WASHINGTON — More than one week after anti-ISIS forces in eastern Syria engaged in a firefight that left a hospital destroyed, the Pentagon says it has no way to determine who actually destroyed the facility.
Pentagon officials as well of those from U.S. Central Command had insinuated that ISIS destroyed the hospital, from which it had fired upon anti-ISIS coalition ground troops advancing in the eastern Syria city of Haijin.
However, no evidence has been shared to support that possibility.
“Due to a number of factors, we do not have a high enough confidence in our assessment of the explosion to put out an official statement on this matter,” CDR Sean Robertson, a Pentagon spokesperson, told TMN on Sunday.
“It is clear to us, that ISIS had been using the Hajin Hospital as a defensive position at the time of the explosion, and that a subsequent inspection of the hospital has found multiple improvised explosive devices planted throughout the building,” Robertson said. “ISIS’ actions in Hajin Hospital are a clear violation of the Law of Armed conflict, and would remove the protected status of the hospital at the time of the explosion.”
There are at least five possible entities that could have destroyed the hospital: anti-ISIS ground troops, led by Syrian Democratic Forces; ISIS; Iraqi artillery and long-range fire, which Central Command told reporters participated in the offensive; U.S. air support or other air or Coalition long range support; or Russian elements.
U.S. Central Command did not respond to latest requests for updates.
Nor did they or Roberston respond to news reports, first aired on Al Jazeera, that the SDF captured Hajin early Friday morning.
“After a week of heavy fighting and air strikes, the SDF were able to kick (ISIS) out of Hajin,” Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told Al Jazeera.
The SDF launched the assault Hajin on Sept. 10. Hajin is about 30 miles from the Iraq border and Iraqi troops have sealed the crossings to prevent ISIS members from fleeing into the Iraqi desert, Central Command officials told Pentagon reporters last week.
U.S. forces provided air cover in the assault, Pentagon officials said.
According to multiple news reports, ISIS fighters withdrew south of Hajin along the Iraqi border, in the villages of Sousa, Buqaan, Shaafah, Baghouz and Shajla.