Ahmed, who for security reasons was speaking on the condition of being identified only by his first name, climbed onto his roof, he said in a telephone interview. The thunder of helicopters was overshadowed by a terrible crash of gunfire “coming from the sky”, he said.

US officials say Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi killed himself and his family in an explosion (The Washington Post)

It was a sleepless night in Syria’s northern province of Idlib, with alarming sounds, deadly violence and a flurry of breathless rumours. Grainy cellphone videos were released depicting fragments of an event – mouth flashes, shouted pleas – the outlines of which only emerged later, after sunrise Thursday over a partially cinderblock house. demolished and bloodied.

Mahmoud al-Sheikh, who works at a car repair shop less than a mile from the house, had also been kept awake by the noises. He said he heard a soldier give orders over a loudspeaker: “Children and women, leave. We’re going into the house,” someone said.

Sheikh said he did not know who lived in the house, in the Syrian town of Atma, but he said he often saw women and young children coming and going.

There was nothing terribly extraordinary about the men in the house, he added, saying they did not outwardly fit the description of hardline Islamist fighters who often wore long beards.

Residents who lived near the house told Omar Nezhat, a local journalist, that they were interrogated by the soldiers, who marked their foreheads with numbers and told them not to worry, as the forces Americans were there to kill an ISIS leader.

At least a dozen people, including six children, were killed with Qurayshi, according to local first responders. The Pentagon said three members of his family were killed when Qurayshi detonated an explosive device on the top floor of the building, along with a child who was killed on the lower floor in circumstances that remain unclear.

First responders, known as the White Helmets, said survivors of the night’s violence included a man who lived near the house and a young girl whose entire family was killed. For a time, they said, the girl was unable to speak, due to shock.

The group was unsure how the other people died. “Really all the bodies were mostly covered in blood, sometimes you couldn’t tell if it was bullets or explosions,” a spokesperson said in a post.

Dadouch reported from Beirut.