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Saturday, August 12, 2017

Ghouta Firing Directions {Masterlist}

Ghouta Chemical Massacre
Firing Directions {Masterlist}
last edits August 20, 2017

There has been a lot of confusion of where the alleged sarin rockets of the 2013 Ghouta attack were fired from. The emphasis has been (and will remain here) on the larger East Ghouta portion of this, with a reported 12 or so impacts of improvised 330-mm short-range rockets. This post will rather some basics and overview, and link to 7 sub-posts for 7 studied impacts (which is all we can visually verify so far). These are ordered partly by location, south and west to north and east, with the famous field impacts numbered 1 and 2, as others have done.

The posts, as I get them published:
* impact/part 1: Ain Tarma field, OPCW visit, impact #4
* impact/part 2: Ain Tarma field, rocket #197

* impact/part 3: rooftop, OPCW visit, impact site #3? rocket #153 

* impact/part 4: garage door 

* impact/part 5 sheep pile

* impact/part 6 dud through wall 

Total so far: 6 mapped impacts: #1-3 in Ain Tarma, #4-6 in Zamalka - here in red, along with partly incorrect HRW sites in pink.

* impact/part 7 (unplaced): just one clear impact spot that isn't placed: home interior, OPCW visit, impact site #5? (of 5 total). No rocket seen, just minor damage.

To move there when created:
Interior, photos:
same https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HwGoWoA9q4o&index=8&list=PLO_vQ_Y4lJ5AEko1PAuDDRt2-m4_1Y82u

Sasa Wawa seems to refer to this site (but exact video is now removed), to have decided it was the north wall of that place that was hit, and that the direction of fire was, roughly, from the north. And he seems to have it on this street, where investigators are seen exiting: 
same https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2AcdS4FmRyQ&index=12&list=PLO_vQ_Y4lJ5AEko1PAuDDRt2-m4_1Y82u
driving from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcA_dnjCzWo
visit timed at 1:35 pm (sampling said to run 1:10-1:50 pm,  samples taken from 1:35-1:46). So leaving would be closer to 1:50-2pm. Sun somewhat up the street from behind the camera, but more across it from the right, at around 2 pm, gives us an unusual street orientation - nearly all possible fits are in this small area in the north of Zamalka (Wikimapia)
8-28-2013 solar noon 12:35 -  1:35pm in Zamalka az 213 - el 62.46 (8-29, the actual day: about the same)

Whatever the street, a north wall on such a street should face about 5 degrees east of north. (is it northern wall? Unclear but seems likely from window views - lit surfaces nearby, but no direct light entering. If so, a west window also has no light coming in, but if we're 5º clockwise, that's no surprise - it's not much past noon.
nearby building suggests this was a steep descent angle
seems fairly perpendicular to the wall, which should face, at least partly, north
so firing direction would be ... or left or right angle? rebar could be studied from this video ...
other? As far as I know, only these seven have enough details to say ... HRW maps 12, largely wrong, and there could be that many or more -

* Impacts 8 and 9 (unplaced) - see here for now

Unplaced rockets:
rocket #165, triple bend but intact, laid on street - hit where?

compared to HRW mapping: 12 claimed, some placed wrong or not mapped, so crossover between their 12 and our 7 is unclear.

firing directions considered
single firing spot is the most logical presumption, but it's not certain. One direction clearly prevails, but two others seem possible in the seen strikes. What any others show is obviously unknown.

Initial take, 2013-present: based on 4 points, I was pretty sure the rockets came from just a little west of north, about 350º depending on the site.
a) Sasa Wawa impact #1
b) ...#2
c) ...#3 unplaced home with damaged north wall
d) Petri Krohn analysis of dud through wall scene

But more careful analysis managed to question that by clearly disproving 2 of these readings (a and c), apparently disproving d (though I have questions) and possibly disproving b, which remains the best case for any north firing. Otherwise, those and other scenes appear to have had rockets fired in from the northwest, around 310-320º on the compass.

1 nw (app. 315-325º)
2 n (app. 345-350º) or nw?
3 nw (app. 310-320º)
4 nw or n?
5 nw or n?
6 nw  (app. 280-300º) or se?
7 n or nw?

A Different northwest?
* How UN-OPCW Falsely Fingered Syria for the Ghouta Attack

rough material to organize:
Just from that distance, it was famously shown impossible
Jan 15, 2014
By then, the rocket blamed was still never declared by Syria as part of its CW arsenal, and no one had apparently asked after it or found any - either because they were hidden, or because they didn't have the things.
In the report, titled “Possible Implications of Faulty U.S. Technical Intelligence,” Richard Lloyd, a former United Nations weapons inspector, and Theodore Postol, a professor of science, technology and national security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, argue that the question about the rocket’s range indicates a major weakness in the case for military action initially pressed by Obama administration officials.

This finding has of course been questioned, but I don't believe this has been seriously debunked. It seems to be accepted now. Even UN investigation team head Ake Sellstrom...

This flew in the face of statements from several parties... before the above was known, and people might feel more free to make things up - hungrily swallowed and defecated by the mainstream media's presstitutes.

Kerry: "We know rockets came only from regime-controlled areas and went only to opposition-controlled or contested neighborhoods. And we know, as does the world, that just 90 minutes later all hell broke loose in the social media."
"We are certain that none of the opposition has the weapons or capacity to effect a strike of this scale – particularly from the heart of regime territory."

WH press office: "Satellite detections" showed "rocket launches from regime controlled territory early in the morning, approximately 90 minutes before the first report of a chemical attack appeared in social media."
This itself is possible - it might be a different firing. 90 minutes is quite a while to presume it must be related. 

So this is what U.S. intel was saying in late Aug. early Sept. - distance vague, but from maps at the time,  app. 10 km from the true heart, 5-6 km from the edge, and whatever from any specific missile site  ... proven impossible.

Questioned but not disproven - accepted by Eliot Higgins (looks only in range 2-2.5km), http://brown-moses.blogspot.com/2014/01/fourth-chemical-volcano-rocket-used-on.html
head of UN investigative team Ake Sellstrom, in basic principle (cite report).
WhoGhouta simulation http://whoghouta.blogspot.com/2013/09/umlaca-simulation.html

But in between, when no one realized it ... someone at the UN issued findings consistent with the U.S. claims, with impossible implications, and based on a provably flawed reading.
Not knowing, or not caring, the finding was heralded so ...

trumpeted in the following days  - C.J. Chivers, New York Times 9/18:heralded "some of the strongest findings to date that suggest the government gassed its own people."
“It is the center of gravity of the regime,” said Elias Hanna, a retired general in the Lebanese Army
and a lecturer on strategy and geopolitics at the American University of Beirut. “It is the core of the regime.” It sounds like John Kerry's "the heart of regime territory."

Kevin Drum, Sept 17
cites map: http://www.snappingturtle.net/flit/archives/2013_09_16.html#006904
2x 140 mm rocket, Moadamiya, 1x 330m rocket to Zamalka
BruceR’s conclusion: “The chances of this being some kind of attack by someone outside the Syrian government, already slim, basically have to drop to zero now, assuming you trust the UN’s facts as presented.” That sounds about right. Added to all the other intelligence pointing in the same direction, there’s really no longer any case to be made that this was some kind of false-flag rebel operation. It was a chemical weapons attack mounted by the Assad government. Sorry, Rush.

HRW report and graphic...etc.
HRW 9/17, Josh Lyons
Citing UN report:

Mount Qassioun, Rep Guard 104th Brigade base - 9.6 km to Zamalka, 9.5 km to Moadamiya 

Checking, Mount Qasioun is a bit northeast of  the presidential palace, with its middle about 7-8 km from the rocket impacts in Zamalka, and probably a bit further to hit Moadamiya (exact target spots still unclear to me). Someone at the UN was giving compass directions, from field evidence to support the U.S. claims, specifying what "heart" means, and the distance - about 3-4 times as far as the blamed rockets could possibly fly.

"a 330-millimeter rocket landed on what investigators described as “earthy, relatively soft ground, where the shaft/engine of the projectile remained dug in, undisturbed until investigated.” The rocket’s shaft, the investigators noted, “pointed precisely in a bearing of 285 degrees.” As it so happens, this points "precisely" to Mount Qasioun. 

However, I doubt that precision is from the attack site details, and more like the exact direction to the place they wanted to finger, simply written in with no regard to the science.

What luck! Another pretty exact-sounding direction was found, apparently, in Moadamiya, the other theater of the alleged attack in west Ghouta. "At one impact site, investigators found both the place where the rocket had passed through a “vegetal screen” above a wall just before it hit the ground, and the small impact crater itself. They noted that “the line linking the crater and the piercing of the vegetal screen can be conclusively established and has a bearing of 35 degrees.” Bearing usually means compass direction, and 35 is way different from 285. That reading that seems to be the Zamalka theater is specified as "in another section of Damascus" from this "vegetal screen." . So this almost has to be Moadamiya, and guess what? Mt. Qassioun: 35 degrees from Moadamiya center, distance 8.8 km. The northern half of the mountain is suggested. Exact impact spots unknown to me, and a different munition used, with different issues I'd need to brush up on. But I'd wager there's no more sign there of this publicized firing direction than there was in Zamalka. Whoever made those estimates was probably just pointing at the Syrian government based on a political reading. Because like the motive, the physical evidence never did point to them on its own. 
The supposed basis isn't spelled out, and it's not certain which site they refer to, so it's impossible to compare findings -but more than likely, they refer to one of the famous sites they visited, as labeled impacts 1 and 2. Here, all 12 impacts (not fully verified, from HRW map http://mm.hrw.org/sites/default/files/styles/large/public/media/stories/zamalaka_map.jpg?itok=2ijV_2RJ)
Numbering: the most-seen and best-placed ar #1 and 2, the rest by l-r order, radially from the apparent firing direction. Made sense to me...

So let's look at the original source:

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/world/article24761710.html#storylink=cpy

UN report, Sept, 16
United Nations Mission to Investigate Allegations of the Use of Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic
Of the five impact sites investigated by the mission, three do not present physical characteristics allowing a successful study of the trajectories followed by the rockets involved, due to the configuration of the impact places. However, Impact site number 1 (Moadamiyah) and Impact site number 4 (Ein Tarma) provide sufficient evidence to determine, with a sufficient degree of accuracy, the likely trajectory of the projectiles.
Impact Site Number 1
The munition linked to this impact site, by observed and measured characteristics, indicatively matches one of the variants of the M 14 artillery rocket, with either an original or an improvised warhead (not observed at the impact site). In the final stage of this trajectory, the projectile hit and pierced through a vegetal screen existing over one of the adjacent walls, before impacting the ground producing a shallow crater.
The line linking the crater and the piercing in the vegetal screen can be conclusively established and has a bearing of 35 degrees. This line represents an inverse azimuth to the original trajectory of the rocket, that is to say, the original trajectory of the projectile, as it hit the ground, had an azimuth of215 degrees.
Impact Site Number 2 is located 65 meters away from number I and with an azimuth of 214 degrees. Both relative positions are fully congruent with the dispersion pattern commonly associated with rockets launched from a single, multi-barrel, launcher.

So... this is 1 AND 2, for 3 that show direction, and only 3 sites visited in Zamalka. rooftop, another home interior, and the one field site.
Impact Site Number 4 (specified as in Ain Tarma, which only the two field impacts are, that we know.)

Impact Site Num ber 4
The munition related to this impact site by observed and measured characteristics indicatively matches a 330 mm caliber,
artillery rocket. The projectile, in the last stage of its trajectory, hit the surface in an area of earthy, relatively
soft, ground where the shaft/engine of the projectile remained dug in, undisturbed until investigated.
The said shaft/engine, presenting no fonn (form) of lateral bending, pointed precisely in a bearing of
285 degrees that, again, represent a reverse azimuth to the trajectory followed by the rocket during its flight.
It can be, thus, concluded that the original azimuth of the rocket trajectory had an azimuth of 105 degrees, in
an East/Southeast trajectory.

Based on the orientation of the impact craters, orientation of certain surviving munition components and other damage
in the areas, the rockets are believed to have arrived from the northwest.


Sasa Wawa at WhouGhouta - Moadamiya site details:
First, a detailed analysis of the Moadamiyah site indicates that, (a) unlike Zamalka, there was probably no chemical attack at this site, (b) even if we assume there was one, there is no evidence tying the M14 to a chemical attack, (c) the UN trajectory calculation is based on a dent in the floor that is unlikely to be a rocket impact site, and (d) the UN speculate that the rocket has previously hit another building before reaching the site.
Sasa Wawa, Sept. 19
However, they cite two impacts nearby with the same basic  bearing, so unless they both deflected at the same angle, this is either valid, or made up. Since the relevance of this site is extremely unclear, I won't bother deciding.

The investigators state that only one site in Zamalka provided trajectory evidence. This was a rocket dug into the ground which they believe was undisturbed since. This is analyzed here as Impact Site 1.

There are 2 major problems with the trajectory assumed for it:
The range of a rocket with such poor aerodynamics, a large 60kg warhead, and a relatively small engine could never reach the 9km implied here. (Update: the UMLACA is now reliably estimated to have a range of 2.5 km).
The report states the rocket points at azimuth 285. However, as shown here this implies a 5 degree angle to the wall, which the screenshots below show cannot be the case:

Sasa Wawa maps the firing trajectory by site damage and they consistently point more to the north., though neither he nor I would say our estimates point "precisely" in any direction.  To the extent I can read it, I agree.

It is interesting to note that the 12 impact sites seem to form an arc around the southern part of this area, which may indicate a series of launches made from the same point at different directions.
(as observed more clearly in the 2015 Douma Market attack, by the same Douma-based tactical geniuses)

pretty modest, really. Two trajectories, one a range and one inexact -
"Drawing a 60-70 degree angle to the wall on a satellite image gives us a northern trajectory (The red trajectory is what the UN mistakenly reported)."

location: impact 2, SW of impact 1 - direction: from the north (straight tube)
location unclear - direction unclear
location unclear - Petri decides fired from the north (by sunlight)

another site visited by Monitors Sasa Wawa used sunlight to establish that it's the north wall of a building that seems hit about straight on, suggested that it came from the north, if not any specific angle. The video is now gone, and Sasa didn't draw a line for this one. It's worth re-visiting if we know the spot, and can assess the damage. I'd like to see a third line here someday.The dud impact and a rooftop impact also might yield trajectories some day.

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