Attack on Ghita Al-Rahmeh Refugee Camp

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On May 5, 2016, an alleged airstrike killed at least 28 civilians in a refugee (or IDP) camp in northern Idlib province. The details, including evidence that it was an airstrike, are under question.

Western Sources

  • UNHCR Statement The informal settlement of Ghita Al-Rahmeh, near the village of Al-Kamoneh – located south east of the Sarmada town in Idleb governorate – was hosting around 2,500 people (450 families) who had already fled their homes in western and northern rural Aleppo since late last year. Reports indicate that many people have since fled to surrounding hills, fearing further attacks.
  • BBC: Air strike on refugee camp 'could be war crime'
Stephen O'Brien, the UN humanitarian affairs chief, called for an inquiry into the attack on the Kamouna camp in the northern Idlib province. ... "The suspicion will fall initially on the Syrian government and we will want to make sure that they, or whoever it is, are fully held to account for this absolutely abominable act," Mr O'Brien told the BBC on Friday.
Thursday's attack came a day after the extension of a truce was confirmed.
The Syrian military said there was "no truth to reports... about the Syrian air force targeting a camp for the displaced in the Idlib countryside", Reuters reported.
The Kamouna camp for internally displaced people is about 4km (2.5 miles) from Sarmada and 10km from the Turkish border.
  • NBC News It was unclear who launched the airstrike. ... "There is no justifiable excuse for carrying out an airstrike against innocent civilians who have already once fled their homes to escape violence," Earnest said. "These individuals are in the most desperate situation imaginable, and there is no justification for carrying out military action that's targeting them."

Note: it's believed there is a reason but it's too sinister to admit, only "excuses" should be expected, and there are no good ones. This is probably presuming the Syrian government ordered the attack.

Earnest added that if it turns out Assad's government was responsible for using force against civilians, "it would not at all be the first time."
  • US News U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon says there should be serious consequences for whoever is responsible for a "seemingly calculated attack" on a refugee camp in Syria.
  • RFE/RL United Nations human rights chief Zeid Raad al-Hussein declared "it is extremely unlikely that these murderous attacks were an accident," that they could "amount to a war crime," and thatthe United Nations will investigate the incident. It's not specified whether they will finish the investigation or publicize the findings.

Questioning the Airstrike Claims

Aside from explosive ordnance killing people, it's worth looking for proof this was fired from the air. In other cases, like the denounced Douma Market Attack, August 2015, there never was proof, and the attack pattern virtually proves it was a local attack with surface rockets. While Islamists rebels still have little to no access to the skies, they control territory around that attack, and this one.

The options are:

  1. Syrian forces from the air
  2. Russian forces from the air
  3. US-coalition forces in the air
  4. Rebel (presumably local Islamist) forces on the ground
  5. Turkish forces on the ground (The location appears to be 36°12'04.79" N 36°42'44.68" E or here on Wikimapia (from a comment at Moon of Alabama). This is just over 4 km from the nearest part of Turkey.)
"Considering the fracture pattern, seen in the pictures and videos taken at the site, the camp could have been shelled, either intentionally or by mistake, by rocket artillery, which is in active use in the area by militants from the terror group Al-Nusra Front," Major-General Igor Konashenkov, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, said on Friday.
"We have analyzed airspace objective control data for the area as of May 4 and 5, 2016. There were no flights of Russian or any other aircraft over the camp area," Konashenkov stressed.