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Thursday, September 7, 2017

On the UN CoI's Meaningless Report

Idlib Chemical Massacre:
On the UN CoI's Meaningless Report
September 7-8, 2017
last edits 9/10

I have to repeat my Khan Sheikhoun "sarin attack" findings yet again with the public release of this UN report:

Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic
A/HRC/36/55 - General Assembly - Distr.: General -  8 August 2017 (but made public just now, a month later)
Note: the link worked once, but now refuses? Another link with the PDF available for download:

News reports herald this as a solid, if not surprising, report by informed experts, to be taken as factual. Its findings of clear government guilt are portrayed as adding a meaningful turn in the endless reinforcement of that same basic picture. But little surprise to many of us, this appears more like a sloppy exercise in data-mining to justify a preconceived position. 

The "Independent Commission of Inquiry" behind this (hereafter CoI) is a three-member panel where one member, the frequent dissenter and occasional champion of the targeted governments, Carla Del Ponte, resigned in early August - at just about the time this report came out. (Her public statements suggest she endorses the report, but that's the public face - as one example of her track record, see Jutin Raimando approving of some of her work that broke the Western script and had to be undone, or  Louis Proyect painting her as a useful idiot for Putin and Assad and promoter of their conspiracy theories).

I don't know much about Paulo Pinheiro, but the other remaining member, Karen Koning-Abuzayd, is a Washington insider, a director of the Middle East Policy Council. The MEPC is one of the many think tanks that hatches strategies to further U.S. interests in the area, overthrow certain governments, peddle lies if needed, etc. So her "independent" commission winds up blaming the Syrian government. Huh.

Do they have good evidence in this case? If they did, it should be in this report. Upon review of what's in there, it seems they don't have any good evidence. But they push ahead with so much confidence, authority, and credulity, no wonder people assume they must have ample proof.

The report focuses on many incidents in Syria, chemical and otherwise, over the reporting period (1 March to 7 July), but news reports emphasize the Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack findings. To display supposed balance, the report passes on some of the most undeniable crimes by opposition terrorists (not limited to Daesh/ISIS) against Syria's religious minorities, including cases of hostage-taking.

But one event they fail to mention, either to support or dismiss, was the claim that some 250 civilians were kidnapped from villages near Hama during the Islamist occupation in late March. These were said to be taken to Khan Sheikhoun when the abductors fled on March 31. This was just 5 days before the incident under study where the same guys and their allies showed us dozens of civilians dying in still-unclear circumstances in Khan Sheikhoun. Maybe these reports are inaccurate propaganda. But the CoI didn't do anything to help illustrate that, simply ignoring the claims as they do note how the Islamists "successfully attacked Government positions in Hama" in late-March, sparking reprisals thought to include this sarin attack. 

The Commission says it asked for input from the Syrian government and got no response. I wonder if there was something their tone or delivery that made this inevitable. As it is, the report cites mostly alleged witness accounts, selectively citing the video evidence those same provided and, as I'll show, ignoring important but inconvenient evidence that undermines the claims they chose to accept.

Why Syria is to Blame: The Short Version
The CoI make note in the report how people said they saw a SU-22 jet carry out the attack, and they note how it's a distinct and easy to recognize craft. It's just as easy to make up, but they're sure it was really seen, and seen in the act of bombing the town.
"The  Russian Federation and the international coalition do not operate this type of aircraft. It is therefore concluded that the Syrian air force carried out airstrikes on Khan Shaykhun at around 6.45 a.m. on 4 April" 
This is their central point that took a while to settle: for some reason it's now certain that jet conducted the sarin strike, and only Syria has those jets. They go into some details that are supposed to support that. So let's see how well that works out.

The Claimed Bombs Vs. The Radar Track
Interviewees  and  early  warning  reports  indicate  that  a  Sukhoi  22  (Su-22)  aircraft conducted four air strikes in Khan Shaykhun at around 6.45 a.m.
People said so, including in "early reports." Do they have any more solid information there was such a flight, out here in 3D reality? Like, for example, a radar track? One is available, but like the Organization  for  the  Prohibition  of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the CoI chose to ignore it and let people just tell them there was a jet, and where it was and what it did.

From the report's more detailed Annex II: there was a report of two SU-22 jets taking off from Shayrat airfield near Homs at  6.26  am, "at least one of which was heading in the direction of Khan Shaykhun." Then...
"At  around  6.45  a.m.,  interviewees  recalled  seeing  an  aircraft  flying  low  over  Khan Shaykhun, which is consistent with the airspeed of the aircraft and the distance that needed to be covered." 
This was surely "recalled," not just reported, huh? Good thing these eyewitnesses are more reliably honest than usual. They help verify how long the jets took to get there, for one thing. Radar records could also bear that out, and a supposed track of TWO jets from Shayrat airfield, both flying north to Khan Sheikhoun at the given time is available. A rough rendition was shown in the White House report they issued after the attack on Shayrat, by way of justification. 

But the CoI's esteemed investigators decided not to cite this, or perhaps to avoid even looking at it. Why?
"In the span of a few minutes, the aircraft, identified by interviewees as a Su-22,  made  two  passes  over  the  town  and  dropped  four  bombs. "
And this is why they wouldn't like that radar track. They wanted to report, as the "witnesses" said, that the jet(s) were OVER the town and then DROPPED bombs, including the sarin one. But the flight paths they report, at least to Human Rights Watch, make no sense, as mapped here by Michael Kobs on Twitter, and see at right. There are a couple of other conflicting directions reported around. It's all pretty confusing (I should have done more analysis on this...).

The lines suggested in the radar track make a lot more sense, but they never pass over the city. Here's the shown track correlated to the map: no distortion or error is evident. The jets are tracked arcing around Khan Sheikhoun at a distance. Most likely, they were on a simple reconnaissance mission.

Here's how that distance (closest pass, red line) maps out. They were never caught anywhere near directly above any of the alleged bomb sites. The pivotal bakery sarin impact is particularly impossible - no gravity bomb will slant 3 km north as it falls. Either the U.S. flight track is wrong, or these "bombs" cannot have been dropped from either of those jets as alleged.

The CoI could have asked the United States for the raw data to get a clearer picture, but it seems they chose to just ignore this evidence instead.

The OPCW were more measured, as they also ignored the radar track in their report. They didn't specify the munition used; by their report, it could have been missiles fired. ("Although,  some  witnesses  advised  that  the  release  was  due  to  a  munition  dropped  from an aircraft, the FFM was unable to retrieve any items from the site ... the FFM could not establish with a great degree of confidence the means of deployment and dispersal of the chemical.") But the CoI chose to be more specific and say, as most activists have from the start, that bombs were dropped. 

Specifically, the CoI think the three conventional blasts were done with OFAB fuel-air high-explosive fragmentation bombs, in the 100-120 range (small, gravity driven, with no propulsion or guidance). In my reading, that could be right for the damage, if the bombs were actually FAE (fuel-air explosive, small in power) and could fly in from a northerly position - that is, if they were on rockets or missiles fired from a jet or a ground launcher that was north of the impacts. (see here) The jets tracked did fly north of the city as well, for what it's worth. But they aren't accused of firing missiles from there, or anywhere.

And this remnant from impact site #1 should be matched to such a bomb. I don't think it can be. Michael Kobs notes it could be from a rebel "Hell Cannon" shell.I agree it looks quite similar, but could be from any number of weapons that are rough-welded, improvised types. I don't see how it could be part of a factory-assembled military bomb. But then, I'm no expert.

The Sarin Bomb
The CoI is unclear on the order of attack, but makes it sound like all four drops were done in two passes of the same jet, in unstated order but almost at once - "in the span of a few minutes" at about 6:45. (HRW and others say the chemical bomb was dropped first, at 6:37, and the other three at 6:46) Besides the three OFABs, the other bomb dropped was "a  chemical  bomb" that "landed  in  the  middle  of  a  street" near the central bakery and grain silos, as they found to no surprise. 
"Photographs of the impact site show a  hole, too small to be  considered a  crater, and the  remnants of  what  appears  to have  been  a  Soviet-era  chemical  bomb. ... Although  the  Commission  is  unable  to  determine  the  exact  type  of chemical  bomb  used,  the  parts  are  consistent  with  sarin  bombs  produced  by  the  former Soviet Union in the 250kg-class of bombs, which would have approximately 40kg of sarin, depending on the munition used."
Here the Commission revives the debunked Eliot Higgins-HRW claim that a Soviet-made ODAB-250 KhAB-250 or similar was used,causing this reaction on my part. Human Rights Watch found this to be the likely weapon, based mainly on the presence of some sort of filler cap on the scrap, and a green band taken as a painted stripe (that runs the wrong way on the wrong part of the bomb?).
Note how HRW matches the filler hole cap. Critics rightly noted that match was based on looking at the scrap inside-out. Michael Kobs explains this in a tweet responding to Timi Allen, a Bellingcat member (associate of Eliot Higgins). Allen had no response, by the way.
Here are some other tweets I dug up just now contributing to a debunk of this ID, finding a larger standard explosive weapon is a much better fit for the exact type and size of cap, which seems to be be a "charge well plug," not a filler hole cap at all.
Models OFAB-500 and ODAB-500 were floated along the way, and finally OFZAB-500 (standard HE-frag bomb) seems to have won the contest with Michael Kobs' analysis. But even if this isn't it and no one has a positive ID, it's clear that HRW's call was bogus, and it was apparently repeated by the CoI without double-checking. 

Of course if one of these had gone off, there would be far more damage and a large crater, so either it was a dud bomb, or the scrap was planted (maybe in hopes it would be found consistent with some sarin bomb, as happened). That would suggest the fakers didn't have any KhAB-250 bomb fragments to use. It seems few people besides museums have these things anymore.

But the CoI are confident Syria had such a thing and decided to fill it with "sarin or a sarin-like substance" (of an impure and caustic variety like terrorists have), took this bomb only they could maybe have, and dropped it from a jet only they have, on Khan Sheikhoun, to be photographed. Because ... why?

Oh, and they apparently had it done by jets that spoofed U.S. radar with false tracks as they flew directly above each bomb site, invisibly.

The Answer Blowing in the Wind: They Didn't Want it? 
"The Commission  also  took  into  account  the  findings  of  the  Organisation  for  the  Prohibition  of Chemical Weapons report on  the  results of its fact-finding  mission."
This I partially reviewed in July, here. They too ignored the US radar track that's quite available, and other important points including the best evidence for the prevailing wind. As the main driver of any spread of the sarin cloud, the wind is important to understand, and was the focus of my critique. 

The OPCW chose to rely on weather records for other cities some distance away, which only might indirectly show what it was in Khan Sheikhoun. They did this despite there being ample video evidence for just what the wind was doing in the relevant time and place. There are several videos that can be analyzed to get a best direction, as I did. As an expert in meteorological issues, Charles Wood, tells me in comments below, observation from on-site, or by video if necessary, is the only sure way to get a proper reading of the wind. As I read it, with Charles' input, the wind was blowing (at ground level and at upper levels) from the southwest to the northeast, at a speed probably in excess of 6mph (at upper levels), or 9.7 kilometers per hour. The exact direction and speed are debatable, but not the basic direction (it is debated sporadically, but not very well, and mainly it's just ignored).

This best method, however, puts any sarin from the bakery crater exactly in the opposite direction to have killed people in the area that activists and their supporters have always claimed. Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Jazeera, the OPCW, and now the CoI all agreed on deaths to the southwest. We see winds that would push the sarin fog northeast, into a less populated area where no one was reported as dying or being affected at all.


The OPCW did not find the wind was blowing southwest, as activists implied. Rather, they settled on a slight wind to - probably - the northwest. Then, in a separate questionable decision, the OPCW decided this unclear wind was super-slow ("no discernible wind"). "Witnesses" reported this to them. And so, coincidentally or otherwise, it was a slight down-slope that caused the sarin to roll into the yellow area shown here, that's the same as the purple area above."Witnesses" also told them about this slope (they mention "witness  testimony in  relation  to  the weather and topography").

In the absence of wind, a sarin plume would roll downhill. But this wouldn't be neatly to the southwest; as I read the topographic maps, it would roll - slowly - to the west, perhaps dividing NW and SW at a small hill, and re-merging around it. Any wind from the southeast, as they all decided on, would all but ensure the fog would spread northwest just as much as southwest, if not more so. And so the affected area plus other areas no reported as affected would be filled.

And anyway, there was no absence of wind. The OPCW made that up, perhaps on negligent accident, but in violation of the best evidence. 

With the OPCW's example considered, the CoI explain "The  weather conditions at 6.45 a.m. of 4 April were ideal for delivering a chemical weapon." They were not really ideal to get it spread southwest as needed! But they get to that. "Data  based  on  historical  weather  forecasts" is their basis to decide the following conditions were "indicated" by these almost meaningless averages:
"the  wind  speed  was  just over three kilometres per hour from the southeast, that there was no rain and practically no cloud cover, and that the temperature was around 13 degree Celsius."
They get less than 1/3 the speed Charles and I estimate. And their temperature guess is clearly wrong: you can see peoples' breath on video, which of course they used only selectively. They didn't bother testing this against what we see, any more than they did the wind direction or speed. Visible breath usually happens fairly near to freezing; maybe up to around 40-45 degrees Fahrenheit at the warmest (in my experience). That would be ~4-7 degrees Celsius. Charles Wood ran calculations suggesting it should be 7.6 degrees at the time. I can't verify that. But I don't think it can be anywhere close to 13 in the place and time where all those people died. In the made-up paper place where Syria's guilt is obvious, winds to the northwest move smoke and fog exclusively to the northeast, and I guess breath is seen at 13 degrees. Sure, why not?

As the CoI relates it, the OPCW found "the wind speed  was  low  with uncertain  direction,  most  likely  coming  from  somewhere  between  the south   and   east," but with "calm and stable atmospheric conditions" (that is, basically no wind). They feel their 3kph made-up estimate is slow enough to go ahead and agree with the OPCW's implications. "Under  such  conditions," which didn't actually exist...
"...  the  agent  cloud  would  have  drifted  slowly downhill  following  the  terrain  features  at  the  location  (roads  and  open  spaces),  in  a southerly and westerly direction. This is consistent with the observed locational pattern of individuals becoming affected by the agent cloud."
Yes, it matches their story, which is described as "observed" to suggest the story was true. Well, more or less (again, I call west or, if anything narrower, northwest is more likely than southwest). And that's probably just why the slope theory was decided on. It's probably why some activists mentioned the lack of wind to the OPCW, and told them about a downslope to the southwest. It's probably why the OPCW chose to accept that. But it is NOT consistent with the actual, seen spread of the alleged sarin fog. Their guess clashes with the video record, and the latter obviously wins.

The white fog everyone says is sarin from the bakery can be seen drifting north and east from two different spots well to the southwest of there. This is strange but true. Here's the spread of the clearer fog field originating at the southwest edge of town, as seen from far to the north. Looking south, the fog spreads left and towards the camera, so clearly north and east into the city, with a low hill splitting it. And damn, there is a lot of this fog. No bomb was ever reported this way. (See here for this and the northern unexplained fog area, explained as best I can.) 
Furthermore, according to the available topographic maps, this movement is all slightly uphill, on about the same grade of slope the OPCW decided such fog should roll down. Hence, any sarin plume at the bakery area (it's still not clear to me if there was or wasn't one) would tend to roll uphill as it followed the wind in just the same way.

Two esteemed groups of investigators CHOSE to rely on observed winds in other places, or on some guessed data based on historical trends, acting like this was the best they could do. Both groups CHOSE not to establish the wind clearly, from the actual video of events, as would be proper and reasonable. Both groups thus avoided seeing this fatal contradiction in the opposition's narrative, and were able to confidently blame Syria for an attack that defied the laws of physics.

It doesn't sound so good this way, but this is how it is: unprofessional and biased UN panel decides Syrian jet evaded US radar, as it dropped a special Soviet sarin bomb filled with terrorist-grade sarin, that has magical properties like spreading almost exactly against the wind. "Accountability" is demanded over this absurd and impossible crime.

Other Questions
(To be added to past the above initial article) 

Bakery/Silos Unused? 
(added 9/7 - thanks to Andrew for the tip) The report mentions the sarin was released near "a bakery and a  grain silo,  which interviewees explained  was not operational and  unused  for  any  purpose  after  having  been  hit  by  an  airstrike  in  2016." In comments (at another post) Andrew notes it's apparently used for something - a white van drives into the compound at 0:05 in this video. Why would they deny that? Is it used for something shady?

No Injuries?
(added 9/9 - thanks to Adrian Kent on Twitter for the tip)
28. The Commission has independently gathered extensive information which, in the aggregate, strongly supports the claim that the victims were exposed to sarin or a sarin-like substance. Apart from the fact that none of the victims was observed to have wounds or visible injuries, the symptoms reported are consistent with those suffered by persons exposed to an organophosphorus chemical such as sarin...
First, the symptoms are somewhat consistent/debatable. Next, no visible injuries is consistent with some chemical poisoning, but not exclusive. Third, an unusual number of alleged sarin victims DO show serious and possibly fatal wounds to the face, head, and neck (and nowhere else we see). Here are the 8 cases I know of: one woman, and seven children. Two or three of these seem  to have marks added after they were seen "rescued" on video (another may have lesser wounds added after a first and minor wound, and another boy apparently has his neck wound bandaged as if to be invisible and suggest he never was wounded.)

Many others, including several men and at least one baby, also suffered strange but less serious scrapes on the face. But just these 8, of a reported 80-100 victims is at or close to 10% of the total. The other 90% as far as I've seen do fit the description of unmarked.

So it's wrong to say none showed wounds, but still, most of them don't. This other 90% apparently died without such intervention, which was probably the plan, as they were gassed in basement gas chambers. Children were shown alive and gasping before they died; this was probably also planned for emotional effect, and could lead to some non-fatal underdoses. That maybe led to these finishing wounds, and maybe extra marks added to make that a bit less obvious (so shelling or accident could be blamed if it ever became an issue. But thanks to the CoI and others, the issue has remained quiet and so they haven't even had to try and explain it.)

Russian-Syrian Timeline Deception? 
(added 9/9-9/10)
72) Russian and Syrian officials denied that Syrian forces had used chemical weapons, explaining that air strikes conducted by Syrian forces at 11.30 a.m. that day had struck a terrorist chemical weapons depot.
Implied: this is the explanation for the CW attack claims in question, as it came from Russia and Syria - some accidental release around noon, triggered by a Syrian airstrike, explains the events ... that clearly unfolded around 7am. That's the best these villains could come up with. Well the CoI didn't buy it! Point 76 relates several reasons to reject this "explanation," capped with: 
"Third, the scenario suggested by Russian and Syrian officials does not explain the timing of the appearance of victims — hours before the time Russian and Syrian officials gave for the strike."
So guess what? It may not be their real explanation.

Russian officials did make declarations along these lines, and I don't think they've clearly retracted them. That's unfortunate and adds to the confusion the CoI is furthering. To me it seems like the Russians were guessing this, not being certain when the CW incident really was, but knowing Syria hit there at 11:30. If they were pushed to say what Syria did at the attack time, they'd probably say something like "nothing we know of."

Syria being blamed, their take matters more. Their explanation was that they conducted no air strikes before that 11:30 one. They deny they used any weapons of any kind on Khan Shaykhun at dawn, and they reminded us that they still maintain that they've never used chemical weapons. They do not, however, deny that they had any flights in the area at the time, just that if there were, they didn't attack anything. Being the first daylight available to see what's new in rebel turf, a simple recon mission is, in fact, pretty likely to happen, and to appear on various radar screens.

The CoI can doubt the claim of no dawn attack all they want, but instead they obscure it beneath the flawed Russian claim, and then suggest the Syrians admit to a strike linked to the gassing, but claim it was accidental and also fudged the time, perhaps to be deceptive. To claim that was their explanation suggests our enemies just aren't thinking straight as they mass murder with impunity, just because they can and they're evil, besides stupid and smelly. It's good propaganda but not realistic. The claim the CoI portrays is a straw-man argument they waste some time on anyway, giving reasons against this, which are worth sharing and commenting on. Aside from the #3 reason we agree on:

* "Interviewees denied the presence of a weapons depot near the impact point of the chemical bomb." We're almost surely talking about two different places, since we're talking about two different times. Let's keep this clear, okay? I agree the Rahma cave hospital appears to be bombed around noon, and I have a possible lead on another strike area likely bombed that day but apparently not at dawn - not quite the bakery-area sarin release point people refer to, but very interesting... "app. fog origin sw of town" as shown above. It billows (toxic?) fog all over town with no explanation, and might have gotten bombed later on, along with the al-Nusra-connected cave hospital hosting the victims of this murky event... 

* "The Commission notes that it is extremely unlikely that an air strike would release sarin potentially stored inside such a structure in amounts sufficient to explain the number of casualties recorded. " Yeah, you know what else is unlikely? All the crap these guys chose to lend credence to. (I won't say "chose to believe" - if they really believe this stuff, it means they haven't really studied anything and their gullible belief in handed-in stories is so pointless as to not matter at all).  Like, if the Syrians had bomed the bakery area, the sarin would drift away from all those people they're talking about... But they don't mention this problem with the "Russian-Syrian explanation" as it reflects even worse on the one they chose to lend credence to.

* "First, if such a depot had been destroyed by an air strike, the explosion would have burnt off most of the agent inside the building or forced it into the rubble where it would have been absorbed, rather than released in significant amounts into the atmosphere." Yes. Anyone trying to adopt the supposed Russian "explanation," as many unfortunately have, should note this as well.  Hot blasts and deadly sarin plumes don't work well as a team.What might work is a large low-heat fog machine, with some sarin-ish liquid poured in it. Say, SW of town, and then another just NW of the tel, and maybe at the bakery too? 

* "Second, the facility would still be heavily contaminated today, for which there is no evidence." Maybe.

* Another point I'll add: there's no evidence of the bakery or silos being bombed that day. Presuming the dent in the road is from that day, it seems non-explosive and too far from any warehouse to connect like that anyway.

It was always a straw-man argument, but passed off widely, not just by the CoI, as the best explanation Syria and Russia can come up with between them. As Robert Parry noted in his worthwhile (but slightly flawed) review of the CoI's report:
U.S. mainstream media accounts and the new U.N. report cited the time discrepancy – between the dawn attack and the noontime raid – as proof of Russian and Syrian deception. Yet, it made no sense for the Russians and Syrians to lie about the time element since they were admitting to an airstrike and, indeed, matching up the timing would have added to the credibility of their hypothesis.

In other words, if the airstrike had occurred at dawn, there was no motive for the Russians and Syrians not to say so. Instead, the Russian and Syrian response seems to suggest genuine confusion, not a cover-up.

For the U.N. commission to join in this attack line on the timeline further suggests a lack of objectivity ...


  1. OFAB 100-120 is HE fragmentation, not fuel-air. It has been a while, but I don't remember seeing much shrapnel damage inside the bombed houses. The report claims that they determined the type of the conventional bombs from some kind of "crater analysis", without visiting the town.

    About the chemical bomb, I agree that they just borrowed the HRW's conclusions without actually referencing the report.

    1. HE-frag, not FAE - thanks, I knew that but forgot and got confused there. I think it was a smaller bomb, of the FAE type.

    2. bomb/rocket/missile, from the north - but fairly small in power like they say.

  2. Good to read your thoughts on this, good points about the flyover path. Strange isn't it, a town with thousands of people and according to the COI the SyAAF still manage to target completely empty houses only killing one anonymous person.

    "Also on 5 April, one interviewee found the body of a woman and her six children in a basement, where they had apparently tried to take shelter from the gas released by the chemical bomb." - is this the 'cave' family?

    Some other thoughts, like Q I get the impression the COI has picked up the HRW report but missed the significance of the gap between bombs:

    COI: "Eyewitnesses further recalled how this bomb made less noise and produced less smoke than the other three bombs, which is confirmed by video footage of the attack."

    This is not true, there is nothing showing how much smoke and noise the 'chemical bomb' made.

    The problem is the HRW 2 pass theory has the chemical bomb being dropped 9 minutes before the other 3 conventional bombs. If footage of a first 'chemical bomb' did exist, it would have been shown on news channels on repeat - there is no video footage until the 3 plumes and, in any case, Mohamad Salom didn't point his camera far enough to the left to capture the area in front of the bakery.

    So the only thing they could have 'confirmed' this with, is Adham al-Hussein's alternative angle footage and put the 'chemical bomb' dropping at 6:46 am with the other 3 bombs.

    4 bombs at once is a massive problem for them as the "agent cloud would have drifted slowly downhill" and that contradicts all the witnesses. HRW says after the 3 explosions witnesses "said they immediately felt sick" and then give the story of Shaimaa Ibrahim al-Jawhar dying 100 meters away on a balcony and "young teacher" 300 meters away being affected. It also contradicts Ismail Raslan, Mohammed Juneid and the other White Helmets 'first flyover' story.

    COI: "Most of the interviewees at the scene when the agent cloud was released or who arrived on location shortly thereafter stated they did not notice any particular smell"

    Anyone "at the scene" when the cloud was released would surely be dead (unless they had prepared with protective gear), as such they would be unable to be in an interview telling the COI about the smell of freshly released sarin.

    COI: "Three of the bombs created loud explosions, causing damage to buildings though apparently only one casualty."

    Contradicting Raslan again -

    HRW: "Raslan, the Syria Civil Defense member".. and OPCW whooshing noise super-witness.. ", said that the attacks with explosive weapons killed his neighbor, the neighbor's son, and the 15-year-old boy he had tried to help"

    1. I thought basement meant cave, but likely not. That family is named al-Shayeb, and the VDC lists them as 4 kids and a man, displaced from Morek. A mother would have a different name probably and so might be listed, but the dad is there, and 2 kids too few.

      FWIW a cited article auto-translates to say "civil defense teams and the families found a whole family of prisoners in one of the caves ... displaced from the city of Murk in rural Hama" https://rfsmediaoffice.com/2017/04/05/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B9%D8%AB%D9%88%D8%B1-%D8%B9%D9%84%D9%89-%D8%B9%D8%A7%D8%A6%D9%84%D8%A9-%D8%A8%D8%A3%D9%83%D9%85%D9%84%D9%87%D8%A7-%D8%B6%D8%AD%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%82%D8%B5%D9%81-%D8%A7%D9%84/

      Funny, I cut some words from Google translate and it says they're martyrs. Cut a few more and they're "a whole family of a female prisoner". Finally alone the problem word is مستشهدة (mustashhida) and translates "cited." I've seen that before seeming to mean dead/died.

      Okay, back on topic...

    2. "This is not true, there is nothing showing how much smoke and noise the 'chemical bomb' made."
      I was going to raise that issue, but they explain the dent is too small to be related to a bomb blast, and that's on video, so fair enough.

      Bomb order contradictions ... I'll leave that alone for now.

      Did they copy the HRW report? I guess that's most likely.

      No smell: of course many did report a smell, and it's established that people suffered caustic lung and eye damage. That means impure sarin (if it means sarin at all), which will be weaker too, so more likely to be smelled and survived. But here they almost claim to have smelled pure, odorless, deadlier sarin. That's odd.

      "Casualty" means injuries and deaths, so claiming just one is silly and sure to be wrong. But they apparently meant deaths. We have reports of 3 dead, and maybe somewhere injuries are mentioned. But still, with 3 homes hit, well... many homes are empty in places like this, so maybe that could be it, but that particular story is odd.

    3. Hm... a woman and six children in a basement? Could that mean Dalal (Abdelhamid's wife), their twins, and the 4 Saleh kids, who died in a basement? But of course they were found (and I think shown) on the 4th. Or maybe, if the date isn't that clear... (clashes of this sort are more common from flippant first reports, not from stories handed in to the UN, but might be worth a check)

    4. Maybe that's what they meant, but the photos and the scene seem to be from the 4th, so probably a mix-up if so, and we can ignore the possibility.

    5. A bit of a stretch if they call later footage of the crater "video footage of the attack" imo but I digress.

      I thought of the al-Saleh kids too but that cannot be on the 5th -just happens to be the only page I have finished so far http://onemorninginsyria.blogspot.co.uk/p/amira-al-saleh.html

      Plus they are already mentioned 2 sentences earlier "A single mother who was out farming returned home to find all her four children dead" (not quite the actual story but obviously the same family). Unless they just didn't try to actually identify the victims in the stories they heard - a very sloppy report.

    6. I have found something useful about the report at least, pg24 14 lists the places the victims were taken.

      This is a possible for the 'Ma'arrat al-Nu'man' hospital (in west Saraqib)


    7. Fixed the orange box - can be seen on the EMC video, it is sort of split into 2 buildings, connected at the back


    8. 6-kids family: scanning VDC, I saw no good matches for 6 kids of same name. This story doesn't seem to fit.

      MaN match: looks quite good. 97% sure that's it.

  3. As discussed on ACLOS, using basic meteorology physics the temperature was 7.6C dry, 3.5C dew point and 75% humidity - based on 5C dry and 3C dew-point at OSDI and correcting for pressure differences using appropriate adiabatic corrections (NB, OSDI data reported to nearest degree C)

    1. Excellent, I missed that. Can't verify, may not even review, but sounds good. 7.6 seems a bit warm for seen breath, but I'm no expert on that either. (I said 3-7 was about right, but wondered if 7 was too high.)

  4. And just for confirmation, the temperature at Latakia at 04:00Z (UTC) (07:00C Syria) was 9 degrees C with Dewpoint 7 degrees C. Latakia is warmer than Khan Sheikhoun by virtue of being lower in elevation and also being on the coast.

    Latakia also had a wind from due East which is almost certainly a land-breeze. It is very likely the computer models generating 'weather observations' for Khan Sheikhoun were heavily weighted by the Latakia observations despite it being in a different microclimate, located on the coast, and at much lower elevation.

    Actual observations of wind direction inland under such light wind conditions and with an inversion can easily vary through 360 degrees in the space of a few km.

    We can use science to work out temperature and humidity but there is no way to use computer models and extrapolation to work out wind direction at a specific location. It all has to be done using actual observations.

    1. "... there is no way to use computer models and extrapolation to work out wind direction at a specific location. It all has to be done using actual observations."

      And this is from an expert. From what I know, I'd agree of course. One wonder what the OPCW's and CoI's experts told them, as they decided to forego observation and use made-up guesses based on removed reading or unreliable predictions.

      Maybe they said the same: observation will give you the right answer, so they observed the video like we did, didn't like the answer, and then opted to do it the other way.

    2. I think you have already mentioned these but worth noting:


      Alaa al-Yousef: "the wind had been blowing west" away from his house (i.e. towards the east as you and ALCOS have pointed out and as the plumes in the video)


      "when the toxic cloud that had sickened him was blown downwind toward his farm outside the village, his pregnant wife, 20, and a nephew, 9, had a far more serious reaction"

      There is no farmland in the OPCW's map of victims so it does not show the area of people affected. And as you've pointed out on a previous blog post, that means the wind was blowing in the opposite direction to the way the OPCW say the cloud floated.

    3. I did have to ask someone about Alaa's "blowing west" statement by the way and was told it should mean west to east but I'm still not so sure.

      I suppose what he meant is irrelevant anyway as Alaa al-Yousef didn't go outside - it was his father - then they "closed windows" and put cloths "over their faces". I'm not sure how easy it is for him to judge the wind direction outside with a cloth on his face.

  5. Of note is that all the explosion columns were beige. This eliminates the usual TNT based Russian bombs (mostly black smoke) and various types of conventional surface to surface missiles which are either black or white smoke.

    Also unlikely is the use of FAE ('vacuum') bombs which are mostly white or slightly green tinged.

    What remains are the typical Syrian helicopter bombs (ANFO based?) and IEDs and Hell Cannon which are both ANFO based.

    1. This is interesting. As I noted, I'm no expert, and could only say FAE was a better fit than HE. No helicopters mentioned, of course, IEDs shouldn't have southern trajectory as I think I see, and likely would be more powerful.

      So Hell cannon is a good fit, with that scrap and with the plumes. But how about the damage?

    2. plumes: Just a bit of study now - these examples seem close by color, but the shape seem more shapeless than we see in KS. Do they usually make more of a mushroom shape than these unlucky finds?


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