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Thursday, December 24, 2015

December 20 "Russian Airstrikes" in Idlib

 December 24, 2015
(incomplete, in progress)
last edits Dec. 26

Basic Reports:
On December 20, 2015, it was reported at least 73 civilians were killed in Russian air force attacks on Islamist-held Idlib city. It's said strikes hit a courthouse, a girls' school, a public marketplace, government buildings, and residential areas, injuring at least 150 and killing at least 73, 43 of who had been identified. (Worldbulletin)
As many as nine airstrikes struck the rebel-held city of Idlib on Sunday morning, killing at least 36 civilians and insurgents, said Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The warplanes hit a courthouse and an intelligence building used by opposition groups in the area, said Abdurrahman, whose monitoring group relies on activists inside Syria. (Washington Post)
Russian Denial?
Government buildings and even a courthouse might contain legitimate targets, but also of course civilian workers, etc. The other alleged targets are all civilian. It's pointed out this violates a cease-fire Russia agreed to just a few days earlier. Clearly, Russian sources will be denying this, one presumes.

However, the fairly reliable Al-Masdar News reported the next day ostensibly pro-Russian sources inside Syria claimed Russia did bomb the courthouse and other areas, killing dozens of people, just not civilians.
According to a military source in the Hama Governorate, the Russian Air Force’s fighter jets repeatedly struck the large building where the Shariah Courts were located; this resulted in the death of several militants from the Syrian Al-Qaeda group “Jabhat Al-Nusra, Harakat Ahrar Al-Sham, and Jund Al-Aqsa (also affiliated with Al-Qaeda)
As a result of these airstrikes, social media activists from the Muslim Brotherhood attempted to depict the Russian air raid as an attack on civilians; however, the Al-Masdar News staff tracked the location of the attack and researched the targeted sites.
The report also says a former Air Force intelligence building was destroyed, killing only militants, and one "White Helmet" worker "known for working with Jabhat Al-Nusra and Harakat Ahrar Al-Sham during their executions" was killed. But they deny any hitting of civilian targets like the marketplace or residential areas.

This is a dubious claim. One can see (in one of the videos) a lawyer in suit and tie and a bleeding woman stumbling out of the wreckage. Both are possibly staged, but if so it's quite believable, because ... it's a courthouse, dummy. Sharia court, yes, but they might still wear ties.

--Official denial goes here --
"...Elsewhere in Syria, the toll from deadly strikes likely conducted by Russian warplanes in Idlib province on Sunday rose to 58 people, mostly fighters. The toll did include six Islamic court judges from the Ahrar al-Sham hardline group, which is allied with Al-Qaeda's Syrian branch." (AFP, probably citing SOHR,  Dec. 23)

Lawyers? Defendants? Bailiffs? The other 15 people who were reported killed when it was 73+? Most of 58 is 30+, so at most 30 fighters, maybe 25 or les civilianss, to the 40+ once reported. The difference might be around 15 ... is that the tacked-on massacre, not so huge and now tacked back off? And otherwise it was fighters killed?

And still no news I see on a Russian denial or acceptance. 
Six to Nine impacts - or the contested ones anyway - might be worth mapping out from reported locations or if possible visually geolocated scenes from video and photos. I will try, and invite help. Somewhere, a list of videos needs to be made, and from there, a start on scene placement.

I did this almost single handedly for the August 16 Douma market attack that allegedly killed some 120 people, almost exclusively men. That had only 4 impacts, all eventually placed at the red dots below. As you can see, they form a perfect arc of attack showing the rockets responsible were fired from 800 meters south in this rebel-held area, not from any regime jet. 

That is, IF there are any disputed scenes they even show. If not, my guess is the extra strikes were just made up without even a fake attack, while the people were snuffed out as usual in a basement somewhere.

AND note that not all false-flag attacks will be as clear and easy to read as that one. More variation in firing angles, or two or more firing locations could easily complicate the picture. And so far it seems they've given us far less to work with visually than they did in August.

Victim Records:
I've checked the opposition VDC's martyrs database, and they seem to reflect most, but not all, of this attack. Idlib residents, killed by "warplane shelling" Dec. 20, 2015 = 46, all civilian (reports said insurgents were killed as well.) 44 specify "Russia" in the notes, "23 have note due to the Russian air forces shelling" , all one strike or not unclear. Breakdown: standard. 41 men, 3 women, 1 boy, 1 girl, mostly from Idlib city but some other towns as well. 2 Qassem men and 2 Eisheh/Eisha men all from Darkoush are included. Otherwise the names are pretty mixed.  

Others = a man named Homsi (means from Homs) from Homs, and a Bakour from Hama died in Idlib from Russian shelling this day (martyrdom location search). There a couple of possible reasons why. So that's 46-48 listed. 11 men unidentified, 35-37 identified victims (reports said 43 identified, 30 not).

Delayed deaths from injuries: few if any recorded. Dec. 21=3, different areas - Dec. 22=4 and one specifies "Due to his wounds sustained by air forces shelling yesterday" (or day before?). So some of these might be included.  

The 3 women - one says "Due to air forces shelling of the court," another blames Russia and says "her body was extracted from the ruins of the court building." Those are the only 2 with court in the notes. The men and children and other woman are just unspecified that I see (I checked several).  

Victim Visual Notes:
Residents look for relatives among the bodies (they never find them, the bodies go unclaimed in mass graves about 100% of the time). There's a baby with a possible gunshot wound to the head at 0:14 (pointed out to me)- also,  same baby and man in morgue https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=meQyKqU5g3w

A young boy and young girl, who don't appear to have been killed by shelling (intact bodies and clothes, no visible dust), are picked up from the top of a pile of rubble by "White Helmets." The "digging" takes a few seconds. What really killed them, and who put them on the pile? Is this the one girl and one boy VDC list, found together here with no one else? Or were there a couple more kids the VDC missed? There must be, with the baby as well... and the ... other baby. (oops, "Bidama, #Idlib" Dec. 22 - shady scene there)

Videos: seems a bit slim to do much mapping. Two strikes at least could be placed from what I see, but perhaps no others.
Orient News http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gP7Y_WQqTi8 "one of the airstrikes targeted al-Jalaa main street (?)" (area shown? an e-w street with long light from almost straight down it, afternoon, building hit is on north side. Says 5 strikes so far, 6th strike happens while filming, running distance - courthouse? Bigger building, people coming out. 

* Anadolu http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vEkS6D3RG2A 6th strike shown

* Bilal Abdul Kareem http://www.facebook.com/bilal.a.kareem/videos/1724538214432808/  sixth site, people coming out.

* http://twitter.com/sakirkhader/status/679304936325292032 flattened building the kids were found on 
* Euronews (?) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFRlr-rfNbw
* SMART news(?)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwGFcrc_1tk

* http://twitter.com/sakirkhader/status/678586753318592512 Residents look for relatives among the bodies
* same baby and man in morgue https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=meQyKqU5g3w
* http://twitter.com/sakirkhader/status/679304936325292032 the kids found on the flattened building
* http://www.facebook.com/bilal.a.kareem/videos/1724538214432808/ shows tattered newborn, just born/killed in womb, out now anyway, broken head and covered in grit (will be pulled, copy saved)

Bilal Abu Kareem says the attacks happened (started?) approximately 10 am.  A tweet says "in the afternoon" Orient News, filmed in the PM, as 6th attack happened. 
Twitter search for Idlib, urgent ( إدلب عاجل )
- earliest Arabic tweet mentioning an air attack and no dead yet was this at 11:21 am local time. First projectile impact/blast was presumably just a bit before this.
- Orient site 1 images up by 1:13 pm local time (Twitter's +10 hours) https://twitter.com/2a2ef4320df6468/status/678518515171729409 - suggested: it's not the first one but #2 or later
- early death tolls of 7, 15, etc. appear in a realistic sequence. (24 confirmed dead by 1:09, 43 dead and 150 wounded by 2:40, etc.)
- Orient site 2 images: barely appear on Twitter. I see people climbing over rubble that seems consistent here, posted 2:54 local time.
- body display by 3:18 https://twitter.com/Abobakr33A/status/678550040357543936 

retaliation: https://twitter.com/markito0171/status/678620289304035330
#Syria Jaish al Fatah bombing #Kefraya & #Fuah after #Russia'n airstrikes on #Idlib city break the truce

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