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The Battle of Idlib Opens with the Bombing of Medical and Rescue Facilities

September 9, 2018

By Eliot Higgins

Medical and rescue facilities in opposition held areas have frequently been the target of air strikes by pro-government forces, and what appears to be the open stages of the Battle for Idlib is no different. On September 6th 2018 the Syrian Civil Defence Twitter account posted images of what was described as a White Helmets centre that had gone out of service following a massive attack on the Idlib countryside:

The damaged White Helmets Centre in Idlib (source)

On September 8th, Hass underground hospital was targeted in airstrikes, with multiple videos from the hospital shared online following the attack:

Footage shows heavy damage to the area outside the hospital entrance, including structural damage and destroyed and damaged vehicles and equipment. The interior of the hospital is shown in multiple videos, clearly showing damage to the interior of the hospital and hospital equipment. In none of the videos is their any indication of any military presence at the site.

Hala Systems, who uses an on the ground network inside Syria to track the movements of aircraft, provided data about air activity in the area around the time of attack. They tracked multiple Mi-8 Hip helicopters flying from the Vehicles School helicopter base in Hama, taking off around 40 minutes before the attack. After that, Hips were sighted by different spotters on the route towards Hass underground hospital, then around the area Hass hospital is in just before it was bombed. According to reports from Hala Systems the hospital was then bombed twice, with 10 minutes between each attack.

Mi-8 Hip helicopters are military transport helicopters, and are linked to the use of improvised barrel bombs. On the day of the Hass hospital attack a Mi-8 Hip was filmed dropping a barrel bomb on the town of Al-Lataminah, just 20km south of Hass:

The Hala System reports are consistent with witness statements about the attack and video footage filmed at the site of the attack. A video uploaded to YouTube by Orient News shows the moment the hospital was struck:

The bomb above the hospital just before it impacts and explodes (source)

The bomb is clearly visible in the air, and the noise of the bomb travelling through the air, sometimes mistaken for the sound of aircraft can also be heard, cutting off after the bomb explodes. This same audio phenomenon is captured in other videos, for example this video filmed on September 9th 2018 that shows a clearly identifiable barrel bomb producing the same noise shortly before it hits the ground:

This would strongly indicate at least one barrel bomb dropped from the helicopter was used in the attack, consistent with other statements. In the following video (translation here), one witness describes helicopters dropping barrel bombs on the hospital:

Other witnesses state the hospital was attacked twice by helicopters dropping barrel bombs, first the entrance to the hospital was hit, followed by a second attack that destroyed power generators. Initial reports from the attack indicate 3 people were injured in the bombing, two visitors and an anesthesia technician.

In addition to medical and rescue facilities being targeted by air strikes, footage uploaded to YouTube by The White Helmets in Idlib on September 9th 2018 shows members of The White Helmets putting out a fire in Khan Sheikhoun, a target of heavy bombardment in the last few days, being bombed by what’s claimed to be cluster munitions:

The Union of Medical Care & Relief Organizations (UOSSM) published a statement describing six medical and civilian facilities have been attacked in the last two days in Idlib, which included “[t]hree hospitals, two Syrian Civil Defense Centers, and an ambulance system”. This targeting of medical and civilian facilities has become a familiar strategy for pro-government forces before any major offensive in Syria, and will almost certainly be followed up with more attacks on medical and civilian facilities.


Bellingcat’s research for this publication was supported by PAX for Peace.

Eliot Higgins

Eliot Higgins is the founder of Bellingcat and the Brown Moses Blog. Eliot focuses on the weapons used in the conflict in Syria, and open source investigation tools and techniques.

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  1. Persse

    Bellingcat can you please ask your handlers to use their close contacts with the terrorists groups to get them to surrender. This will spare countless lives and give Syria a chance to reconcile and repair as a nation, This would be both ethical and good policy. The Syrian allies have shown an amazing capacity to negotiate and deliver agreements to spare lives and destruction when outside forces are unable to intervene. The wonderful work of the Russian military police, surely deserving more than anyone the Nobel peace prize, would provide solid guarantees as they have done over the liberated areas elsewhere.

  2. Concerned Citizen

    Eliot Higgins wrote:
    “The bomb is clearly visible in the air, and the noise of the bomb travelling through the air, sometimes mistaken for the sound of aircraft can also be heard, cutting off after the bomb explodes.”

    What lunacy is this? That clearly WAS the sound of a jet aircraft.

    • Steve

      Yes comrade yes. You provide those proofs and prove those Amernskis wrong or just Sputnik link. Silly Amernksi. Only Putin truth speak.

      Of course the funny part is it is just as like you are some 20 year old Edgelord at University of Iowa who thinks he is being “radical” and “anti-war” (while ignoring the acts of war these videos document). Doesn’t this stuff ever bore you?

    • Eliot Higgins

      It’s not, it’s the sound of the bomb, if you watch enough of these barrel bomb videos you’d recognise it.

      • Concerned Citizen

        It’s the loud unmistakable sound of a jet.

        It’s physically impossible for a falling object to make a sound that loud just by falling at subsonic speeds.

          • Concerned Citizen

            I’m stating that the sound of jets does not come from falling objects, it comes from jets.

            Whether or not there ever were any jets present on these dodgy videos or the sound effect was just added in, we dont really know.

  3. Bomber

    Just think back to those days when you did your service in the Red Army, the bombs didn’t fall down quietly they made whining sound (kind of like a jet fighter) until they exploded.

    If the sound had been an jet fighter, explain what happen to it directly after the explosion, maybe it was shot down and the barrow bomb explosion masked the sound, for if there been a fighter you would keep no hearing it after the explosion.

    Червона Армія смокче член

    • Concerned Citizen

      Barrel bombs or any bombs falling through the air don’t sound like jet fighters.

      Jet fighters sound like jet fighters.

      Of course the problem with that is barrel bombs aren’t dropped from jets.


      • Mad Dog

        And of course the jets, being manned by concerned citizens, turned off their engines after the bombs exploded so as not to wake up the neighborhood. Just keep pushing the same lies and someday, a lot of people will believe you.

      • Bomber

        Here is another video where you hear the bomb falling, sounds kind of like a jet fighter

        The difference in sound with this video and the one included in the article is due of the difference in shape and the speed.

        Had it been a jet fighter you would have a quiet moment until the fighter is over you, then you will hear the sound of the fighter, so if you had been right with your conspiracy theory then you would have had it quiet, hear the fighter and then the bomb, the the explosion and kept on hearing the fighter after the explosion.
        This law of physics applies to Russia too, if you want we can take a stroll in Petersburg and I’ll explain it for you.

          • Bomber

            Strange that the jet turns of it’s engine as soon as the bomb exploded and that you hear it long time before it’s over your head, means most likely that those Red Army fighters are flying really slow, like the speed of a moped.

            I’m so sad to see how bad the education in Russia has become, from one of the best during the Soviet era to worse than Mali. Sure we have to keep in mind that trolling ain’t about showing intelligence, it’s just to make less educated to think the wrong thing so that they won’t understand what Russia and it’s allied are doing in Syria.

          • oui oui

            but if you think about it , live is what we do it , at the end trolling is a stupidity , AI is not supposed to be Artificial Idiocy

          • Concerned Citizen

            Bomber wrote:
            Strange that the jet turns of it’s engine as soon as the bomb exploded and that you hear it long time before it’s over your head, means most likely that those Red Army fighters are flying really slow, like the speed of a moped.

            The jet is flying subsonic which means you would indeed hear it before its overhead. I don’t know why people are saying the sound of the jet cuts off after the bomb explodes. I can still hear the jet sound fading away on all these videos. You should get some better headphones.

          • Bomber

            Lets just assume that the falling sound of the barrel is the jet sound, as the sound increases strength the nearer the explosion, it should at least decrease in a similar way, unless it suddenly would get super sonic speed, but then we would hear the sound of it breaking the sonic barrier, analyzing the audio there is no trace of fighter jet breaking sonic barrier, we can see some echos of the barrel bomb exploding, there ain’t any trace of jet engine sound that matches a known jet engine, so sadly your theory of the jet fighter dropping the bomb do not hold ground, just another false claim from Kreml (should have to written Petersburg as you are sitting there in the Troll factory).

      • Raffi

        You seem to have a lot of in-depth knowledge about the sounds that barrel bombs make. Can you enlighten us on your experience?

  4. Concerned Citizen

    Eliot Higgins – September 11, 2018
    Here’s an example where there’s the noise and it cuts off after the barrel bomb hits the ground and fails to explode.

    Unmistakably the sound of a jet. If there really is a jet in the area or the sound effect has been edited in, I can’t say. But that’s a jet engine and nothing else.

      • Concerned Citizen

        It’s not for me to speculate. Just telling you there’s only one thing that sound is and it’s a jet engine.

        • GulagArchipelagoTourist

          Except you’ve been speculating this whole time. Just making everything up as you go along. There’s apparently a conspiracy hovering around making barrel bombs sound like jets… for some reason. Or is your goal here to say that barrel bombs don’t exist? It’s almost like you’re spreading disinformation for its own sake.

          • Concerned Citizen

            Not at all, I’m simply stating with total certainty that I hear the unmistakable sound of a jet. Anyone who thinks a falling object can make that sound needs to go back to school.

  5. Joerg G. Heinrich

    Sorry — but this cant be true

    1.) there is the sound of a jet, flying with high subsonic speed away from the camera and microphone.
    The doppler-shift of the jet-engine-sound to lower frequencys show this.
    I know hat i am talking about is lieve fore years where military airforce in germeny does low-flying practice.

    2.) the sound of jet-engine did not stop after impact — but if it would be the sound of the bomb it had to.
    The are some motor-cycle noise in the forground after impact, but listen carefully shows the jet-engine is still there.

    3.) the bomb drobt out of the helicopter roll an stagger fast and strong.
    The bomb at the impact hits the ground perfectly bolt upright

    4.) “barrel bombs” are highliy inaccurate, it is not impossible but unlikly the a helicopter with a barrel bomb hits one lonly bulding there.

    So ist is clear — we see 2 different cases.

    One hit of an bomb form an jet-aircraft — syrian air-force manly unser Su-22M3/M4 for ground attac.
    One drop of an barrel-bomb somewhere.

  6. Persse

    Definitely can only hear jets hitting Nusra targets. The other films need further editing by the White Helmets, they should get on with it to avoid being a bit irrelevent now most of the filming for the chemical weapons attack is near completion and in the post production phase ready for release after approval by western intelligence.
    I dont like to be presumptious but perhaps for us long time followers of this blog I wonder if Bellingcat could arrange for a pre-deployment screening of the next chemical weapons attack be shown here.

    • Concerned Citizen

      Yeah, seems they are recycling some old clips of helicopters and splicing them together with some up to date footage of jets bombing.

      Does anyone even care about ‘barrel bombs’ any more?

      As you say, we’re waiting for the main event now. Bellingcat will be quick off the mark I’m sure in its coverage.


    I’ve never looked at your publication before, and I was curious.

    It is a nice-looking publication.

    But good God, the content ranks right down there with Theresa May speeches or Thomas Friedman columns.

    What obvious and unconvincing propaganda.

    You intersperse it with other stuff, like aerial photo interpretation, to give the appearance of wider interests and expertise.

    But that’s all just to dilute the venom, so it doesn’t come across like Pravda in 1957.


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