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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Douma Market Attack: Video Overview

Douma Market Attack: Video Overview
August 20, 2015
(incomplete, in progress)
last edits (major) October 13

Video Catalog: 

Analysis: Victims
See Victim Analysis

Analysis: Locations
Note Oct. 13: The geolocation of the four impact spots has been expanded into the post Mapping the Arc of Attack. The pattern between them (see mapping at right) is an arc, suggesting rebels to the south did it. Important point. Below is starting material from August, for what it's worth.
I like to be able to place a video on the map, but I haven't been able to do that here just yet.

On Wikimapia, two market areas are labeled:

- Al-Hal market in the south of downtown
- Commercial market a bit north of there.
Activists told Human Rights Watch (Aug. 20 article) that "the four airstrikes hit the crowded markets, known locally as the al-Hal, al-Houboub, and al-Ghanam markets, at about noon. All three markets are within 500 meters of one another." I see evidence for al-Hal, unknown market, and an intersection that might have hosted another market, not that I've noticed any sign - all withing 250 meters of each other.  

The red-roofed structure, with implied span of more of the same now missing, suggests commercial. That runs east-west. Surrounding building however don't seem to match. It might not be in either spot. Mid-day videos are hard to get directions from. Is this solar noon? Before? After? Depending, he could start facing south, east, or southeast, and turns to the right from there. But there's a left turn there this spot doesn't have, to the blasted intersection with flipped vehicles.

Smoke clues:
There's been some doubt if the distant attack smoke is connected to events at the market, but I think we can put these to rest. Video MD8, in its first scene, shows the smoke plume as seen at its base, still rising from one of the market areas, and seeming consistent with the big plume. 

Video MD10 shows at the beginning smoke from a view that could be placed (still below) Details: There are 2 mountains in the distance, left one elongated, right one pretty sharp from this angle. If this is mid-day. he should be facing somewhat north or northwest and these will be Qalamoun mountains. The "sharp" one might be a long mountain (mount Snir?) seen end-wise, IF facing n-ne (and video shot in early afternoon). In fact, narrowed time of event might help set this location ... Foreground, some kind of race track? Can this be in Douma, or is it in another town, maybe Mesraba? If I/we can identify the mountain and the foreground place, the smoke can be narrowed down to just a hair left of that line.

Update: Mountain, view, filming spot and line located. This is filmed from one of the taller buildings just south of the Fayha school of driving on the NW edge of Misraba, looking north-northeast in the afternoon. The sharp-looking peak is Mt. Snir, seen end-wise, as the Google Earth terrain  view shows quite well (rough ridge-line painted in). I put a green pole at the near building corner and at about the "shoulder" where mountain is covered by smoke. The lime-colored line between them comes out on or just right of al-Hal market, not commercial (market locations roughly marked in red).
Driving school match: note size of lot, little rigs, ramp in the corner, treeline, white buildings past, buildings on the right, every detail. Open to second opinions on the overall line and the peak seen. This seems right, zooming back out, and the near span crosses that curving road the same way. 

Locating Red-Roof Market, Nearby Intersection
So it's early to mid-afternoon, not anytime before noon. So sun will be SW or west-ish in MD1 as the camera comes in from the north. The market street should run somewhat west, as suggested by later afternoon views with long shadows running down the street. Al-Hal market runs that way, but it isn't a clear fit - seems much larger than this. Considering the red roof and the area the smoke clues point to, perhaps the view is a hair to the west, and the line crosses this un-labeled spot just west on the market. This too has an e-w orientation, consistent trees behind, and maybe even consistent surrounding buildings.

Next: not all details are clear, but most are - that last link seems to be to the right spot. The destroyed intersection to the east, when turning right, matches just as well. 92% sure this is it. Graphic shows the areas, here about 125 and 250 meters west of the al-Hal market. Both spots, especially the intersection, should be poring smoke into the plume seen afterwards. (update: al-Hal was hit too, added to graphic below, explained beneath.)

What was destroyed then seems to be no proper buildings; many of the trees in there seem gone/defoliated, some temporary stalls, the median in the street, where more stalls were set up, etc. So the market seen in most videos apparently is one - or it has tomatoes at least (another scene does). Might be worth considering if this is any more substantial than the bit of flatbread used to make the Halfaya bakery bombing look like that. (it has food carts and propane tanks at least, some sort of booths, etc.) 

If this is not a market, the other thing it could be in an encampment. There's one UNHCR tent or canvas in there, but these get around. This elevated view of the area helps clarify this was some kind of park, the main target. To me, it looks like the projectile hit in the middle of that, with a trajectory from the south, lesser damage into the food area in the street. That view also shows the outer walkway thing mostly intact, except for its roof. A park seems like a place people might camp in the summer. They need to eat. I don't see bedding, clothes, home items really - some things that look like bed frames, but these are seen in use at a market too, unclear... and we see the view out in the street, not back in the park area.

At the intersection, vehicles and pavement are damaged nearest the blast center - that was apparently in some low-lying building(s), now gone, that were attached to the taller ones that remain with minimal damage. At least in these two spots, there's not much rubble that people will be pulled out of or crawl out of days later, as some reports mention.

Al-Hal Market Scene
Other footage MID13 shows damage at al-Hal Market, I think (second half) - a different, wider area with trucks, where no walls appear. That's not from the bombs but market design, I think. These rooms are like booths or stalls to work from. Much more substantial produce here, carting equipment, etc. Were they hoping viewers would conflate the two scenes? Damage here seems lesser but substantial. Some awnings might be down, some jumble on the ground. The plume photo does seem to to show smoke right up to al-Hal market - maybe there were 3 hits in that span, which is wider than it looks from a distance. Still, no smoke from any other parts of town (except maybe along the same blocked line of sight). In these 3-market-ih areas, I see no collapsed apartment buildings or anything of the like to explain 117 dead and 550 injured.

Video MB1 - this shows damage, tomatoes, wounded, one dead boy, etc. at al-Hal market as seen in MD13 and other videos, not the spot identified above. Video MB2 is not clear yet. Some of the MD videos are unclear at the moment for location.

Another Market Hit?
Human Rights Watch heard there were four missile impacts, and three markets hit total ("al-Hal, al-Houboub, and al-Ghanam markets"). And there is credible evidence four four distinct blast areas, with four plumes seen rising in one early photo (these would merge into the one over a few minutes). That photo is shown here - original link misplaced for now. What's still lacking is any proof a fighter jet or any other regime weapon caused these blasts.

Considering the mapping above, and the closeness of of the two on the left, it seems likely the furthest one to the left is also a bit north of the others and at the "commercial market." I haven't seen any images that are clearly at that spot, but it could be it just went un-documented, bein further from the main scene.

Oct. 13 note: This question was explored and answered at the post southwest views analysis. Comparing the four-plumes photo and the one-plume still, lining up matching features, it became clear the first 3 plumes from the left line up with park market, intersection, and el-Hal, while the fourth blast is to the right/east/southeast of those. That was first guessed as and later pinned to a large warehouse/market area that way, and this helps finish the perfect arc of attack.

Attack Time:
Note Oct. 13: This gets covered more in detail and updated at the post Victims dead before the attack?
Answer: it seems so, but by how much isn't set for sure. Another important point. Starting material, FWIW, below.
There may be exact claims, other published-by clues, etc. But just from the one visual of the still above, I measured a rough but verifiable time, drawing a line from smoke edge to the edge of its shadow on the mountain. Just where that falls is hard to pin down, and for that matter the other point is a bit rough, but both can be gotten close. I get a rough measure - welcoming refinements - of 220 degrees, plus or minus ... let's say 4 degrees (graphic just shows +/- 2). This, plugged into the NOAA solar calculator (using GMT+2, DST on, pin on Douma, ) gives a nice and narrow window of about 1:35 to 1:50 pm.

That's video still time. The photo below would be a closer measure, analysis pending ...

Actual attack would be some minutes earlier - however long it takes a big plume to rise and develop like that (5-10 minutes?) Attack therefore somewhere between 1:25 and 1:45 (?).

Human Rights Watch heard from activists that the attack happened at "about noon" - if that meant literally at approximately 12:00, they fail compared to this visuals-based reading. The sunlight would be from a much different angle if it were true noon. If they just meany mid-day, then we can agree on time, but be more precise now.

Body Displays
Site 1: Men and boys, dirt floor (mosque?) courtyard, unwrapped then wrapped - canopy cover, west or southwest wall is blue. No gate at the corner.Body count: considering 6 photos at different times, there are at least 24 (probably 25+) in the nearer row, at least 17 in the back row. So at least 41 total. Five are clearly boys (considered here), others might be.

Site 2: Men and boys as far as can be seen and by presumption, wrapped, tile floor (mosque?) courtyard, similar outer wall but different, gate at the corner. Here, at least 44 bodies laid, one more brought in. A few are boy sized. This is most likely the same exact batch seen at the other site. The two sites are not likely the same; both outer walls seem to be west-facing, not on different sides of the same mosque.

Oct. 13 note: both sites were found to be at the same site, which was geolocated by Petri. Annatr school, not a mosque. It's about 5-700 meters from the attack sites.

Earliest Photo Time: The earliest photo I found yet of site 1 with dozens of bodies gathered was published on Twitter at 2:52 PM local time. (posting time, California, +10 hours), so at most about 80-90 minutes after the alleged strikes.
Oct. 13: A copy was later found at 2:23, and it's been timed by photo analysis - differently, from just before 1:00 to after 1:30 or possibly later - I'm saying range 1:18 +/- 10 minutes)

Some notes then: 
1) The bodies don't seem to display rigor mortis, which means they either died less than 2 hour ago, or about a day ago.  
2) The blood on them all seem fairly dry. No one's pouring blood, and only the worst injuries seem to be smearing at all.
3) There are at least 41 bodies, just of men and boys, who already died from their injuries, stopped bleeding, and got fairly dry ... no more than 90 minutes after the alleged attack. In all my research, I'm still not sure if that's possible, but it definitely seems unlikely. There was no rubble really to pull them from, and no sign they were under it either. Just standing around, hit by shrapnel, died and collected quickly, on this scale?
4) The injuries they supposedly died from are generally unclear. At least one has a missing leg, one a nasty chest wound, another a head wound, and some are covered up. But dozens of men and boys are seen, totally intact, just some combination of peppered and ripped-up a bit, bleeding from random spots, smoky by not dusty, 
5) Pants torn a lot with both the men and the boys, and with the men but not the boys, belts get undone and pants get pulled halfway down more often than not. This an happen by accident, or be a sign of disrespect for the dead. (that is, it might suggest these were people the rebels disliked, government loyalist or non-Sunni families)
6) Again, this is a segregated scene, but in all other scenes and records, there's still no sign of more than 3 women and about that many girls killed, to what seems about a dozen boys and about a hundred men./ Were they spared the way bombs sometimes do, randomly? Or were they "spared" the way Islamist war booty sometimes is?



  1. Just to start, a horrible photo, possibly relevant: adult male body, torn up from behind, head missing, hit with RPG maybe - some time ago. Covered in dust and rubble, no drop of fresh blood wetting it. The blood is tacky, rocks stick to it. Why was this days-old corpse in the market? If it was? horrible text: "#Humanland!! Only in #Syria where the human mixed with land & #Syrians die during #hugs #Douma #Zabadani #Harasta" So may not be relevant. Shady though, wherever.

    https://twitter.com/abdulrahman_edl/status/634344457417179136 (copy saved)

    1. Ok, posted August 20 that is. Only if it was taken on the 16th (possible) would this be a clear problem. I haven't seem much for rubbled buildings that bodies would be pulled from later, but maybe there is some and this is one of those.


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