On Thursday evening, 12 October 2017, at least 24 displaced persons (documented by name) were killed, 8 missed, and more than 115 others injured, following the explosion of two bomb-laden cars in a queue of thousands of displaced persons from the stricken Deir ez-Zur Province to the SDF-held al-Hasakah Province.
The landmines planted on both sides of the road had increased the number of deaths. Following the first attack, people, especially children and women, fled into the open (barren lands on both sides of the road), which resulted to the death of many other civilians due to explosion of landmines planted by Islamic State, also known as ISIS, according to STJ reporter.
"Khaled. H." a survivor of the bombing, was injured and was transferred to the National Hospital in al-Hasakah City, spoke to STJ about what happened, and said:
"On 1 October 2017, I displaced with my family from al-Quriyah area in Deir ez-Zur province, given the intensification of fighting between SDF, on the one hand, and ISIS, on the other. It took us a day and a half to reach the military checkpoint run by SDF in "Abu Khashab" area, and then we went, as demanded by al-Asayish Forces, to the road known as “al-Khurafi” "fairy" road that connects Deir ez-Zur with al-Hasakah and Abu Fas area. I remember exactly that there were about 50 cars waiting for their turn to pass the military checkpoint of SDF, to enter a refugee camp in al-Hasakah City. However, at 6:30 p.m. on 12 October 2017, a major explosion occurred followed by another in the middle of the car queue, as a result, a shrapnel hit me in the leg. Less than half an hour later, I was transferred with the rest of the injured to the National Hospital in al-Hasakah City."
In another testimony, "Muhammad Ali", a survivor of the explosion, confirmed that he had been seriously injured in the back and knee because of shrapnel from the explosion, he said:
"When the explosion occurred, I was inside the car with my mother and sister, all I remember was that I lost consciousness and found myself thrown on the ground until one of Red Crescent personnel moved me and helped me stand on my feet. I hastened to look for my mother and sister; I found them unconscious while the Red Crescent personnel were trying to get them out of the car that badly damaged by the explosion. I heard some of the Red Crescent personnel talking to each other about the need to transfer the wounded and leave the dead, and when I looked behind me, I saw only four cars of the Red Crescent, and I realized why they said that."
The journalist Akram Saleh, also testified to STJ, as he had visited the impact site on Friday, 13 October 2017, and prepared a press report showed bodies in the open, it was hard to reach them fearful of mines, Akram testified about the incident saying:
"There has been heavy shelling on al-Mayadin area by Russian and Syrian Regime aircrafts; knowing that the people had sent calls reporting ISIS’s complete departure from al-Mayadin, but the heavy bombardment continued. Many displaced people talked about Egyptian warplanes in the airspace as well (as the Egyptian flag was observed on some aircrafts). Displaced persons were heading to a refugee camp, which equipped to accommodate (19200) displaced persons, but the actual number of displaced persons in the camp is 30,000, and there were thousands of displaced people waiting on the road to enter SDF areas.
The explosion occurred by two bomb-laden cars on Thursday evening, where I saw with my own eyes the two engines of the bombed cars during my visit to the site on Friday. After the explosion, the displaced moved randomly towards the barren lands by the road, where they entered minefields rigged by ISIS, causing more casualties.
The explosion occurred exactly at al-Malha village, on the international road between Deir ez-Zur and al-Hasakah. There were four agents of al-Asayish Forces (internal security agency in the Autonomous Administration) among the dead.
There is no accurate statistic of the dead numbers yet, when we went to the explosion site we found many pieces of bodies (feet, legs, chopped heads…), and we also saw a number of graves where some of the dead were buried immediately after the explosion, especially those who were completely burnt in the explosion.
I filmed seven bodies in the freezer of the National Hospital in al-Hasakah, all the statistics indicate that between 40 and 50 people were killed. I think that the number will reach 100 dead due to serious injuries, as seven injured have died later.
I also saw (8) bodies in minefields where no one was able to approach, including four children who were pulled later, the injured were transferred to the National Hospital in al-Hasakah and al-Hekma Hospital (a private hospital in al-Hasakah) and another part dispatched to the National Hospital in Qamishli. The journalist "Dlishan Ibish", a reporter for Hawar News Agency/ ANHA loyal to the Autonomous Administration was also among the explosion casualties."
Image shows a surviving family from the explosion occurred on 12 October 2017, after they were transferred to a hospital in al-Hasakah.
Photo credit: STJ
STJ reporter confirmed that the injured were evacuated to several hospitals in al-Hasakah, including the National Hospital supervised by Médecins Sans Frontières/MSF (Doctors without Borders), al-Hekma Private Hospital located near the security box controlled by the Syrian government forces in al-Hasakah, and the third part to the National Hospital in Qamishli.
Images show a list of the names of some people who were injured by an explosion of a bomb-laden car in a congregation of civilians fleeing from ISIS-control areas in Deir ez-Zur Province on 12 October 2017.
Photos credit: STJ
A video footage, special for STJ, showed the process of rescue and transfer of those injured by the explosion to hospitals in al-Hasakah. Another video footage showed an injured child by the explosion.
It is worth mentioning that SDF had controlled Abu Fas village on 27 March 2016, after being controlled by ISIS for two consecutive years.
On the other hand, the UNHCR strongly condemned the attack and reminded all parties of the conflict of their obligation to protect civilians.