The neighbors had never heard of anything like it.
Just after midnight, the humming of military helicopters flying low toward their home in a pastoral area in northwestern Syria awoke them from their slumber.
Then a voice in Arabic came from a loudspeaker, ordering the occupants of a nearby house to give up, witnesses told a Syrian journalist who contributed to the The New York Times and who arrived at the scene shortly after.
“Those who want to join jihad, get out!” that voice, according to a close neighbor who just nicknamed him, Abu Omar. “Everyone will be safe if you surrender. Those who stay will die.”
The United States hailed the commandos’ rare airstrike on a rebel-held area early Thursday as a major success against terrorism, saying it ended the leader’s life. shadow of the Islamic State, known as Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurayshi.
But for families living on the outskirts of the town of Atmeh, near Syria’s border with Turkey, the raid caused a night of fear and left a home full of dead neighbors they say that they never really knew. Rescue workers said at least 13 bodies had been recovered from the rubble left by the raid, including six children.
A man named Abu Muhammad, one of four neighbors interviewed by The Times on Thursday, said his family was so horrified by what they heard outside that they didn’t even look out the door. book. Then they heard loud banging on the door and opened it to find American commandos and an Arabic-speaking interpreter.
Abu Muhammad said they would not be harmed, and were instructed to flee the house and hide behind another building until the confrontation was over, Abu Muhammad said. They did as they were told.
Abu Omar said the Americans did not attack the house immediately, but continued to try to get its occupants to surrender. For a moment, the voice on the loudspeaker reached a woman who appeared to be in the house with children.
“Go out, woman, and give the children a chance to live,” said Abu Omar voice.
Then the voice became urgent and threatening, saying the Americans would shoot at the house if she didn’t come out, Abu Omar said.
He heard an explosion that he thought was a rocket hitting the house and heavy gunfire.
It terrified his children, and he tried to reassure them, he said.
“Kids sometimes ask, ‘What’s going on, Dad?’, he said. “I told them, ‘They won’t hit us. They are going to another house. ‘”
Around 3 a.m., neighbors said they heard a helicopter take off. When all was quiet, they surfaced to see what had happened.
A neighbor, who asked only to be identified by his name, Ahmed, said he entered the house where the raid took place and found the bodies of a woman and a child, and the woman The female seems to have killed them both with one blow. explosion vest.
Abu Muhammad and his family left the place the Americans had told them to hide and returned home, finding the body of a dead child near the damaged house next door.
Soon after, rescue workers arrived to dig the bodies out of the bloody rubble. Neighbors collected other remains they found and buried them nearby.
Jamil al-Dadu, 30, who heard of the raid from a nearby refugee camp and came in the morning to see what had happened: “We have never had such an operation before. “We weren’t expecting an American.”