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Sunday, June 21, 2015

Syria Chlorine Allegations {Masterlist}

June 21, 2015
last updates February 19, 2017

Many of the following points are largely summarized in the September, 2016 must-read post:
Terrible Flaws in OPCW's Syria Chlorine Investigation.

These posts don't need to be read in any order, but this one logical way to list them here, with a basic enough summary you could skip reading all of them if you're in a hurry:

1) Why Chlorine? Why rebels say "Assad" decided to use it vs. why I think rebels decided to say that. Basically: he knows it will hardly kill anyone, but uses it anyway because people are irrationally afraid of it, a problem rebels could solve but haven't. They decided on the allegation because you can't just give up chlorine like was done with Sarin - it has to stay, so Assad or his air capabilities will have to go, if anything does.
Chlorine kills so few it seems Islamist rebels in Sarmin, Idlib, decided to kill some people themselves to boost the death toll of the March 16 attack. If one were doing that, one might choose babies. Three babies totally died on Islamist rebel video, and off-screen their mom, dad, and grandmother too - zero survivors.
2) What Killed the Talebs? This was the first and most important post: Luckily, from an investigative standpoint, they did it with another chemical so the clinical signs serve as evidence ... the babies probably died of a drug overdose instead.
This post also covers the troubling lack of proper medical procedures that helped make sure the children died, the role of al-Qaeda terrorists in the area, the apparent blood-filled massacre site (a less clear point), plus other points in a fairly comprehensive overview of our findings at the point. 
3) Where Was Dr. Tennari? The director of the hospital  says he was trying to save those kids, his eyes burning with chlorine fumes off their clothes. But there's video of the event, in which the kids are stripped and washed off, and he's nowhere to be seen. Also, a review of his clinic's procedures and the dying babies, and the al-Qaeda control issue. 

4) Who? (With a why, a what, and a where above...)
4a) Who's dying?  Maybe captives held by rebels. Partly covered at 2014 Attacks Target IDPs, and see also the Baytounji family:  likely Christians killed in Aleppo, Nov. 2016

4a) Who's killing them? This is built-in to each of the above already - the party with the motive, means, and opportunity will be the prime suspects. One of the main things getting in the way of seeing the alternative to Assad here is...

5) How? Helicopters? (forthcoming)

When? (why, what, where,  who, how... in case when matters, we'll come back to when, but it's not part 6. Actually, it's covered partly under why, part 1)

6) follows on the "terrible flaws" piece, cataloging more issues with the OPCW's probe. (forthcoming)
6a) Site Correlation (for March 16 attack)

Select Other Chlorine Attacks
March 16 and most other alleged attacks are in northwestern Idlib province, but chlorine bombs are frequently reported across Syria. Most important ones are considered, at least summarily and some in great detail, at ACLOS (big list) One or a few of these considered here:
* East Ghouta, July 27, 2015  (never followed up well)

* Aleppo, September 6, 2016: Sept. 6 fatalities seen on video? (if so, they contradict the chlorine descriptions)

HRW Report (Feb. 2017):
* Assessing HRW's Latest Chlorine Report

* Related: The Baytounji Family - unusual clinical signs, on a likely Chrisatian family with captivity signs.


  1. https://twitter.com/ifriqiyah/status/612782556992393217

    also > where's the evidence they've saved a single Alawite?


    To help save Syrians on the front line, the U.S. has funded $13 million so far in humanitarian aid
    to civil defense teams like the SCD.
    "It's one of the most important things we can do to increase
    the effectiveness and legitimacy of civil authorities in liberated areas of Syria,"

    says Mark Ward,

    a senior State Department official leading the U.S. government's Syria assistance team.
    "It enables Syrian civilians to do something tangible in the face of the regime's atrocities.

    There's nothing that brings a community together more than efforts to rescue people."

    "In the decade since the end of the Cold War," writes Michael Dobbs of the Washington Post, "democracy assistance has become an American growth industry."

    The U.S. Agency for International Development spent $649 million on democracy programs in 2000,

  2. http://www.thetakeaway.org/story/119845-libyas-humanitarian-situation-looking-dire/
    Mark Ward, USAID deputy assistant administrator for the Bureau of Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance (DCHA),

    US democracy-subversion groups such as The National Endowment for Democracy, the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute, USAID (all funded by the US State Department) have been active in Libya since 2005,

    a top Obama State Department official, Mark Ward,

    Mark Ward is the Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance at USAID.

    The development comes as Mrs Clinton has come under fire in recent weeks over her handling of the Benghazi scandal.


  3. Also pictured above: Ali Aujali, Libyan Ambassador to the U.S. and Mark Ward,
    Office of Middle East Transitions, U.S. State Department


    Mark Ward, a senior USAID and State Department official who worked with Stevens in Libya,
    said his wishes would be clear.

    After helping coordinate the American civilian aid efforts in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libya,
    Mark Ward arrived in Turkey last year to oversee the Obama administration’s effort to provide non-lethal assistance to Syria’s rebels.


    More than 600 Syrian activists, from different religious and ethnic groups, underwent training and received generators, computers and communications equipment.

  4. James Le Mesurier, a director at the Turkey-based group Analysis, Research and Knowledge

    James Le Mesurier, Syrian Civil Defense program manager


    To date, there are 2087 volunteers in 88 civil defence stations across northern Syria,
    trained and equipped with help from UK funding to carry out search & rescue, fire-fighting and First Aid.

    They have saved over 10,200 lives since March 2013.
    A number of the UK trained 25 man teams are now delivering training for new
    civil defenders across Northern Syria


    Civil Defense Suffer in Chemical Attack on March 16, 2015


    Tennari : what we want from the international community … we want them to stop the bombs

  5. On 16 March 2015, Syrian regime forces dropped barrel bombs containing chorine gas
    on the villages of Sarmin and Kminas in Idlib province. The attacks resulted in six civilian deaths, including three children, a mother, father and grandmother.


    The National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces (“Syrian Coalition” or “SC”) announced the appointment of
    Dr. Najib Ghadbian
    as the Syrian Coalition's Special Representative to the US and the opening of its United States Office in Washington, DC, on February 26, 2013.

    The Washington Office serves as the SC’s official liaison to the US government and foreign policy community on matters relating to the pro-democracy movement, including coordination and delivery of much-needed humanitarian aid to Syria. 

    The SC represents the united opposition supporting the Syrian revolution and working to establish peace, freedom, and democracy for all Syrians.  
    Our Washington Office reaches out to all Syrian Americans and Syrian nationals in the US, in order to help move Syria forward with unity and cooperation toward an inclusive, democratic future.

  6. Syria Civil Defence ‘White Helmets’ call for No-Fly Zone following chemical attack

    The attacks in Idlib came just ten days after the Security Council adopted resolution 2209 (2015), which notes that “the use of toxic chemicals as a weapon would constitute a violation of resolution 2118


    On 16/03/2015, at about 10:00 pm, activists from Idlib governorate reported that the Syrian government forces used chlorine gas in Sarmin town, an administrative part of Idlib governorate northwest of Syria. Consequently, a VDC contacted VDC's field reporter in Idlib, activists and medical units' personnel, who consistently confirmed the attacks.

    The team contacted
    Dr. Muhammad Ghaleb al-Tanari,
    the director of the field hospital in Sarmin town. He stated:On 16 March 2015, at 8:30 pm, we heard a helicopter overhead.
    Ten minutes later, injuries from Sarmin and from the nearby Qmenas village began arriving to the field hospital although no sound of any explosion was heard


  7. no sound of any explosion was heard

    Injured people showed symptoms such as shortness of breath, cough, sore throats, redness and burning in the eyes. The attack resulted in an estimated number of 70 mild and moderate injuries and no deaths were reported

    Two hours after the first attack, we heard the helicopter again.

    The wounded began arriving to the field hospital a few minutes later, showing the same symptoms as the ones from the first attack, with  some additional ones like vomiting, asthenia (muscle weakness), body discharges and severe cough.

    The second attack killed six people from one family, when a barrel fell directly on their house (in Sarmin).

    They had gone down to the basement to seek shelter from the impact of the explosion,

    as they usually did, which led to their immediate suffocation as the gas, being heavier than air, slipped down to their shelter."

    Dr. Antari added:
    "In short, helicopters launched two attacks on the town, dropping two barrel bombs loaded with chlorine gas each time, affecting approximately 120-130 people. We treated  mild injuries  with sprays, oxygen and Ventolin inhalers, the moderate ones were additionally given Hydrocortisone and Dexamethasone while the severe ones were injected with adrenaline in addition to the previous treatments.

    Among the injured were 15 members of the civil defense volunteers and the medical staff
    at the field hospital, who showed some of the symptoms due to their contact with the injured."

    The VDC team, led by the field researcher Ibrahim Abu Ghaith,
    contacted  media activist Muawiya Hassan Agha via Skype.

    Muawiya, who is a resident of Sarmin town and was present at the moment of the attack, stressed that he had heard the sound of helicopters at exactly 8:30 in the evening of Monday 16 March 2015.

    According to him,  the helicopter dropped two barrel bombs loaded with chlorine gas
    on Qmenas village, less than 2 km from Sarmin,
    where the wind carried the gas to  later.
    The wounded therefore arrived from the two places to the field hospital in Sarmin. Muawiya added:


    Agha continues:
    "The two barrels fell on the eastern neighborhood of the town;
    the first one fell behind the school of the town
    while the other fell on the house of Waref Muhammad Taleb's family
    who had gone down to the shelter a few minutes before the attack, according to the information we received.

  8. The most conclusive evidence came from a 16 March attack on the village of Sarmin,
    which left a family of six, including three children, dead, and an attack on Idlib city on 31 March.

    Fighters from a coalition of opposition forces walk on 29 March, 2015 in the Syrian city of Idlib, the second provincial capital to fall from government control (AFP)

    “Evidence strongly suggests that Syrian government forces used toxic chemicals in several barrel bomb attacks in Idlib governorate between March 16 and 31, 2015,” HRW said.


    HRW said it could not conclusively establish the chemical used but volunteers from the Syrian Civil Defence said they found remnants of barrel bombs at attack sites and smelled chlorine gas on victims’ clothes.

    Saturday 28 March 2015
    Rebels entered neighbourhoods in the regime-held city of Idlib in northwest Syria
    for the first time in four days of fierce clashes with government forces, a monitor reported. 

    "The armed groups have entered a number of areas inside the city and clashed violently with regime soldiers," said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

    He said the fighters had advanced significantly from the northwestern and southeastern sides of the city,

    and that the total death toll since Tuesday was 117.

    The city is almost completely encircled by rebel groups, leaving only two exit routes for pro-government forces.

    "The humanitarian situation is very difficult. There are refugees from other parts of the country who are in Idlib," said Ibrahim al-Idlibi.

    On Tuesday, a new coalition of rebels launched a coordinated attack against Idlib.
    Calling itself "the Army of Conquest", the coalition is led by al-Qaeda affiliate the al-Nusra Front and includes several other groups.


  9. https://vimeo.com/122457051
    +18 Victims of chemical attacks on(Sarmeen/Sarmin), Idlib Syria March 16, 2015

    A local activist posted video footage from a hospital in the aftermath of the attacks [Warning: very graphic footage that some viewers may find distressing].

    It shows a dying infant lying naked on a table and the limp, naked bodies
    of the other two Taleb children being brought in and placed on top of their mother’s corpse on a hospital bed.


    In a closed-door meeting on April 17, the UN Security Council heard first-hand accounts from Syrian doctors of the same attack.

    Evidence presented during the meeting included a video showing doctors trying to save the lives of three childrens  following the attack as they coughed and struggled to breathe due to liquid accumulation in their lungs.


    Hamish De Bretton, one of the world's leading chemical-weapons experts,
    told Al Jazeera
    that he trained people in Syria during September 2014 to collect samples of the attacks
    which would be admissible in the ICC and UN.

    "Last week I was on the Syrian border and was handed samples from the March chlorine barrel bomb attacks in Sarmin which proved positive for chlorine. This attack killed six people and injured 85 and this evidence was presented to the UNSC last night," he said.

  10. Tuesday 16 June 2015 Sams

    A network of Syrian doctors is due to tell the US Congress that Bashar al-Assad’s regime is systematically weaponising chlorine to spread fear among civilian populations, in defiance of a recent UN security council resolution.

    The testimony on Wednesday will be accompanied by a dossier of evidence compiled by

    the Syrian American Medical Society (Sams),
    a charity that runs 95 medical facilities inside the country.

    It documents 31 separate chlorine attacks between 16 March and 9 June.
    The charity says all the attacks were conducted by launching barrel bombs from helicopters and many targeted civilian areas, leaving 10 dead and at least 530 people seeking medical treatment.

    The lead medical coordinator for Sams in Idlib province,
    Dr Mohamed Tennari,

    has flown to Washington DC and has been invited to testify in front of the House foreign affairs committee on Wednesday morning

    Tennari, who set up a field hospital in Sarmin four years ago,
    will tell US lawmakers that the vast majority of chlorine attacks identified by Sams

    occur at night.

    The barrels do not explode.

    Instead the vapour seeps silently into houses and sinks down into basements where residents are likely to be sheltering from conventional explosives.

    There the toxic gas can choke its victims as it reacts inside the lungs to produce liquid hydrochloric acid.

    On 6 March, the UN security council passed a resolution condemning the use of chlorine as a weapon and threatening action, including possible military action, if such attacks occurred. But it is not clear what steps the security council will take if the regime is found in breach.

    The Sams data only reflects attacks that have been confirmed by the charity’s own facilities, and only those taking place in Idlib province.

    Other activists, including the White Helmets, a volunteer rescue service who will also testify at the hearing, have reported further incidents in the adjoining Hama province.


  11. As can be seen from the screen grabs below the Demotix images were originally dated 25 August 2013
    (top left corner of images, click to enlarge).
    At some point after the screen grabs were made, on 16 December 2013, Demotix amended the date to 26 August 2013.


    On 26 Aug 2013, at 02:00 pm, the Syrian air forces shelled ‘Iqraa’ Institution
    in Orm Al Kubra in Aleppo, which had been under the Free Army’s control for several months then.

    The VDC report  quotes activist Mustapha Haid (p5):

    “At 3 in the afternoon, On 26 Aug 2013, I was in Al Atareb City and I heard rumours
    about a ‘chemical attack’ on Orm Al Kubra and that tens of casualties were brought
    to Al Atareb Hospital”

  12. www.whitehelmets.org wants your money. They will use it to build chlorine gas weapons like those that killed 5 yesterday. They don’t care about who they kill, this is just business for them. They are committing atrocities, blaming them on Russia and Syria, in a last ditch attempt to hold Aleppo and to secure their heavy mortar sites, where their bombardment has terrorized Syria’s largest city and held the Assad government hostage.

    There people and those who support them in the West are a “piece of work.”

    The terrorists that, for years now, have randomly mortared Aleppo neighborhoods killing hundreds now have a mantra. They hate barrel bombs they say. What they are complaining about is helicopter borne aerial bombardment, the most accurate imaginable, which has wiped out dozens of terrorist mortar positions and saved hundreds of lives in the process. The video below shows the same group loading a massive 300mm mortar used against civilians in Aleppo:


    1. Ah, VT ... not convinced the White Helmets deliver the chlorine, just that they help cover up the truth and blame "Assad," which is an important part of the sick trick. I heard there was an attack in Aleppo the other day, same day chlorine was said to be used in Saraqeb. Five were killed? I should read up.


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