Regime missile forces struck the north-Latakia camp of Aubain, less than a kilometer from Syria’s border with Turkey, with a 2,000kg ballistic missile, a camp resident present during the attack told Syria Direct Tuesday.
“At about 1pm, I heard an explosion in the sky, and getting out of the tent, I remember a woman crying inconsolably, shell-shocked people with dust-covered faces and blood everywhere I looked,” said the Aubain resident, who requested anonymity.
“I saw blood everywhere,” a camp resident told Syria Direct Tuesday. The missile strike left at least five people dead and more than a dozen wounded. A second camp resident provided the above photograph of blood-soaked ground to Syria Direct the same day.
The regime-launched missile may have dispersed cluster munitions over Aubain, which lies some 28km northeast of Latakia city, less than a kilometer from Syria’s border with Turkey.
Aubain, one of the largest camps near an eponymous north Latakia village on Syria’s border with Turkey, is home to more than 1,700 civilians who fled battles in Jabal al-Akrad and the western Idlib countryside. As winter nears, the camp’s residents are scrambling to prepare for colder and wetter weather without any assistance from aid organizations.
“I saw at least four cluster bombs explode inside the camp … we later found the missile body, some seven meters long–why is the blood of Syrians so cheap, that we’re bombed with these kinds of weapons?” the resident asked.
Although Syria Direct could not immediately confirm the use of cluster munitions, the projectile that struck Aubain is likely a truck-launched, 2,000kg Russian-manufactured OTR-21 Tochka ballistic missile, according to a video of the device’s remains provided to Syria Direct Tuesday.
The Syrian government is the only party in this war known to operate the OTR-21 Tochka, a highly accurate and versatile system capable of delivering a 482kg high-explosive warhead–in addition to nuclear, electro-magnetic pulse and cluster-bomb payloads–to targets up to 70km away.
A local rebel spokesperson and a pro-rebel journalist said that regime forces to the south struck Aubain.
“The regime launched the missile from Qimat a-Nabi Younis, some 28km to the south,” Ali al-Hafawi, a Latakia-based Ahrar a-Sham spokesman, told Syria Direct on Tuesday. Why target a tent camp for displaced Syrians? “Killing civilians is an expected regime tactic whenever it’s failing to advance on a given front,” he said.
“There are no military targets in the area,” Rustam Rustam, a journalist with al-Firqa al-Aula a-Sahalia, a TOW-operating Free Syrian Army affiliate, told Syria Direct on Tuesday from Latakia.
An Aubain resident collects and attempts to destroy the OTR-21 Tochka guidance unit, which he believes to be unexploded ordnance. The 2,000kg Russian-manufacture OTR-21 may deliver nuclear, high-explosive, electro-magnetic pulse and sub-munition payloads. Regime forces have not launched OTR-21 ballistic missiles since 2013; however, a recent spate of launches following Moscow’s October air intervention suggest Russia is again supplying the Syrian regime with this highly lethal missile system. OTR-21 identification courtesy of @green_lemonnn and @pfc_joker.
The November 9 attack is not the first regime ballistic missile strike against Latakia’s refugees; on November 2, activists identified the remains of another OTR-21 Tochka, reportedly photographed outside a north Latakia camp on Syria’s border with Turkey.
“Owing to Aubain’s proximity to Turkey, people once considered it a sort of safe haven,” Ahmad Haj al-Bakri, an activist in the Latakia countryside, told Syria Direct Tuesday
“But now, panic has spread among the camp’s residents, many of whom are abandoning their tents and fleeing anywhere else they can.”