the west of the city. Luckily, no injuries were reported.”

All in all, the attacks on the industrial area completely or partially destroyed over 50 houses, and damaged  more than 100  vehicles.. The destruction also included 2 schools, a mosque and a museum.


Third: Legal Assessment”


It is commonly accepted that the acts of the Syrian regime forces against the Syrian civilian population are to be weighed from the prism of the law governing armed conflicts of non-international character.(1) Furthermore, relevant rules of international law  are fully applicable to the situation in Syria,  in particular international human rights law and the relevant rules of international humanitarian law. Article 3 common to the four Geneva Conventions (1949) is applicable in all Syrian territories and on all actors of the conflict.(2) In addition all parties to the conflict are bound by customary rules of international humanitarian law applicable in  armed conflict of non-international character. 

The principle according to which “parties to the conflict must at all times distinguish between civilians and combatants” is the cornerstone of customary international humanitarian law. Attacks may only be directed against combatants. Attacks must not be directed against civilians.(3)  This principle is also embedded in Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions (1949), and is thus applicable in non-international armed conflicts.

In addition, parties to all types of armed conflicts are prohibited in international humanitarian law from targeting civilian objects.(4) The United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2675 (XXV), specified that “dwellings and other installations that are used only by civilian populations,” and “places or areas designated for the sole protection of civilians such as hospital zones or similar refuges,” should not be the object of military operations.(5) The ICRC restatement of customary international humanitarian law cited consistent State practice treating as prima facie civilian objects in all types of conflicts “cities, villages, residential areas, dwellings, buildings and houses and schools, civilian means of transportation, hospitals, medical establishments and medical units, historic monuments, places of worship and cultural property.”(6)

The prohibition on targeting civilian populations and objects in armed conflicts affects the way the parties to an armed conflicts can conduct the hostilities and the types of weapons they can use.  In particular, indiscriminate attacks are prohibited in all types of conflicts.  

Rule 12 of the ICRC restatement of customary international humanitarian law provides that: “Indiscriminate attacks are those: (a) which are not directed at a specific military objective; (b) which employ a method or means of combat which cannot be directed at a specific military objective; or (c) which employ a method or means of combat the effects of which cannot be limited as required by international humanitarian law; and consequently, in each such case, are of a nature to strike military objectives and civilians or civilian objects without distinction.”(7)

The attacks between November 25 and 27, 2014 on the city of Raqqa, as documented in this statement are in all likelihood executed by the Assad regime’s air force planes, as confirmed by numerous eyewitnesses who recognized at least two types of jets, namely Sokhoi and MiG, which are known to be owned and used by the Syrian regime’s air force. Such attacks, in an area of operation which is already invested by the international Coalition's military offensive over northern Syria, can hardly be carried out without the presumed tacit consent of the coalition aerial surveillance resources mobilized in the area. All the targeted areas in all the attacks are by nature, location and purpose civilian from the perspective of the applicable international humanitarian law

More specifically, the attack document in this statement targeted civilian dwellings in urban and residential neighborhood (e.g. attack in the Moushalab neighborhood (25/11/2014, 12:15PM; 27/11/2014, 10:30AM); al-Bayatira neighborhood (27/11/2014, 10:30AM)); attack on the residence of Judge Mohamed Abdelaziz al-Buhbal (27/11/2014, 10:30AM)); schools (attack on Dar al-Salam preparatory school (27/11/2014, 10:30AM); places of warship (e.g. attack on Al-Hinni Mosque (25/11/2014, 12:15PM)); as well as densely populated areas, such as the attack on the popular street market facing the National Museum (25/11/2014, 12:15PM). The National Museum, which sustained damages, is itself a historical monument. This is also the case in the attack targeting the entrance of the Industrial City on November 25, 2014 (11:30 AM), which was compounded by a second attack minutes later, by targeting from the air, the scarce medical units that rushed to the place, together with further gatherings of civilians, resulting in heavy casualties of civilians. All casualties, from all these attacks, as the Violation Documentation Center was able to document, are civilians.

Such attacks form a pattern of attacking civilian places and populations. The consistency of the attacks on  densely populated areas  between November 25 and November 27, 2014 in Raqqa, makes it more likely that the regime air force was not directing the attack at  any specific military objective. The fact that a second round of aerial bombardment took place targeting important gatherings of civilians at the entrance of the Industrial City on November 25, 2014, stands as a chilling example of such pattern.

Under to customary international humanitarian law, indiscriminate attacks on civilians are serious violations of international humanitarian law.(8) It accordingly constitutes a war crime,(9) which carries the individual criminal responsibility of the commanders who gave the orders for such attacks, as well as anyone who has committed or facilitated the attacks that qualify as war crimes, and anyone who has assisted, or has aided and abetted them. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court makes it a war crime, in the context of a non-international armed conflict, to “intentionally direct attacks against the civilian population as such or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities” (article 8 §2 (e) (ii)).  In a great number of cases, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) convicted war criminals for the indiscriminate bombing of the civilian population.(10)


Finally, the incidents documented herein are likely to constitute crimes against humanity as defined by the case law of international criminal tribunals and article 7 of the Rome Statute, insofar as the killing of civilians, occurring in the context of widespread or systematic attack against the civilian population of Raqqa, as documented above, may constitute “murder”, which is one of the underlying offences of crimes against humanity.

Fourth: A List of the Victims Documented and Verified by VDC

A- Tuesday 25 Nov 2014-11-29

1-Ibrahim Abdulkafi Hindawi

(Source of image: Raqqa News Center)

2- Samer Muhammad Sultan, born in al-Hol area. His mother is Kamleh Abbas.

3- Bassam Dahhamal-Shommari. He was killed in Pullman Garage

Source of image (Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently)

4- Hammoud Alloush al-Khatab.

Source of image (Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently)

5-Mahmoud Tarboush, 17 years, Seif al-Dawla neighborhood

6-Ali Tarboush, 20 years, Seif al-Dawla neighborhood

7-Hamadeh al-Barazi, whose mother died by a "stoke" after she heard about the death of her son, according to some sources. (Other sources said his name is Ahmad al-Barazi)

8-Ramez Saad al-Din Abboush, married and has two sons. He was killed with his two sons.

9-Saad Ramez Saad al-Din Abboush

10-Fahed Ramez Saad al-Din Abboush

11-Ammar Aziz

12- Hassan Khalaf, 30 years

13-Muhannad Ahmad Badran

14- Khalil Abdullah Sulaiman, 13 years

15- The son of Abdullas Rasheed Swailem, 10 years (he remained anonymous)

16- Ahmad Sobhi Owera

17- Ibrahim al-Najm Ebeido, nicknamed by Bahri, 47 years

18- Saher Allawi, known by Abu al-Allawi. He was killed in the Museum area

19-Bashar Hasan Ali

20- Mustafa Ahmad Hussein al-Fakkhash

21- Faisal Saleh al-Hamoud

22-Hammoud Alloush al-Khatab

23-Khaled al-Hammoud

24-Mahmoud Muhammad Abbas

25- Omar Himzawi

26- Muhammad al-Sheikh, from Mashlab

27- Hamzah al-Saleh

28-Muhammad al-Faraj

29-Mu'atasim al- Mahmoud

30- Hussam al-Issa

31- Khalil al-Muslim

32- Abdullah al-Muhammad

33-Huzaifa Khalaf al-Ibrahim (a different person from Huzaifa Khalaf al-Ghanem).

34-Rasheed al-Rasheed

35-Ali Aqeeli

36-Ibrahim al-Musa

37-Abdullah Salem al-Hajaij

38-Ibrahim al-Najm al-Abyo, 47 years

39-Ismael al-Salama

40-Muhammad Farawati

41-Zuhdi al-Sultan

42-Osama al-Jerd

43-Ahmad Mustafa Muhammad

45-Ahmad Khatab

46-Mustafa Nwairan

47-Bashar Hasan al-Ali

48-Ahmad Sulaiman al-Tayeb

49- Huzaifa Khalaf al-Ghanem

50- A woman of Othman Family (1)

51- A woman of Othman Family (2)

52- A woman of Othman Family (3)

53- A woman of Othman Family (4)

54-A young man of Othman Family (1)

55- A young man of Othman Family (2)

56-Muhannad Badran

57-Hasan Ibrahim Hasan

58-Ibrahim Ibrahim Hasan

59-Khalil Jaber

60-Muhammad Yaser Tahseen

61-Khalil al-Shalal Abu Haitham, about fifty years old

62-Khalil al-Haj Daher Abu Haitham. He was killed in the massacre of the Industrial area

63-Jasem Muhammad Ali Jasem

64-Muhamad Mustafa Tayeb

65-Khalaf Hasan Ibrahim Issa al-Ghanem

66-Faisal Ali al-Radi

67-Ismael al-Abd al-Ali

68-Hussein al-Abd al-Ghattas

69-Abdulsalam Muhammad Sarhan

70-Muhammad Yaser Tahseen (the son of the photographer Tahseen).

71-Ahmad Ammar Haidar (another source said his name is Ammar Ahmad Haidar)

72-Khalil al-Jaber. he died due to his wounds on 26-11-2014

73-Abdullah al-Samra

74-Mahmoud Ibrhim Rabea Kurdi, 13 years old. He was killed in the massacre of the Industrial area


Activists of the VDC are still  trying to document  dozens of other names, especially those of the bodies that were charred or completely burned, who are still anonymous .


B- Thursday 27 Nov 2014

1- A lady named Shaima, who was killed with her infant

2-Mrs. Shaima's infant who was killed with her mother

Source of image (Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently)

3- Judge Muhammad Abdulaziz al-Buhbal's wife

4-Dawood Muhammad Abdulaziz al-Buhbal

5- Dawood Muhammad Abdulaziz al-Buhbal's wife

6- Dawood Muhammad Abdulaziz al-Buhbal's son (1)

7- Dawood Muhammad Abdulaziz al-Buhbal's son (2)

8-Mustafa al-Habib Darweesh

The activist are still trying to verify and document the anonymous bodies.



Source of image (Raqqa news center )


(1) Syria: ICRC and Syrian Arab Red Crescent maintain aid effort amid increased fighting, Operational Update (July 17, 2012).

(2) The Syrian Arab Republic has ratified the four Geneva Conventions on 02.11.1953.

(3) ICRC 2005, Customary International Humanitarian Law, vol. 1,  Henckaerts, J.-M., Doswald-Beck, L., & Alvermann, C. eds. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, at p. 3 (Rule 1).

(4) Id., at p. 25 (Rule 7).

(5) Resolution 2675 (XXV). Basic Principles for the Protection of Civilian Populations in Armed Conflicts (December, 9 1970), UN, General Assembly.

(6) ICRC 2005, Customary International Humanitarian Law, at p. 34 (footnotes omitted).

(7) Id., at p. 40.

(8) Id., at p. 599.

(9) Id., at p. 568 (Rule 156).

(10) ICTY, Prosecutor v. Milan Martić, Trial Chamber Judgement (2007), § 472. See also ICTY, Prosecutor v. Tihomir Blaškić, Trial Chamber Judgement (2000), § 512 and ICTY, Prosecutor v. Stanislav Galić, Trial Chamber Judgement (2003), § 596.