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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Idlib Chemical Massacre: Early Hospital Admissions?

Idlib Chemical Massacre
The When and Where
Early Hospital Admissions?
November 12, 2017
(rough, incomplete)

A very important point, or possible point, of evidence against the opposition's narrative of the April 4 Khan Sheikhoun chemical massacre has emerged in recent days. It seems many victims were gassed before the alleged attack, as shown by hospital admission records with patients admitted with symptoms up to nearly an hour before the incident, and continuing over time up to and past the incident. 

This, at least, is a logical reading of the curious findings related by the UN-OPCW joint investigative mechanism in its 7th and perhaps final report of October 26 (see my review here). Recall the opposition narrative has been and remains: jets overflew and attacks at about 6:37 and 6:46 am, by most accounts dropping the sarin bomb first, but in some version in the second run, or in an only run at some other time in about that range (the range for which there's radar evidence for jets nearby but not close enough). So the story is a bit wiggly, but not enough to squirm out of this problem, if the problem proves to be genuine.

What the JIM says: 7th report, final version, Oct 26 (PDF link)
77. Certain irregularities were observed in elements of the information analysed. For example, several hospitals appeared to have begun admitting casualties of the attack between 0640 and 0645 hours. The Mechanism received the medical records of 247 patients from Khan Shaykhun who had been admitted to various health-care facilities, including survivors and a number of victims who eventually died from exposure to a chemical agent. The admission times noted in the records range from 0600 to 1600 hours. Analysis of the records revealed that in 57 cases, patients had been admitted to five hospitals before the incident (at 0600, 0620 and 0640 hours). In 10 of those cases, patients appear to have been admitted to a hospital 125 km away from Khan Shaykhun at 0700 hours, while another 42 patients appear to have been admitted to a hospital 30 km away at 0700 hours. The Mechanism did not investigate those discrepancies and cannot determine whether they are linked to any possible staging scenario, or to poor record-keeping in chaotic conditions
Intriguingly, they acknowledge a possible "staging scenario" (a faked CW attack, as I suspect), for which these too-early victims could be evidence. But then, it could be an honest mix-up. Between too-early admissions and admission after the attack but too far to have traveled, there are 109 cases in trouble. (they say the other 10 are "of those," suggesting of the 57, but they can't be - the 57 were all admitted by 6:40 and these 10 and 42 are coming in at 7. That's "of those" 247, nearly half have implausible times. 

This would be a real seam showing, if true - another among many already known. It seems to stand out as the clearest new twist from this latest report, highlighted as a key counter-evidence by Robert Parry, for example. But such evidence takes extra care that seems in short order on all sides. People get rushed, etc.

Consider the given times: 6:00, 6:20, 6:40 am, and others who must have set out long before 7:00 to reach hospitals 125 km away. 109 victims total, all sent out too early? That would be a sign of a clear and strangely inept conspiracy. I have doubts from the get-go.

First, these times all seem rounded off, perhaps to the nearest 20-minute mark. So that earliest 6:00 am could be anywhere from 5:50 to 6:10, using standard rounding logic.

Next, I notice the times tend to be just about one hour off from reasonable admission times, which might be important. With an attack at 6:37-46 or so, swift first admissions might be expected by around 7am, and possibly even before, depending. 7:20 and 7:40 (rounded) seem like good times for the main crush of victims to be admitted. Exact victim locales, response details, receiving clinics all unknown, this is just a guess.  8:00 at further points makes sense, but they got there an hour early?

So if they started gassing people or admitting fake patients too early for the attack, they did it quite a bit, kept doing it over a span of time and not in one fluke slip-up, with 7 medical facilities involved, and did it just about one hour early for a realistic span of admissions. In fact, if this is the case, it seems a majority and perhaps all of the victims were gassed too early. To me, that seems possible but very questionable. Isn't there a more logical explanation?


Daylight savings time had just set in 4 days earlier (observed March 31 in Syria). That's long enough most people and certainly a normal hospital will have "sprung forward" by then. But for what it's worth, anyone who didn't would have clocks saying 6:00 when it's actually 7. But If this is a clock error, it's shared by several facilities in the area.

And then there's Turkey time: no changes this year, nor last fall - they sprang forward in 2016, but the next scheduled change is Spring 2019 - in the meantime, it seems, they're on a 3-year trial run of staying on summer time all year round. (Charles Wood on Twitter)

There are a few different ways either or both of these facts could combine to cause regional confusion of about an hour.

Possibility: a script hatched in Turkey before DST, and some forgot to adjust? Turkey-based groups supply most info (Qoppa999) The plan may have been set before 3-31 DST change "and the timing was misunderstood/differently implemented ....?"(Qoppa999)
THE SCRIPT was set in Turkey. And then by main actors in KS implemented according to local time. But the hospitals got orders from Turkey only after March 31, and didn't realise the time difference ...Qoppa999

When would this plan be hatched? Likely before March 25, when mixed chlorine/sarin attack claims in the area began at a cave hospital - see whole campaign considered here at ACLOS.

And other less interesting possibilities also exist. 

So as exciting as this revelation seems or seemed... 
This might be the genuine huge clue it's been taken for, but its resemblance to a time error spoils any kind of certainty. So as I see it, it can't be the kind of clear evidence we need to help over-prove the case against the opposition's story. That's okay. It's over-proved enough as it is. It might be worth pursuing some supporting information for possibility of genuine too-early admissions. But in the meantime, it should be considered a possible and likely time mix-up. 

In fact, it's almost certain the JIM considered this option, but for some reason they chose not to mention that. This leaves it seeming like a good clue that might prove to be false lead. That is, it might be an informational trap we should avoid falling into. Note, they say "records revealed" that 57 "had been admitted to five hospitals before the incident". I wouldn't write it like that, on a good day. Someone at, say, Veterans Today would. I'd say records suggested. But here... the JIM wants us to perceive them as "revealing" something? I mean, why else would they use that word right in the text? When just below that they say it could be mix-up and not a revelation? And they also fail to explain how logical and likely a mix-up would be? Hm...

My suspicion: the wording of this "revelation" like "had been admitted" was bait in a deliberate act of messing with our heads to keep us asking the wrong questions. Would they do that? I don't know. Would they make up a wrong impact angle just to point at the government, or ignore radar records and the true wind and shift the attack site anyway just to keep the blame on the government? They did those things and more in their investigations so far...knowing their reports get mined by people looking for such things, might such shifty people include tainted tidbits like this?


  1. Yes. The other side is not your friend and you don't know what they're keeping up their sleeve. If I believe I'm right I hold on to that bone...and don't risk loosing it by any rash or hasty action. They are bad losers and even when you beat them they'll still act like it never happened. "Shifty" is right...masters at changing the subject. I like it.

  2. If I remember rightly, one video showed hospital records and they were just a handwritten list of names. So could be argued either way, seems likely they just made up the times (and possibly names).

    Based on the testimony and appearance of the crater only when the journalists arrived 2 hours later, my 'staging' theory is it seems to have originally been a very simple idea where the explosions filmed were the 'chemical bombs'. Then someone more sophisticated pointed out that that didn't work and the to-be-out-of-shot-on-original-video-made-it-slightly-too-far-away crater for the instantly affected witnesses was introduced.

    The source of the sarin is obviously the more important and difficult thing to explain.

    1. And then, as you say, the records and times might be made-up anyway. A little wrong if so...

      That's an intriguing theory I like. Looks blasts, and in that area, deadly fog, people dead from sarin ... if it weren't for explosions destroying the stuff, that would work a lot better, so maybe it was some bonehead's original plan. Manybe the crater and downwind/upwind victims being rush-tagged onto that late change could explain the lack of care in setting that up right. With a little more care they could have got the wind right and say a couple hundred displaced people were trying to shelter inside the destroyed grain silos and sadly a lot of them were killed.

    2. Right - they might have got the plane timing better too, the SyAAF really don't have a way to drop these bombs without being tracked.

      I thought Bellingcat might disagree with the Russian calculations but they've just gone for pointing out the metal parts the OPCW FFM asked for because they looked consistent with a chemical bomb (S/2017/931 4.10)... look somewhat consistent with parts on a chemical bomb drawing. Not a great shock?

      Perhaps they can't work out how it is possible either - and accepting the JIM plumes video timing and radar track, the plane has to drop the 4 bombs (or, if just 1 bomb, explain why the locals were blowing up their own town at the time).

      Shouldn't be any ambiguity as it is a mathematical problem.

    3. + the plane is flying low enough to be seen by spotters and identified as a Su-22 flying in a circle (which matches the 5km away radar track).

      If the same as 'take off' tweet, the radio message would be ~2 minutes earlier but they would surely give the FFM the time of the original message.



      Was the expert who said it was possible using the flight path the FFM actually had or considering any flight path? Their conclusion reads like it was the latter

    4. Some good points about the report on here


      Seems strange that the people who seem to live and breathe to discredit Russia are shying away from debunking their calculations. Higgins even seems to think that 2 or 3 slides and an equation is 'overwhelming technical information'!

      But then it seems equally strange to me to put complete trust in witnesses in an area "under the control of a listed terrorist organization", champion people they don't personally know such as the White Helmets and for some to claim to be an authority on chemical weapons, the Syrian CW stockpile and the inner-workings of the OPCW investigation when it is a safe bet they have never analysed sarin samples in real life, let alone any samples related to Syria.

      I wonder how someone can constantly demand co-ordinates from a journalist they don't agree with but not even attempt to sensibly answer Russia's argument? Seems very hypocritical.


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