Attack Date: April 30, 2014
Casualties: Approx. 35 people (at least 33 children)
Notable Characteristic: School hit multiple times over multiple years until completely destroyed, including during advertised children's art exhibition.
Ain Jalout Primary School is located in the eastern al-Ansari neighborhood in Aleppo, which has suffered the bulk of losses in the Syrian conflict.
On April 30, 2014, the school was filled with parents and children who had gathered for an exhibition of children’s artwork. The project, entitled An Imprint of Hope, depicted the children’s personal experiences of war.
While the children were preparing to display their work, the Syrian government carried out an attack against Ain Jalout Primary School.
As many as 35 people died in the attacks, including 33 children. Approximately 40 other civilians were severely injured.
The airstrike came two days after the government and armed groups reached a deal in Aleppo governorate to restore electricity in exchange for a cessation of military attacks on civilians. This truce gave organizers enough of a sense of safety to publish an invitation to the exhibition online and to encourage the community to come.
Despite public notice that the exhibition was happening, the government did not provide any form of advance warning to evacuate or alert administrators to cancel. The attack was, in this sense, a probable violation of Rule 20 of Customary Humanitarian Law.
The attack occurred in the morning. Two Sukhoi SU-22 fixed-wing aircrafts dropped high explosive missiles on the southern neighborhood of al-Haas. Reports and video show that parachute-retarded munitions were used and were dropped at a low altitude, which is typical when bombs of this type are used—they descend slowly to give the plane time to leave and then detonate on impact.
Government forces conducted a series of attacks in quick succession, which ultimately increased the number of casualties and damage to the school. More than 60% of the school building was destroyed in the onslaught.
Reports suggest that a barracks for 50 fighters, known as Ansar Al-Aqida, is or was located between 60 and 100 meters away from the school.
Despite conflicting evidence as to whether the barracks was being used at the time of the attack, the indiscriminate shelling of a Ain Jalout School was not justified, as the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria found in its 8th report, especially given that government forces had attacked the school more than once over the course of several years.
A previous attack had occurred on August 6, 2013 during the Al-Abrar charity market that was being held in the school. Then government forces launched mortars, even though according to a testimony taken by the UN Human Rights Council, the school “was packed mostly with women and children who had gathered…there to get free clothing or other basic necessities from the charity market.” The attack, which Syrian Network for Human Rights (SN4HR) attributed to the Syrian Army, resulted in numerous deaths, mostly children and women, and injured dozens.
Yet another series of attacks on April 27, 2016— resulted in hundreds of civilian casualties in Aleppo. On the day of the school attack, the school as well as the Al Quds hospital, which was located across the street, were hit as part of a sustained assault that included airstrikes and shelling that lasted for 8 days. The Russian government has denied responsibility for the airstrikes, instead blaming Coalition forces.