September 6, 2016
last edits Sept. 7
As part of a sub-investigation, here's a space for site correlation regarding the alleged Taleb family home in Sarmin where chlorine gas was generated on March 16, 2015.
From earlier, here are some lightened screen captures of the upper level, from the 9:00 civil defense night video (Youtube). From the elevated walkway looking across the unfinished main floor (pillar with no roof).
Then the views down the stairs, onto the main level, looking right, and looking back. Orange-marked area is approximate - apparently behind the mystery structure, which we'll consider below. The stairs down to the basement level are indicated with the white arrow.
We never did geolocate this, but OPCW investigators were given a location for the siite, besides the first alleged impact of that night in a nearby field. These are shown on a map in their October, 2015 report (via The Trench). The northernmost pin is the one of interest.
Coordinates are given: N 35.903257° E 36.729642°. That points to this building on Wikimapia. It's on the east edge of Sarmin, right next to Abdo Salama school. (It's worth noting schools are often used these days to house displaced people or prisoners, but this doesn't seem like an annexed execution site so much as an inhabited home with children).
There are a few uncertainties about the match, but as we'll explore it, it's a pretty likely fit. At right is the best view from Wikimapia, date unclear. The night video would show then entering from the south side. There seems to be an elevated road here, and the ground dips down to the north.
They cross the walkway, and there are stairs down on the right to the open main level. Night video shows columns apparently 3 rows deep from top of stairs. The pillar on the right at the base of the stairs is not aligned with the next one north - that's a site match. Looking right: 2 pillars, then a wall - site match. That's not very certain; it's a vague place.
Site history, from Google Earth imagery: it was a vacant lot on July 20, 2011, but was dug out into a sort of a pit by December 5. Structure as seen is mostly done by June 13, 2012, little changed since, up to the last image shown - August 25, 2014 - it's now more than 2 years since an update. Below: 7-20-2011, 12-5-2011, 6-13-2012, undated view from Bing Maps. The December view helps establish some kind of dug-into-a-slope situation, and gives an idea of the depth between the elevated south road and the other sides. In the later views, note the dug in area along the west, and apparent gap for air and light along the south, running beneath the walkway. The south side and maybe even the north might be sort-of hacked into the ground. The east end is unclear.
It was reported, and accepted by the OPCW team, that the barrel bomb in question happened to fall right through a pre-existing "ventilation shaft." August 2016 report:
50. A ballistic expert analysis supports the statement of the witnesses, improbable as it sounds, that the device impacted through the ventilation shaft. There is a pale whitish mark on the right side of the shaft, which is likely the impact mark.
I'm not sure if we can see or verify this mark, or this shaft. Maybe we can but missed it. But just from above, and considering the earlier report gave "an approximate dimension of 3 m x 1.5 m," here's what might be existing vent holes or structures:
- Google Earth views of August 23, 2013 and August 3, 2014 suggests a larger square hole to the left of the south stairs, usually hidden in shadow. Marked B. Dimensions: app. 2.5 x 2.5 meters. But this doesn't seem to line up so as to be relevant.
That's all satellite views suggest, but 7 months passed between the latest image and the events in question. Video suggests there might be a new addition as of March 2015. The 9:00 civil defense night video, at 4:58, passes over something that seems vertical, some slab, with a gap at the base that seems like a cut in the concrete - with some kind of canister on the right, a little past the second pillar line in. This is the big mystery of the scene so far, marked ??? in the middle of the second image at top.
Apparent location marked C? (was too far in) This would run quite near the north wall, but seems a bit too close to be that. As it turns out, this is also about where the vent or hole should be, and also pretty close to slot A. No hole and no slot is visible - unless that cut is the slot, here plugged with a vertical slab ... otherwise, what the bomb fell through is on the other side of that vertical mystery thing.
Zooming back, at 4:42 we can see the workers heads silhouetted on what seems to be the same wall just past the second pillars (upper left view of top image, and here again at right). It's big, running at least the span of the purple line above. It doesn't seem to be any building to the north - there isn't one that runs all across, and this seems too close. It looks like a wall finally going in for the home, but it seems to rise higher than the pillars, and to not be based on them either, as they usually should be. Is it a giant ventilation shaft? Or a wall?
This could provide a higher ceiling here but an uneven floor above. There could even be a roof there and livable space already - with a shaft or blown hole just on the other side of the wall.
The hole/shaft is never seen from the underside either, that I've seen. Photos and videos taken in the basement don't seem to look up ever. All we can really see is that a lot of direct sunlight pours in. It's either a wide shaft with short walls, or a large hole. Next-day site video 1. Screen grab below.
From the main level, the second set of stairs seems to start at the left of the bottom of the stairs. The first flight: 12 stairs? left turn, 180°, second flight seems the same. So they should come out about
exactly beneath the bottom of the first flight. Putting that with my previous (rough) mapping of the apartment gives us this approximate match-up:
Signs of violent entry: Front door split in half may not be bombing related. Doorway to patio seems to have no door, but a frame for one, torn partly loose from the building. The children's room has a loose door laid inside. (images and more detailed analysis forthcoming....)
Debris pile along the back stone wall, perhaps further left than the hole... fire-burnt looking spot at what seems more like a blast center. Here for context, these are along the right:
Looking more right at the stone wall, with the kitchen just off-frame to the right:
Kitchen wall: unclear burn marks at top, neat hole punched in one spot, right at the bottom, and no other serious marks. This is possible, but strange. Is this just from the impact of a falling barrel hitting just outside the kitchen? At floor level like that, it would let the heavy chlorine gas seep into the mater bedroom - but that already had purple pools of precursors just outside the door. in the hall.