Syrian Arab Red Crescent center in Idlib city badly damaged in unclaimed airstrike

A single airstrike hit and partially destroyed the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) center in opposition-held Idlib city before dawn on Wednesday, injuring four volunteers and causing a partial collapse of the building.

The SARC center was housed in the defunct Carlton Hotel in central Idlib city and provided medical services, food and relief aid at no cost to residents of the rebel-held provincial capital.  

Three hours after midnight on Wednesday, a single strike from “what is thought to be a coalition drone” slammed into the building, Idlib Civil Defense spokesman Hamid Kutini told Syria Direct. Kutini said the initial identification of the aircraft was from its sound.

 The Carlton Hotel housing SARC’s Idlib center after an airstrike on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of EMC.

Several local, pro-opposition news sites in Idlib also reported the strike came from a United States-led coalition aircraft.

The US-led coalition has not claimed the strike, which was not reported in Russian or Syrian state media.

Pro-regime outlet Al-Masdar also alleged the bombing to be a coalition airstrike, but reported the Carlton was “believed to be an asset of the Jabhat Fatah a-Sham terrorist group used for both troop housing and as a meeting point,” without citing any sources.

Since the beginning of 2017, the United States has been carrying out an intensified bombing campaign in opposition-held Idlib province against members of Jabhat Fatah a-Sham, formerly Al-Qaeda’s Syrian wing.  

Wednesday’s blast caused the building to partially collapse, ignited fires and lightly injured four SARC volunteers, according to Civil Defense spokesman Kutini.

“All the targeted building contained were SARC volunteers,” said Kutini. “No other organization or armed faction has a center or headquarters in the structure.”

Syria Direct contacted SARC’s countrywide office in Damascus for comment on the strike on Wednesday, but was told the organization would not yet release any information.

 The SARC center in Idlib city following Wednesday's airstrike. Photo courtesy of EMC.

SARC’s Idlib branch did post about the attack on its Facebook page shortly after it occurred on Wednesday, reporting that an unidentified airstrike had hit the center. The bombing incurred “no human losses,” the post read, but did cause large structural damage and “burned most of the administrative offices.”

Pictures and videos circulated online on Wednesday show one side of the Carlton Hotel building collapsed, cement staircases dangling precariously. The rubble is still smoking, and multi-colored papers litter the street below.

Following the attack, the SARC center in Idlib was temporarily out of service on Wednesday. It was not immediately clear when it would reopen its doors.

One Idlib resident visited the site of the blast on Wednesday morning. The area around the Carlton Hotel had been bombed multiple times, he said, but “this was the first time the building itself was directly hit.”

Civilians rely on the free medical care and aid provided by SARC through the center, the resident, named Muhammad, said. Even a temporary stoppage “will have a big impact on Idlib city, especially as it has become more densely populated with both original residents and the displaced.”

Waleed Khaled a-Noufal

Waleed a-Noufal was born in Ankhel in northern Daraa province. He attended high school in Ankhel but could not continue his study because of security reasons. Waleed worked as an activist in his local city council and the Umayya Media Center. In 2013, he moved to Jordan and finished his high school degree. Waleed wants to bring about a solution to the current crisis through his reporting.

Maria Nelson

Maria Nelson was a 2014-2015 fellow at the Center for Arabic Study Abroad program (CASA I) in Amman, Jordan. She holds a BA in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University, with a certificate in Arabic Language and Culture.