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Monday, September 25, 2017

Monitor Mahmoud Unravels the Quds1 Sarin-Chlorine Serial Murder Plot

Idlib Chemical Massacre
Monitor Mahmoud Unravels the Quds1 Sarin-Chlorine Serial Murder Plot
September 25, 2017 
(rough, incomplete)
last edits Sept. 28

Accounts agree no chemical attack was expected. Spotters reported jets approaching, and they expected bombs. But rescuers, activists, and locals alike were surprised to learn - from the noxious fog, from people falling down and foaming at the mouth - that dastardly Assad snuck this in on them. Some rescuers report having to run back for their gas masks, slowing response time, etc.

Interestingly,  in other reports the early warning spotter knew from the start this would be a chemical attack, and reportedly issued warnings to this effect just as the jets took off. Informed parties should have been warned some 10-12 minutes in advance. Maybe they were and it just didn't get through? Either way, this warning is worth a closer look. (hat-tip: Richard P, comments under this Bellingcat piece)

UN Commision of Inquiry report of August 8 notes
On the morning of 4 April, the sky was clear. At 6.26 a.m., early warning observers reported that two Sukhoi 22 (Su-22) aircraft had taken off from Shayrat airbase, at least one of which was heading in the direction of Khan Shaykhun.

One report found by Qoppa999, citing a New York Times report:

This New York Post report contains more detail:
“Quds 1, guys he has chemicals, he has chemicals." Huh.

Who is this monitor with that hunch? And what is the hunch based on? And what else can he tell us about his hunches or information on the mechanics of this evil plot? Here's a video with more detail, apparently from the horse's mouth.
Testimony of aircraft monitor regarding the Khan Sheikhoun massacre.

The interviewee is named Mahmoud Al-Hasna, - compare Hussam vs. Mahmoud - last name Hasna (Hasana) misread as first name Hussam?  Or even a thin pseudonym? Or is Hussam a reference to Hussam Salloum, another "volunteer with an air raid warning service", who was on a hill north of Khan Sheikhoun, where he says he watched the jet attack and a thick white cloud of fog he filmed. (Reuters, and thanks Andrew) Nothing about him suggests he should be the Hussam with the above prediction.  That Hussam and this Mahmoud have accounts and thoughts so similar, we should presume it's all one guy.  Note he's not al-Qaeda-looking, with his beard kept really short, or "just growing in" in that way that's almost universal for Syria-based Islamists that are put in front of cameras for outside consumption ("activists" - so he IS a likely Al-Qaeda guy by appearance).

He's described as "an aircraft monitor at the opposition observation post in the southern Idlib countryside" who observed and followed  two Syrian SU-22 fighter jets taking off from Shayrat airfield (way down in Homs province) that morning. So his location might be misreported here. As cited in a Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) report, he visually observed the jets and their markings on the runway (with a telescope, perhaps).

But as the only source to give much detail let's consider what this perceptive fella deduced, compared with what the presumably same guy said in the other two versions at hand.

Telling Conditions?
As Al-Hasna says, the time of takeoff, around 6:26 or 6:27, was not interesting; "jets armed with cluster bombs, etc. can take off at any time." Well, other than at night. All Syrian jets have to wait until daylight to see what they're doing.  He doesn't mention when the first post-dawn surveillance flights of the day would take off. Sunrise was about 6:15 that day, but he would probably agree this is a good time for that as well. 

More important was "the weather that morning was calm. There was no wind at all. The humidity was low to the ground."  And as he explains, Syrian jets don't usually take off "at such a time and in these conditions." I don't think that has any basis in fact, but I'm no expert who can prove it. There might be concern about fog. This, he might say, would rule out any mundane attack flight or any routine reconnaissance flight. Only something truly special is worth taking off when there's no wind and some mist.

The cold weather and low moisture (tendency for fog) is is ideal for sarin dispersal, and "no wind" can go either way  - the right wind can help spread it, but too much can spread it too thin to do much good. But an alleged lack of wind (in Khan Sheikhoun) became important for the reported spread there. But he seems to mean conditions at the airport - takeoff conditions. He also claims to have no idea Khan Sheikhoun would be the target (1:57 "we didn't think they were going to strikeKhan Sheikhoun..."). So he'd have no reason to know the weather there and use that as the guide to understanding the mission.

Or, is that what he means anyway? SNHR report: Mahmoud told us that he was surprised by the warplanes that took off from al Shayrat Air-base  at  such  an  early  time ... “I suspected that the warplanes was carrying poison gases, because it took off at an early time when the weather is calm and suitable for bombing poison gases, where it would be easy for the warplane to strike its target at a time like this." In fact, as he explains in In the NYP piece,“The air is still, and this warplane doesn’t take off at this time unless it is loaded with something dangerous, poisonous materials.

A jet won't take off IN those conditions, unless they're going to drop a chemical bomb ... somewhere else, you'd think, where the conditions are ... presumably unknown. So what the hell is he talking about here?

So the jets taking off despite the lack of wind and tendency to fog - somewhere - raised his suspicions and "so I wondered whether they might be carrying chemical substances." The "so" makes it seem like this was the reason for his hunch. But then he shifts to note it's because he knew that one jet is the same one that had been blamed for another alleged chemical attack a week earlier. Let's turn to that now.

Really, why he knew, was "because one of the warplanes that took off this morning" (fidgets with a knob on a device) "is the same as the one that carried out an attack about a week ago on a hospital in the northern Hama countryside, killing a doctor and causing many injuries. It was the same warplane. So I thought that the plane might be carrying chemical substances. We started sending out notifications, assuming the planes were headed to attack the front lines."

As noted above, the spotter apparently heard the call-sign Quds1, and repeated that in his warning. That would mean he was listening in on open, un-encrypted audio communications, or had the tools to break the encryption. This is possible, depending on many details I don't know, but is also a bit dubious. Some skepticism about that implication is aired in responses in this Twitter thread.

However, as the SNHR report notes, it was a visual pick of the markings on the jet itself (so he must have been very close, or had other sources):
Mahmoud  al  Hasna,  who  works  at  one  of  the  armed  opposition’s  observatories,  told  us that he observed on the morning of April 4, 2017 two Su-22 warplanes being prepped in al Shayrat Military Airbase in Homs suburbs. One of the two warplanes had the symbol “Quds-1” written over it, while the other reads “Quds-6”.

Aircraft spotters
At 3:26 am (6:26 am local time), ground observers working with an organisation of spotters reported that a Su-22 called Quds 1 — the Su-22 fleet’s squadron commander — took off from its airbase in Homs. The spotters say it is significant if the commander conducts the sortie, as they associate the pilot and his aircraft with other alleged chemical attacks in Syria. Not much later, they report that another aircraft, Quds 6, has also taken off from the base. 
Orient News claimed in an article that “a number of field, independent and even Syrian Civil Defense observatories in the countryside of Idlib and Hama” stated that “colonel pilot, Muhammad Yousef Hasouri […] the commander of the Sukhoi 22 Squadron at al-Sha’yrat airport” is responsible for the Khan Sheikhoun attack.
Orient News further writes that Col. Hasouri’s Su-22 carries the Quds 1 banner, and says he hails from Talkalakh town, but currently resides with his family in the “Al-Sakan Al-Shababy” neighbourhood in Homs city.
Zaman Al-Wasl finds out Hasouri is an Alawite, "one of the biggest war criminals in Syria," responsible for "more than 3,500 raids, mostly in Aleppo, and enjoyed suspiciously quick promotion.

Some note how Hasouri was publicly praised for destroying a terrorist weapons depot in Khan Sheikhoun, but less note that it was done under a different name - half-false, they think, to conceal his identity - in the public ceremony they could have just not done.

Gen. Mohammed Hasouri was congratulated by the Syrian chief of staff, Gen. Ali Abdullah Ayoub, for “destroying al Qaeda’s weapons facilities in Khan Sheikhoun,” the Times of London reported.
An image of the two men was tweeted by Fares Shehabi, a high-level parliament member in strongman Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Shehabi named the pilot “Gen. Haytham Hasouri,” but former Syrian air force Brig. Ahmad Rahal told The Times that the pilot had likely been given a false first name to try to conceal his identity.
Rahal identified the pilot as Mohammed Hasouri from Talkalakh near the Lebanese border, an Alawite member of the Shia Muslim sect that ranks prominently in Assad’s brutal regime.
Or maybe Shehabi just got the name wrong in his tweet, and maybe that, or concern for Hasouri's safety, and not guilty conscience, is why he deleted the message.

Following on the pilot's supposed public ID and details, there were reports that General Hasouri had been assassinated. The reports were refuted. I haven't looked into it.

As for his prior mission ... Al-Hasna sems to conflate two preceding attacks - March 25, on a cave hospital in Latamnah vs. March 30 in the same town. These will be considered in a little detail below, as they tie in with the Khan Sheikhoun attack to interesting effect. He also might be conflating jets: the SNHR heard the same confusion of attacks, but also explains:
"Mahmoud told us that he was surprised by the warplanes that took off from al Shayrat Air-base  at  such  an  early  time,  considering  that  he  monitored  the  warplane  with  the  symbol  Quds-6 taking off at a similar time before in late-March and targeting a hospital in Hama  suburbs with poison gases at that time."
This could be another genuine contradiction. But knowing the SNHR's mixed record on accuracy and attention to detail, it could be just an error, and they were told it was Quds 1, like he says elsewhere.

Tracking the Attack
Back to the narrative: So the architect of the Latamnah hospital attack was airborne, on a strangely calm morning, and monitor Mahmoud Al-Hasna was worried.

As he followed, with some kind of radar tracking (or just listening to other observations and/or the pilot's transmissions?) he watched like a movie as they flew north, and one jet conducted two strikes in west Hama countryside. By the radar track, that's possible.

That jet "then moved from the west to the Khan Sheikhoun area"and (flying east, or maybe after a turn he doesn't mention?), this first attack jet "dropped its munitions" on the city. (I don't think he specifies the number of bombs: 3? 4?) The pilot called in job completed and returned to base. By the radar track compared to the known impact spots, that's not possible.

Apparently this first pass caused all the explosive blasts at the dark blue dots below labeled blasts #1-3. The nearest jet pass is shown in red, running west-to-east like he says, way south of all targets. Bomb sites damage suggests projectiles from the north were to blame, and a north-south path is the best way to connect them into one pass. Mr. Al-Hasna and everyone else blames gravity bombs dropped from right above. The truth makes sense, and this does not.

SNHR: The Quds-1 launched the chemical attack "while  the  Quds-6  warplane  carried  out multiple airstrikes in the vicinity of Khan Sheikhoun to cover the airstrikes of  Quds-1.” (What "cover" means here is unclear) This would be the second jet that came (direction unspecified) and "dropped its munitions all in one raid." This was four bombs, he heard, and all chemical type.

Most other sources specify it was the first jet, not the second, that dropped the single sarin bomb. Monitor Mahmoud disagrees on the order and the quantity. He does however agree in this with Abdelhamid Al-Yousef, star witness: he says explosive bombs were dropped first, then the second pass dropped two chemical bombs (not four, but not one). This reads like two different scripts, one cited in two different versions by select insiders, and another of which won the day for the public face of things. When they conflict, at the least one should ask "who's right here, and why isn't everyone?"

Mahmoud has the first attack coming from the west, which sort-of fits the radar tracks - but HRW's witnesses described attacks on a pass from the EAST, and the best fit for the conventional bombs would be a north-south axis.

Almost any path could explain a single sarin drop at the crater, but not Mahmoud's unspecified 4 chemical bomb raid. A curving north-south path could explain my 4 possible release points (see below), but I already gave reasons why I don't think that can be simple bomb at at least two of the sites - more like large area fumigators or fog machines left running for 20 minutes.

Sarin-Chlorine Attack?
It's interesting how monitor Mahmoud thinks "the second jet alone had "four bombs carrying the chemical substances sarin and chlorine. It dropped everything over the Khan Sheikhoun area" General area? One spot matters most - that northernmost blue dot. Was this jet the one on the red path then, closest to the bakery crater? Or is this the other pass even further south of Khan Sheikhoun? Or a path that somehow didn't appear on radar, even as a gap where it dropped below coverage? There's no good answer there.

How does he know how many chemical bombs there were, and what chemicals were in them? This probably wouldn't be talked about in communications, and if it were, he'd probably tell us about that, or even play it. This must be some externally gathered information, presumably from after the attack.

But no sources I know of claim there were four chemical bombs. As noted, Abdelhamid agrees on the chems-later sequence, and on in it being multiple bombs (but just two, he says, not four) But he might be onto something. I think I see 2, 3, or 4 fake sarin release points across town, but no one talks about that. (mapped at right: the red spots, with a possible fourth plume at the ? label - see here) In every other version, they say one bomb with just sarin was dropped near the bakery and grain silos (northernmost red dot).

A few say chlorine was involved, or describe its smell (which in addition to this is enough to make you wonder).  Others describe instead a strange, foul, rotten odor, or no smell. Caustic effects (burning of eyes and lungs) is reported, consistent with chlorine or many things, like phosgene, or the caustic sarin used in Khan al-Assal in March, 2013.

But to claim chlorine and sarin both were used is quite a bad gaffe. Both poisons can harm and kill on their own, but they just do not mix to deadly effect - they would cancel each other out.  As Charles Wood notes "Of course the preferred way to destroy Sarin is Chlorine in water." Mattias Dahlstrom agrees: "Applying hypochlorite solution standard procedure in chemical weapon" incidents - citing a report from 1955, when that discovery was new.I've heard the same around - these were the handiest comments.

To give the benefit of the doubt, let's say he didn't mean each bomb contained enough of the poisons to cancel each other out. Maybe he meant one sarin bomb and 3 chlorine bombs, to be dropped in different spots. That could work to some extent, depending on the unclear details. But if this had happened, we'd probably see clearer indications of it.

But it's not just Mahmoud's gaffe - his version of the chemical bombs fits right into a pattern in recent attacks that's worth looking at for a moment.

In 2013 were the alleged sarin attacks tugging on Obama's "red line," crashing into massive failure with the Ghouta incident in August. After giving up their CW stocks and taking a break, the "regime" turned to chlorine, killing this way on a small scale from April 2014 to March, 2017. April 4 would seem to mark the re-emergence of sarin, but there were preludes, an emergent pattern of foreshadowing and confusing overlap.

As noted, some conflation between the 3-25 and 3-30 attacks, so here's a brief delineation:
(for more detail, in time, see new ACLOS page on all these)

March 25:
HRW heard 2+ bombs dropped from a helicopter around 3pm - one blew up 50m from the cave hospital entrance, and then the chlorine tank - somewhat implausibly - punched through the reinforced concrete roof of the dug-in hospital and filled the place with the familiar chlorine gas. There were two reported deaths, a doctor and a boy he was operating on - HRW and others add a first responder, for 3 killed.

I did some analysis here... Dr. Darwish didn't show chlorine signs, as I noted, but what about sarin? In retrospect, it's interesting that the well-connected (to terrorist plots) Dr. Shajul Islam claimed this attack was by chlorine, and by sarin, in the same tweet. (via Qoppa999 shortcut)
"we think its sarin." In the video shown, he says chlorine, like everyone else.
At the time I chalked that up to a fake-slip (like: "chlorine is so horrible, it's the new sarin, so I called it that") But maybe he knew something about the nerve agent trying to re-emerge.

I think someone later found that sarin might've been used here ... but maybe I was mixing up a March 30 report. UN CoI report, point 64: - chlorine, with usual cleaning products smell, barrel bomb, helicopter - no mention of sarin. The same from early Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) report noting the loss of their Dr. Ali Darwish.

So how did his jet pilot Quds1 get pegged for flying that mission? Does he fly helicopters sometimes and jets other times? Apparently, it's a mix-up with the case below - he put 3-25's victims with 3-30's attack details for a single fictional event "about a week ago." Or at least, that's the fairest presumption. It's not encouraging that he should be this vague about events so central to his important hunch. Does he know these local and recent events, or not?

March 30:
SAMS - barrel bombs are blamed (suggests helicopter). But: "these barrel bombs, in addition to containing the identifiable chlorine gas, were suspected to contain other toxic agents based on the symptoms: pinpoint pupils, convulsions..." (via Qoppa999) This is the bad claim I didn't attribute to Mahmoud. But the medical experts at Syrian American Medical Society showed their true colors and claim it: sarin-chlorine barrel bombs were dropped on farm workers.

The UN's CoI settles on a different version. point 69: an unidentified jet warplane dropped two bombs around 6:30 am - the first released a chemical with no particular smell, causing sarin-consistent symptoms and secondary contamination. The second caused a blast. Point 70 expands on this, concluding this was a sarin-type attack, not a chlorine type one. HRW findings same: there was a faint, non-described smell, and powerful effects more like sarin. Yet no one died, of a reported 169 who required medical treatment. NYP: "Latamineh — 15 miles from the rebel-held town — was hit March 30 by a missile filled with what appeared to be a chemical agent, causing about 70 people to experience spasms and foaming at the mouth." Missile means jet, not a helicopter.
SNHR report: "[Al-Hasna] monitored  the  warplane  with  the  symbol  Quds-6 taking off at a similar time before in late-March and targeting a hospital in Hama suburbs with poison gases at that time." That's a similar time to the 6:26 takeoff on April 4. A jet at dawn means this attack, not the hospital one, done in the afternoon with a helicopter.

April 3, Habit: “The  symptoms  are  completely  different  from  the  ones  caused  by  the  chlorine  gas, which we bombed with multiple times before; most recently in al Habeit town 12 hours before this massacre" Indeed there was a reported chlorine attack in nearby Habit just before this, which I had forgotten about.  (details...) After this last reminder, ... 

April 4: 
Launched by jets at 6:45 am, Initially reported by some as chlorine attack, medics claiming to smell chlorine, and witnesses describing a similar-color fog (though that was reported to have a different odor - foul, strange, disgusting). But the high death toll is inconsistent, and sarin emerged as the main poison, according to tested samples. The observed symptoms are a bit varied and unclear, and at least occasionally fake, but... neither sarin nor chlorine is well suggested. Victims "treated" mainly at a cave hospital, which was damaged (allegedly bombed) several hours later. A family hiding in a cave was found dead from the sarin on the following day.

Prelude in December?
December 12 jet-launched sarin attack at 7am, killed 30+, maybe about 100 Russian forces were blamed in first reports, but now everyone agrees it was a Syrian attack. This still deserves more study - HRW report heard it was 2 attacks, on December 11 and 12, killing 64 between them. - most of them among civilians hiding out in two caves after the sarin bomb was dropped near them. ... symptoms include breathing difficulties, red eyes, swollen face, coughing blood, and dilated pupils (sarin causes the opposite), as well as constricted pupils (HRW notes the conflict), unconsciousness, hallucinations, and saying weird things.
"The witnesses differed in their description of the odor at the sites and whether there was any visible smoke. Some said that they saw yellow or white smoke, but others did not. Some also said that there was a strong odor, although they could not describe it, while others said that they could not detect any. All said that they saw dead animals such as cattle and cats after the attack."
(this means: it was their sarin - SUPPOSED to be invisible and odorless but isn't. Sarin has been claimed. One wonders if the notorious "Quds1" headed that mission. No chlorine link noted in those Hama attacks, but there were two final chlorine attacks reported in the same area of East Aleppo on December 9 and 12.

Pattern Overview:
These strange December preludes, then two immediate preludes, then KS, for the following details in this extended transitional period:
- 12-11/12: jet-sarin (x2) 7:30 am - 64+ dead, hundreds affected
- 3-25: helicopter-barrel bomb-chlorine (or chlorine-sarin?) 3pm  - 3 dead, dozens affected
- 3-30: jet-missile-sarin (or helicopter-barrel-bomb-chlorine-sarin?) 6:30am - 0 dead, 170 effected
- 4/3: helicopter-bomb-chlorine, late PM - 0 to a few displaced people killed - a few miles and about 12 hours later...
- 4-4: jet-bomb-sarin (or jet-bombs-chlorine-sarin?), 6:45 am - with more sarin mixed in and about 100 dead, 500 affected.

What a sneaky plan to shift the focus and sneak sarin back in... without anyone noticing! Or?

Some notable parallels in this: chlorine-sarin transition, civilian targets, cave hospitals and civilians in caves targeted (as core event 12-12 and 3-25, as a follow-up on 4-4) - displaced people faring the worst - explosive bombs and chemical bombs used in sequence for no clear reason - same locale and dominant armed groups, aside from the December attacks - these and things like Shajul Islam's "slip" all suggest, if faintly, that these events are all part of the same terrorist propaganda push to re-establish the "Assad's Sarin" menace from the ashes of their failed chlorine regime. 

My overall impression of Monitor Mahmoud
As he followed this, Mr. Al-Hasna says he thought they were "going to gas the front lines" - he "didn't think they were going to strike Khan Sheikhoun," where there was no fighting, "where everyone would be sleeping in their homes, women and children, all sleeping."

To me, this is conspicuous show of naivity. I mean, his precedent is a supposed chemical attack on a hospital, but he honestly decided they must have switched strategies and would engage actual fighters this time? C'mon, this is the babykilling regime! That he would make such a point suggests he's playing innocent here. That could suggest he's party to a guilty conscience from being involved in this operation, and that they're all told to talk like this.  ("we couldn't imagine Assad would go gas innocents - we're shocked - it's not surprising - he's been doing it for years and we're endlessly shocked - where is the world community?")

In the SNHR report, he's quoted saying "After the airstrikes, I notified the Civil Defense centers to head for the bombed site," and good thing he did! People needed help over there. "I learned that a number of Civil Defense lost consciousness after they arrived at the scene,” apparently not prepared for any toxic gas (if only they'd been warned!). So he got some quick but confirmation that his strange hunch was totally correct.

Giving details for an attack that has so many problems we can almost say it just didn't happen - the implausible chemical claims - the adherence to a sidelined version with multiple chemical bombs after conventional ones - conspicuously playing naive and innocent, yet perceptive enough to pick the clues for the fake attack out of completely irrelevant points that might have been impossible to pick up on anyway - etc. For these reasons, we must doubt his "testimony" and wonder what really happened that he has to go making false claims like these.

I think he knew a false-flag chemical attack was coming at dawn, and would be pinned on those recon jets. He wanted to sow, or was tasked with sowing, an early record that could help others discern the right script to follow ("regime CW response mode, guys!"), and be cited by investigators as a sign of how obvious this Assad crime must be. ("That fine man knew it from minute one! Who are we to second-guess him?"). And so he thought up reasons to decide why he had announced that. There weren't may good ones to choose from, and we get this sorry slop.


  1. Hasna has also said that "Quds-1" was in fact written on the plane and it was the other plane that was connected to the Hama attack

    Hasnsa: "One of the two warplanes had the symbol "Quds-1" written over it, while the other reads "Quds-6""

    "[Hasna] monitored the warplane with the symbol Quds-6 taking off at a similar time before in late-March and targeting a hospital in Hama suburbs with poison gases at that time"

    I guess he meant Lataminah, where in HRWs report White Helmet Abd al-Munaf Faraj al-Saleh says "they could only find very small pieces of the munition on the ground"

    I can't help thinking it is a lot easier for someone on the ground to clear away remnants than for someone flying over in a jet. Unless Quds1or6 has some new vanishing sarin bombs?

    SNHR report link/old comment in wrong topic -


    1. Thanks, some very good points I should have known, even before that comment I glossed over.

      That Hussam sounds like a different guy from the one who sounds like Hasna.

      Some interesting points in the SNHR report I just added above, and in a few other spots. I propose Quds6 was just some error, but perhaps not.

      The report mentions a CW attack in Habit I remember hearing about, I guess on the day before. Now noted, in part.

    2. The Orient News article you refer to that says the plane "carries Quds 1 banner" also says at the bottom:

      "The observatories operating in the provinces of Hama and Idlib countryside were able to intercept the aviation talks with the operations room of the airport, decipher the code and determine the area the Assad warplane bombed."


    3. Small question: HRW has the sentry message recording at 6:26 am

      Would these be the corresponding Syria Sentry messages:


      6:21 am and 6:24 am? The 6:26 am recording HRW has wasn't actually the first warning about planes taking off (these are earlier)?

    4. Or looking at timestamp must be later (UTC+3 6:21 pm?) and no messages at all for the earlier time? Why no messages for that morning?

    5. Actually nevermind - I was thrown by showing as 3rd April on twitter. Must be this


    6. ..and then doing circles over Khan Sheikhoun at 6:47 am


      No sighting at 6:37 then...!

  2. Maybe worth a look, a possible for the location of the grass scenes


    John Delacour has this as Khan Sheikhoun but I don't think it matches. It looks like a place just west of Al Ghadfah


    The area seems to be under construction so Terraserver shows things that aren't on Google maps, haven't worked out shadows exactly but I think it would make the time much earlier than the EXIF data (which was probably wrong anyway as says April 3rd)


    1. That could be an April 3 scene recycled, unless anything clearly ties it. Nothing I know of. Locale looks good - if there are that many matching features, and it looks to me like this is on a hill running N-S? Good. The empty sky all around suggests the place is on a hilltop, highest buildings around.

      Checking the map for context... and thanks... not far from Maarat al-Numan, where some people were taken. Could make sense. Further yet from Al-Habit (just west of KS), and times may not match. The angle looks like about 9 am or a bit later, perhaps. Plausible for KS people on April 4. Seems like a Mosque-connected social center kind of place, not a hospital. Some seem ill, or acting like it. I think that's a water tanker, their standard medicine. The scene's worth more review.

      According to https://citizenevidence.amnestyusa.org/
      The Youtube video was posted 4-4, 10:58:49 UTC, or 1:58 in Syria.

      I can't find the exif info on the photos, but view image info says published 12:10:47+3 (so 3:10:47) on the 4th, no creation date I saw, modified a week ago. This stuff goes over my head a bit.

    2. You need to view a picture and remove everything right of the ? e.g.

      comes back as Date of Creation
      2017:04:03 11:58:39

      The time is clearly earlier so I think it is just wrong on the camera. I've got it down as roughly 10am for the photos, no-one obviously from the KS videos.. hopefully some clues in there anyway, I'll keep searching for the others.

    3. The image has obviously been watermarked and the related image 4067 ditto. They are a few seconds apart - maybe about enough time for a batch watermarking? I suggest the time and date are from when they were ingested and tagged into the RFS computer system rather than actual time of image.

    4. Could be but 4072 is 25 minutes later and 4065, 4067 do look to have been taken within seconds of each other. Other RFS photos have no meta data at all so I think probably from the camera?

      Unless RFS are randomly attaching the wrong date and time to some imported photos instead of importing the original data from the camera - which would be an odd system but always possible I suppose.

      It is the same problem as the Abdullah Reuters photos that have been put into Fotostation, even if they look right it's only ever going to be a rough guide.

      Can say for sure though that these were not taken on April 3rd at midday (if location is right)

  3. General comments on Syrian airforce.

    As you noted, the SyAAF don't conduct night raids using either fixed or rotary wing aircraft. This is significant in the claim helicopters bombed the Aleppo aid convoy as well as the numerous claims of night-time helicopter barrel bombs elsewhere. It's feasible that they are using hand-help GPS for night navigation but I've seen no credible evidence of night-time operations at military airports.

    There are some reports the L39 is flown at night but nothing I can find to suggest they are carrying out raids. Perhaps training? Perhaps redeployment?

    The Syrian airforce is a Sunni bastion. All their pilots are middle-aged career in their 40s and 50s. They have a minuscule annual intake though that would have been stepped up a bit with the loss of some dozens of pilots in the war. It's just possible an Alawite got into the intake and rose in seniority due to attrition.

    As discussed elsewhere. The SyAAF will certainly have a radio scrambling / encryption system. The only circumstances they wouldn't use it is to communicate with civilian ATC and with the Russians. They also have the traditional fallback to use codewords if they have to transmit in clear.

    1. Are there any examples of a typical Su-22 attack run that go directly over the camera?

      I have doubts but just to see how possible the supposed 'stealth attack at 6:37 am without waking people' really is? They don't seem particularly stealthy but not sure if videos like this are really representative of a 'sarin bombing run' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1wJfA-9TpxM

  4. Worth noting - Hasna is, once again, witness to a 'chemical attack' (on what looks to be a mostly empty field on the edge of Saraqeb)


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  6. Hasna now reported to be dead


    Paywalled but here

    "On April 4, 2017, one spotter, Mahmoud al-Hasna, caught a radio signal between a pilot and a command center on his handheld walkie talkie, and it sent shock waves through the network. He had been tracking the squadron commander for months, and he knew that the plane only ran one kind of mission.

    “Guys, it has chemicals with it, I am sure of that,” he radioed out, according to a transcript from the day. His panic rose with each new message.

    “Guys, tell people to wear masks.”

    “There is another aircraft behind it.”

    Minutes later, the warplanes dropped nerve gas on the northern town of Khan Sheikhoun, and scores of civilians suffered agonizing deaths. Many were killed in their sleep.

    Jaeger said it was unclear whether Hala saved lives during this attack, which took place during the system’s rollout phase. “I wish more people could have received our warning that day,” he said.

    In May of this year, the Hala team learned that Hasna had been killed in his hometown, Kafranbel, in Idlib province."

    Certainly an 'interesting' relationship here with the White Helmets




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