The four-month military operation to oust the armed group calling itself Islamic State (IS) from Raqqa, the Syrian city which IS had declared its capital, killed hundreds of civilians, injured many more and destroyed much of the city. During the course of the operation, from June to October 2017, homes, private and public buildings and infrastructure were reduced to rubble or damaged beyond repair.
The Aswad were a family of traders who had worked all their lives to construct a building in Raqqa. Some family members stayed in Raqqa when the military operation began in order to protect their property, seeking shelter from the shelling in the basement of their building. On the evening of 28 June 2017, the building was destroyed by a Coalition air strike, killing eight people, most of them children. Mohammed Othman Aswad, the only survivor, told Amnesty International: “I was sitting on an empty oil tin by the basement door chatting to Abu Mahmoud who was crouching next to me. His wife and [five] children were down in the basement with my brother Jamal… The strike came out of the blue.”