On December 7, the Russian state media outlet Sputnik published a story which claimed that U.S.-led coalition forces fighting the Islamic State (IS) “completely destroyed” a hospital in the small town of Hajin in Syria’s Deir ez-Zor province. This was originally reported by the Islamic State’s own media service before being picked up by Syrian state media, and later ending up in Russian state media.
Two days later, however, the U.S.-led coalition published a video showing the hospital intact and without any apparent significant damage. Later on December 9, there were reports of an explosion in the hospital, but the Pentagon denied responsibility while suggesting that IS forces, while using the building as a fighting position, may have set off their own explosives during an engagement with Syrian Democratic Forces.
The video posted by the press office of the U.S.-led coalition’s Operation Inherent Resolve shows what it said were IS fighters in the hospital. One man is clearly visible in an upper floor window and fires several bursts from what appears to be an automatic weapon. Another person is briefly visible in another window on the same floor, although it is not clear if this person is armed or engaging in combat. According to the coalition statement accompanied by the video, the hospital lost its “protected status under the Law of Armed Conflict” due to IS members using it for shelter and as a fighting position. This would mean the hospital could be designated a valid military target, leaving it open to airstrikes.
Operation Inherent Resolve’s “Strike Summary” for the week of December 2nd to December 8th shows aggressive air operations in the vicinity of Hajin.On December 8, the news release showed 39 strikes near the town, and 46 strikes on December 7 as part of what it calls “Operation Roundup.”The summary said targets included fighting positions, command and control “nodes” and other military targets.It does not mention the hospital.
Polygraph.info later reached U.S. Army Colonel Sean Ryan, the spokesman for the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, who helped clarify what happened to the hospital.
“The early report on the 7th stating the hospital was ‘completely destroyed’ is incorrect,” he wrote. “On the 8th, the Coalition observed volleys of fire coming from the Hajin hospital, which is fully intact (on that date). On the 9th, we showed the video of the sniper from the day before coming from the hospital, thus losing its protected status. Later on the 9th, there was a secondary explosion inside the hospital that is still under investigation, however, it did not destroy the building. On the 10th, the hospital was seized by the SDF.”
A December 12 article published by Al-Masdar news also reported that SDF forces had taken over the hospital in Hajin, which supports the claim that the hospital wasn’t completely destroyed. On December 14, NBC News reported that the SDF had completely taken the town of Hajin.