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Monday, May 20, 2019

Douma Location 2 Explosives Damage?

<< Douma Chemical Massacre
Location 2 Explosives Damage?
May 20-22, 2019
with appendices up to... June 1
Updates up to … June 5

Refuting the Bombshell Findings
The long-suppressed and now-leaked report of the OPCW FFM engineering sub-team (expanded rev. 1) signed by (sub-team leader?) Ian Henderson - big news. My own post on it remains skeletal so far aside from links for anyone who doesn't know about it. It shows the OPCW's Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) into the April, 2018 Douma incident had good science available the whole time - as you'd presume anyway - and deliberately chose not to use it. The nature of that deliberate choice is what's now becoming clear, including in the incoherent response from the politicized OPCW and its hack-activist allies.

Among the issues raised in the bombshell report is a serious argument that - at least at the pivotal "Location 2" where the majority of deaths allegedly occurred - it was something more like a bombshell than a gas cylinder that caused that damage blamed on the latter in all public OPCW reports so far.

As Henderson's report explains in paragraph 25, "experts were consulted" to assess the impact "crater" (otherwise hole, or "aperture") at location 2, "particularly the underside," and the surrounding damage. "The expert view" was quite interesting, in retrospect; the evidence pointed more to "blast/energetics (for example from a HE mortar or rocker artillery round)" than it did to an "impact from the falling object. " That is, the blast wave, not the shell, would have caused the hole. The report then lists five supporting points:

- "deformed rebar splayed out at the underside of the crater, which was not explained by the apparent non-penetration and minimal damage of the cylinder" (well-put, emphasis mine)

- other craters of similar appearance around on nearby roofs, as the FFM had documented

- "an (unusually elevated, but possible) fragmentation pattern on upper walls"

- "indication of concrete spalling under the crater"

- "(whilst it was observed that a fire had been created in the corner of the room) black scorching on the crater underside and ceiling."

Of course, the finally adopted view of the FFM in their final report released in March, 2019, was that the gas cylinder alone impacted, and it had no explosive parts ever. Annex 6 of that report considered cylinder-crater damage correlation, concluding they fit together fine. Its nine points close with this twin refutation of the "expert view" in Henderson's report:

8. The FFM analysed the damage on the rooftop terrace and below the crater in order to determine if it had been created by an explosive device. However, this hypothesis is unlikely given the absence of primary and secondary fragmentation characteristic of an explosion that may have created the crater and the damage surrounding it.

Why did they decide to consider that? The witnesses were clear the cylinder did it, and that's not explosive. Was this addressed just for good measure, out of due diligence, or just to provide some plausible reason why they decided to reject the findings of the engineering sub-team? Right below that, they close with a misplaced-seeming point about a fire that was set, instead of about blast evidence or lack of it.

9. The FFM team noted the blackening of the ceiling ... the blackened sooty walls in the corner of the room ... ashen remnants of a small fire. One interviewed witness stated that a fire had been lit in the room after the alleged incident, reportedly to detoxify it of the alleged chemical.

Fire detox * is not related to impact damage or any broached subjects, except the preceding point, via Henderson's points. That entry 9 could be a mystery, if we had noticed it before. Now it's not; those are both points raised in the suppressed report, in support of an explosive impact. This supports the view that not only is this a genuine OPCW report, it's one the FFM felt bound to consider, and argued against, even as it never acknowledged its existence. That belies any claims or theories that Ian Henderson was some disgruntled imposter trying to inject his Russian-style disinfo from outside proper channels. As someone hinted to Brian Whitaker: "One story circulating in the chemical weapons community (though not confirmed) is that Henderson had wanted to join the FFM and got rebuffed but was then given permission to do some investigating on the sidelines of the FFM. … while not (according to the OPCW press office) actually being part of it."

Whoever was behind these rumors either didn't know the facts, or worse yet they did know, and hurled this dishonest shit against the wall anyway, hoping it would stick.

I suppose nothing is certain here , but the best view so far is Henderson and his team were involved, as the people (sub-team) responsible for just these engineering-related questions within the FFM probe. The scandal is - or began with - someone deciding to excise that important work and later replace it with some different but more convenient findings by some outside experts, in an improvised process managed by whoever. It continued with shifting denials and anonymous rumors, besides an investigation into the leak of some truth, which OPCW pretends is the only problem here...

Anyway, let's put the politics and opinions aside and look at some concrete science.

* A detox fire by the way is something I've never seen nor heard of in any prior CW incident. It doesn't make much sense, might react with chlorine to expand the fire. An idiot might think it was a good idea anyway. The fire was set prior to first videos around 10pm, so within 2-3 hours of alleged attack. It was clearly set after the rubble was there anyway. And there's a curiously strong case the reason the fire was set was to TOXIFY the room, to get the chlorine out of the cylinder they just planted. I've explained this several places and I forget which is best, but this blog post and my article at TheIndicter should do.

The Blast Evidence, Interior
The straight reading is that the supporting points for the Henderson report's (aside from the one about other buildings altogether) all refer to one area; inside the room underneath the "crater": bent rebar, spalling, scorching, and a "fragmentation pattern."

That last could also refer to a different area above the crater. We'll come back to that, but first, the interior where there's the rest, and even a version of that. This great photo from Reuters (cropped) includes enough details to serve as a general overview here.
Rebar: The ceiling construction seems to be reinforced concrete beams, filled with cinderblocks, with some light reinforcing bar (rebar) overlaid, with a thin layer of concrete. The surviving rebar in that beam (2 running across the hole, marked purple) might seem to raise an issue. We'll come back to that. Note the major portion of beam bends towards the camera and the window side of the room. That should be the direction of most force.

Spalling: cracks notable along lines - rebar grid or cinderblock edges, depending, where the blast shockwave passed through (or, it could be argued, the violent impact shockwave, making this inconclusive or debatable, AFAIK)

Scorching: As the FFM final report noted, this is probably just down to the fire; the next level of evidence suggests the detonation with the fireball that causes scorching would have happened above this ceiling, and probably not for long enough to continue during impact or once inside.

Now the fragmentation pattern: the same issue to be explained says primary fragmentation (hurling packed metal fragments or (improperly) shrapnel) happened before this impact, if it happened. But I think we see a pattern from what's called secondary fragmentation. The orange marks above show there's a pattern from a radial force, hurling concrete and cinderblock pieces so the closest fragments hit the nearby wall pretty hard. One larger mark was probably caused by big chunk of concrete still hanging there an inch away. The others were disconnected and just fell down. Others would hit the other walls, perhaps, but at lower levels and more dispersed, and would leave only very faint marks. From the direction of force shown by the larger part of the beam, we could guess the bulk of debris would fly towards the window, if not far enough to hit it.

I'm not expert enough to be sure, but I don't think a physical impact would cause this radial spraying. In that case, rubble would just fall straight down, aside from where bits tumble over each other. To get that much horizontal motion as well, I suspect the object almost has to be an expansive blast wave that's actually pushing in all directions. At any rate, this kind of damage surely makes more sense in an explosion.

So we don't see what you'd call a primary fragmentation here (where impacts look like bullet holes), but we do see secondary fragmentation (concrete busted up and hurled by the blast wave). So the final report was wrong to say there was an "absence of primary and secondary fragmentation characteristic of an explosion."

So in review:
- Frag pattern: apparently
- Spalling: likely, but debatable
- There is another explanation for the scorching, but so what?
- Notably, the FFM never did and could not answer the puzzling rebar issue. As Henderson's report explains in paragraph 20, re-phrased: cylinder and rebar would have similar speeds at contact - both must stop moving if either does. The cylinder stopping outside or even bouncing back as the rebar it just tapped flies inward simply do not fit together. This is evident. It's absurd, and the FFM's core explanation spells it out clearly enough (annex 6, point 7):

"the experts were able to provide an explanation of the cylinder not penetrating completely through the aperture. It can be seen that there was a large impact on the roof and walls above the balcony. The impact would decrease the velocity of the falling cylinder and changed its trajectory while hitting the concrete floor of the balcony causing a hole in it, but without sufficient energy to fall through it."

Okay? It first impacted at a corner above the balcony (top frame below, upper right), but still had enough momentum and mass to punch that hole and fling apart a reinforced concrete beam, but then very suddenly it was so drained of "energy" - and also drained of weight, apparently - it was unable to obey gravity and FALL through the hole it would already be in the middle of. Remember, the imagined cylinder would have no blast wave riding in ahead of it. It has to smash into the material first, as it would have to do with great force to even possibly explain the damage. Then it would have to stop and in fact reverse a bit (bouncing off that one remaining rebar?) before it got past its tipping point to remain on the balcony.

And it did so without leaving any notable linear mark where any piece of rebar touched it, let alone halted its fall. Below: Henderson report simulations of expected damage (first contact, then after hitting the rebar) …

...compared to OPCW final report showing the damage that was there - several indents, two of them at the impacting front, but seemingly too broad and mild to be what we're looking for. And furthermore...

... some of this damage was already claimed by the FFM as likely showing that all-important corner impact that explains why the laws of physics stopped applying (right).

And unlike the Henderson report, the FFM does not show what the final impact should do. No, not when there are clashing photos they wanted to run as well.

Now let's take a look at that corner impact they were so excited about.

The Blast Evidence, Exterior
Perhaps the Henderson report referred to another possible fragmentation pattern high on some different walls, but this one is not what I'd call just "possible" and it's only partly high on the walls, so I'll take this as something the Henderson report apparently missed. Somehow (that might be of interest). I'm happy to add it then, because it helps the case quite a bit.

There is some poorly-considered damage on balcony where the impact happened that looks almost like bullet spray from machine gun fire, appearing on all four interior walls (so not likely from a distant shooter trying to hit a sniper on this balcony, for example). It's a mystery I had barely considered before reading the Henderson report. Michael Kobs mentioned this other damage and shared his gathered images of it. Maybe not what the report was talking about, but wow … maybe it should have been talking about it.

The following compiles a few images of the area and maps the damage on a basic drawn-up model. It's not to scale, and not exact, but enough to illustrate a genuine clue of pretty obvious relevance.

Considering the evidence just examined, we might look for a high explosives detonation here. I think that's what this shows; a mortar shell or whatever hit that corner, smashing it out, and naturally was triggered then to detonate its core of high explosives. A microsecond later, it would burst open with fire and overpressure (that doesn't seem to have left much for visible signs here, but heat rises and there's no ceiling - the smoke next to the damaged vents shaft is probably from the later fire below, not this blast).

But it would also propel the packed metal fragments in all directions with explosive force, like a little blind machine-gunner shooting in a circle all around (but somehow shooting in all directions at once), creating a disc-shaped area of damage. And there is pretty clear evidence for that part.

The down-sloping edge of that disc is clear enough across the south and west walls (west wall, better view from Stephen McIntyre, and just above), the incomplete north wall being a little harder to read, and the east wall is also hard to include, with sporadic marks best seen in this still from BBC Panorama posted by Andrew (also seen smaller above in the 2-part view). Only the semicircle right at the corner damage seems like a continuation of this disc shape as it extends up into the air, where no marks were left.

The few other marks in a couple of faint lines … anyone able to make sense of those? It's a complex science I only have a partial feel for. In fact, the disc I'm seeing suggests an angle away from the crater, right into that corner (imagine a tube perpendicular to the plane of that disc). But the very frag pattern suggests it was moving down from there into the balcony space, so maybe there's a better way to correlate this.
(note May 21: due to momentum, the disc will be a bit cone-shaped, angling forward as well as radially outward. Michael Kobs is staring on a 3-D analysis - some further clarity here is likely)

So the full pattern and its implications are not clear to me just yet. But whatever the angle and the exact weapon, this is hard to deny as the effect of an explosive weapon, hurling metal fragments or shrapnel in a spray centered close to the likely point of detonation somewhere in the blacony space. And this is something a simple metal gas cylinder simply cannot cause.

@bellingcat @EliotHiggins #Douma You agree w/the best/most/only minds that matter at #OPCW all these marks are from uniform, enegetic bits of conrete busted loose when the cylinder hit that corner? Can I get a yes, no, or other answer?

No, I could not get an answer. Probably not even if I'd phrased it better and fixed the typos...

So the final report was doubly wrong to say there was an "absence of primary and secondary fragmentation characteristic of an explosion." There was - apparently - fragmentation of both kinds! 

Impacting Object: A Blast Wave?
FFM final report, paragraph 2.14, clearly a bunch of nonsense:

The analyses indicated that the structural damage to the rebar-reinforced concrete terrace at Location 2 was caused by an impacting object with a geometrically symmetric shape and sufficient kinetic energy to cause the observed damage. The analyses indicate that the damage observed on the cylinder found on the roof-top terrace, the aperture, the balcony, the surrounding rooms, the rooms underneath and the structure above, is consistent with the creation of the aperture observed in the terrace by the cylinder found in that location.

If we take the blast as happening as that shrapnel was flying, it's well before - maybe full microseconds before - it would impact that crater spot (if it was even on a path to do so). So unless it detonates a second explosive on that impact, it should be done blowing up. The projectile, that is.

But in blowing up, the weapon would send a strong blast wave in all directions but backwards, with the explosive material starting in motion, at the weapon's own velocity. Thus the blast would expand in all directions but especially, and especially fast, in the forward direction. This would whallop whatever it hits first, before the spent weapon shell ever got there. This ovepressure wave would punch the hole seen, busting the concrete and spraying it radially, not just down, while passing around whatever spans of rebar that were too anchored to give.

So what the FFM finally presumed to be a symmetrical "impacting object" would instead be a larger sized blast wave. Its strongest core part might be roughly the size of that gas cylinder. The smaller shell causing it would arrive spent a moment later, and likely pass right between the remaining but splayed rebar, to land with some force on the floor below. That is, if the FFM engineering sub-team, its consulted experts, and all rational observers since are correct.

To that full sequence, the FFM still has provided no adequate answer. The one so far is no frag pattern and the fire has a different cause. But there are in fact two fragmentation patterns - primary (frags, balcony) and secondary (the concrete, upper walls). The spalling is debatable, and the scorching likely unrelated. But they didn't even touch the central issue of the rebar with stange properties - it can suck all the energy out of an impacting object, drive itself clear across town with it, and leave the cylinder floating in the air long enough to wobble and tip over. They can take that. The corollary is they get to blame Assad. Coincidence?

By the way, we didn't need Henderson's report leaked to see that. I made this a while back to explain the evident idiocy the OPCW was embracing.

What's new with the leak is confirmation of our hopes there was still some science, some honesty, and some good guys still left there. Despite the OPCW leadership's efforts, we can now say there is at least some hope for this outfit.

So this is our choice here as to what portion of the OPCW's process we embrace and which needs to be reined in or cut out: when it comes to this finding, it's a choice between politicized word salad and meaty, substantive truth, with some good-for-you veggies stewed in - you know because of the bitter taste; the next questions it raises are troubling, and suggest problems we would be depressingly behind schedule in addressing.

One should hope not, but hopes aside, fact is … that sounds more like the sad, corrupt reality we all know. The official version is known and was preordained. The science as usual clashes with that. The science has always been pretty clear here, and just got a bit clearer. The scene was staged. So then how did those people die? 

--- Appendices --
Fragmentation vs. who knows? (added May 27)
So far I have overtated and under-argued my case by a bit. To many readers anyway, the fragmentation - marks and patterns - in particular will remain unclear. I'm not a weapons expert, nor a total dunce. I've looked at war damage off and on for some years now, done some research and some reasoning.

The main question is whether anything not involving explosives (incl. gunpowder/bullets) could have caused this. Could it be from a fierce gravel storm? or concrete fragments busted loose in the cylinder impact with the corner? I don't believe there's any realistic chance of that. These aren't just marks but deep punctures into concrete, caused by small, uniform, highly energized objects that almost have to be made of metal. At whatever speed, a fragmented, irregular bit of concrete, hitting another intact wall of the same, would bounce right off, probably after breaking into smaller pieces.

In fact the marks look a lot like bullet holes, except:
- a clustered spray to make you wonder what they were shooting at.
- on all 4 interior walls; to be exterior shooting, it has to come from all directions (quite unlikely from anywhere but on the balcony, shooting close walls all around - why?)
- firing some big chunks of material, besides bullets of perhaps varying size.
anything else likely to be similar? Nothing I can think of. A bucket of metal bolts or perhaps gravel suspended in the air and exploding for some reason? It seems to come down to a bomb, rocket, mortar shell, etc. with the marks being fragmentation from that.

As I gathered previously (sources not handy); there are different kinds and sizes of fragments (aka shrapnel, but properly that refers to just one kind with spherical pre-formed fragments, named long ago after its inventor). Let's take a mortar shell (most likely here); generally its warhead is a metal shell filled with TNT or other high explosives. On detonation, the outer shell breaks into fragment (maybe designed to split uniformly - pre-fragmented - or not, and just breaking where it does - natural fragmentation). My own basic image based for a mortar shell - red lines for more power (heavier lines) vs. less.

Some (most?) explosive shells (mortar/artillery), many kinds of bombs, rockets and missiles will also have more fragments pre-formed, packed inside in different ways; sometimes uniform little blocks interlocking in a spiral grid, or dart-like "fletchettes" packed like arrows, or other - even random scrap metal set in a gel that melts away. The Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining has a report - EXPLOSIVE WEAPON EFFECTS (PDF link) - that explains, after relating how the outer case can break up differently:
"Pre-formed fragments are increasingly preferred in many munition designs. Such fragments are often held in a matrix of polymer or light metal, and provide even greater consistency than pre-fragmented designs. The inclusion of pre-formed fragments is often combined with pre-fragmented outer casings on munitions."
Whatever material is thus arranged would spray outward with explosive energy when the weapon detonates, causing perhaps the worst of its damage in this way (it will be the major cause of injuries and fatalities to people).

Visual comparison, prior cases:
Mortar damage to family shop in Hadar, Syria, as seen by Eva K. Bartlett https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5dGVfZSvcg

Mariupol 2015 (GRAD rocket or similar - wall some distance from impact)

Mariupol 2015, radially chapped pavement from closest frags on the underside, showing the slant and thus direction of travel - so direction (from the east, and the political implications of that were never as clear as presented)
Mariupol 2015, same exercise in more detail 
Mariupol 2015, pavement vs. wall - impact 1 - shows why the radially chipped side points to origin (or tries to). Alternately, the higher damage, especially if it curves, with a highest point of the arc, that should be the forward direction. If you can see both and they line up opposite, the picture is clear.

irregular fragments on a flimsy wall - GICHD, credit: Rafah Kid, Flickr

Kashmir (said to be mortar fire - large fragments, not very penetrating - people died in other spots) linked to story "India, Pakistan exchange fire over Kashmir border"

unclear, Jordan, a coffee shop? aoav.org.uk

In our case, I'd propose a mortar shell, not pre-fragmented - irregular, causing some small and all larger chips and punctures - besides a more uniform fill with pre-formed fragments for all the uniform holes. - it had to hit somewhere nearby to release fragments - only damage seen is at the corner and into the balcony floor, both claimed for the gas cylinder. Working theory, open to challenge. Anyone with a better idea?

Stephen McIntyre @ClimateAudit is helping me clarify my case, after following my overstatement into the line of some criticism that was overblown but technically fair, from the critic's limited point of view … McIntyre tweets: "I consulted with a military expert and he re-assured me that it was entirely proper to describe pock marks as "fragmentation damage".

It's not certain if he means whatever causes it, even shooting or non-explosive causes, we call that "fragmentation" for some reason or - far more likely, it can be presumed as explosive-related close enough to 100% that it's fair to consider it the frag. pat. radiating from that. Here, I'll say likely (or apparent) fragmentation when being clear, and likely just skip it otherwise.

Scott Lucas Debunk (add May 26)
Scott Lucas @ScottLucas_EA
You mean the marks on building wall, not “fragmentation”.
Now what might account for those marks? Well, as #Douma was under months of bombardment....

John Smyth @jonnynukeem
If it was as a result of past bombardment then it was fragmentation from a previous event is what Ur saying?

Adam Larson @CL4Syr
yes, and he also says it's "not "fragmentation."" True I guess. It's "likely fragmentation," or marks that are (as he proves) hard to explain any other way than bombardment/shelling.

Jodocus Quak @JodocusQuak
And when it was from a previous bombardment, where is the impact of the explosive shell? Oh, wait. Scott's intellectual capacity is working quite well.

Adam Larson @CL4Syr
oh goodness sake quak, you can see where that previous Assad shell hit the corner, sprayed its frags, hit the balcony, punching a neat hole ... oh, oops

Russia Rebutted with Repeated Rubbish, and Denialist Imagery (added May 31)
The Russians found the same curious marks prior to late April, and saw it as a sign of explosives damage (as well as the fire, which apparently isn't, so no perfect record). Their permanent representatives to the OPCW's Technical Secretariat lodged a summary of their own findings, and OPCW responded by repeating the same questioned findings, quoted verbatim with minimal connecting remarks, and generally with no answer to the questions raised.

Russian representatives' note verbale no. 759 (dated April 26, was immediately requested for circulation, but apparently had to wait nearly a month until the OPCW could include its important rebuttal dated May 21 (so a week after the world started learning some of the OPCW's own analysts had reached the same basic conclusions and had their work erased and replaced), after which both documents were released in PDF form, as sort of a resolved Q+A. But it sparked new questions, well-put and right to the OPCW, by the commendable Peter Hitchens.

The Russian note verbale says in part (as the OPCW response gives it - easier to copy than transcribe the text):
"The detailed study of the crater in the reinforced concrete barrier (the roof of the building), as well as the presence of smoke-black traces and the destruction of the barrier rebar inside the aperture, are more consistent with an explosion of a 120 mm mortar or an artillery projectile of the same calibre that approached the barrier along the arching trajectory.

This is also evidenced by the traces left by blast fragmentations on the walls of the balcony. The probability of the crater being formed by a mortar/artillery projectile or a similar munition is also supported by the presence of multiple apertures that are very much alike in the concrete plates on the rooftops of surrounding buildings (Figure A.6.3., page 55)."

An image from their report, looking poorly-photocopied but retaining its point:
OPCW responded by repeating itself (the FFM) on each point with no additions, including its unfounded and apparently wrong claim of an "absence of primary and secondary fragmentation characteristic of an explosion that may have created the crater and the damage surrounding it.” They do not say what else those referenced marks would be caused by. Something else, whatever. All that's new here is we know they give the same non-answer specifically to these marks. They give no explanation here, earlier, or anywhere why those marks are NOT due to fragmentation, aside from the sheer authority they presume; it's a fact because we say so. But this "fact" runs clearly against everything; essentially, there CAN BE NO OTHER cause.

Am I overstating here? Anyone? If you think so, make your case somewhere and try to let me know where.

in their own images, FFM shows but ignores the apparent weaponry marks including, as I just noticed, at least two seen from the inside (these fragments punched clear through). See final report, figure A.6.4 DAMAGE ABOVE THE CRATER OBSERVED FROM DIFFERENT ANGLES (top left part of bottom image, compared to top right image - same wall and window)

As for the apparent secondary frag marks: FFM report shows it just once; figure A.6.1 shows 8 images of the cylinder, balcony, and damage below, with just one cropped image of the latter, that happens to obscure most of the marks under similar-looking image artifacts (lens flare / glare dots, like dust on the lens). That's likely to cause, or seen as a cause for some "confusion" on the subject. And it's a subject they had to make a fake case or no case to support, because they had an ill-fittling preconceived result: the evidence had to line up by the Islamist narrative, and not be seen as the staged scene it was.

Robert Campbell debunk try (added June 1)
Big fail. Some time wasted pushing for a rational response. Only at first, when he didn't notice what he was doing, would MR. Campbell (no obvious military experience, but he suggests it) come out and agree with everyone else in the obvious conclusion: this was an explosive device causing this damage that was later, illogically, linked to the gas cylinder's non-explosive impact. Note the ill-considered and poser-ish use of "subsequent," as if he gets paid by the syllable.

After he shuffled away from this word-turd, when specificity seemed useful, he was suddenly super-professional in his total failure to agree with me, and many others including Ian Henderson / EST, the Russians, Scott Lucas on accident, himself on accident - no, all unprofessional presumptions, when it could be y'know, whatever shut up, or "you know fuck all" as he put it. He could not and *coincidentally* WOULDD not specify anything else it even might be, as he posed about how there must be aaaallll kinds of other things. Well what's the aggregate something? Dodges, games, appeal to authority, insults, wasting time. Just for fun? I don't know. My waste was an investment. Called out here, with some kind of disturbing added context by Daniel Wirt. https://twitter.com/CL4Syr/status/1134824706094260226

Add June 5, quick notes: Campbell is military, with an interesting record I don't need to get into, but the important part is he's trained in explosive ordnance disposal (snipped article, confirmed). So his initial slip was from his knowledge base wanting to show off, just not getting what an error that was. It counts as another confirmation this is obviously what the damage indicates. Quickly he moved to cautious" thinking. Here's the closest he came to re-affirming the point:
"Could be any number of weapon systems. Unless you have data on what that area was subjected to before or after the alleged CW attack, it’s all speculation."
He refused to confirm or deny anything resulting from that would be, as we see, explosive fragmentation. Asked what kind of object made each of these little holes, holding one in his hand, he only could say "I don’t know what made that hole." Wow, is that professionalism, or what?

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

OPCW FFM Engineering Sub-Team Censored Report

<< Douma Chemical Massacre
OPCW FFM Engineering Sub-Team Censored Report
May 14, 2019 
(rough, incomplete)

The last day or so has been kinetic (by my standards), and I've been on the topic all over, so for now, just an intro, and a new place for related comments, etc.

Wow. OPCW's first try at making it add up failed? Failure lodged and now visible? Subsequent dancing around its obvious findings, while outsiders like us had to re-create them? Am I following this right?

Still digesting, but that seems about it. That was following on Tim Hayward's directing to the report's initial explanation and hosting at the WGSPM site.

As the story spreads especially, please use alt download links like this one, or your own:

I'm affiliated w/WGSPM, but I wasn't involved in or privy to this document … leak, I guess, until just before it came out. I was just too slow to advise on a few of "my" points cited in their accompanying article. (I'll cover that here).

Note: expanded rev 1 (original was done earlier, not clear when)

It says "do not circulate." I'd like to offer my humble gratitude to the person(s) who did circulate anyway. People of honor, I presume, who would not take that risk without good reason. And that reason, the problems with the OPCW, will be coming into focus now, however clearly they do.

Content: mostly later.

some links:



Stating the Obvious:
As I just put it elsewhere: "By the way, we didn't need Henderson's repot leaked to see that. I made this a while back to explain the evident idiocy the OPCW was embracing.

What's new with the leak is confirmation of our hopes there was still some science, some honesty, and some good guys still left there. Despite the OPCW leadership's efforts, we can now say there is at least some hope for this outfit."

Adding to that … the reports paragraph 24 points out how "a "criss-cross" pattern" on the cylinder's side was "attributed by some observers" to an impact with or through the tangled "wire netting" "This explanation however is inconsistent with the vertical, or near-vertical, angle of incidence that was assumed (and would have been required) to have created the crater in the concrete slab."

This too we already knew, anyone who can think in 3-D at all and took a moment to try. A crude and now very old graphic I made after seeing the NYT/Bellingcat/Forensic architecture team put forth the same logic-impaired theory:

The FFM at large are among those "observers," and insisted on the final report's Annex 6, point 4. "The visual damage on the body of the cylinder indicates that the lateral aspect of the cylinder did not slide on the mesh but it hit perpendicularly." And this as always helped prove it fell at some random angle from an Assad helicopter, also hit the corner where there was no mesh at the same time, and then punched that nose-down hole, and folks have to be held accountable, etc.

But the 3-D world called them while they were out drafting this, left a message on the voice mail; "Hey there, been a while since we've spent some time together. Got people physically dying over here, and where the hell are you guys?"

Friday, May 3, 2019

Douma's Mask of Death, Part 3

Douma's Mask of Death, Part 3: All Over E. Ghouta in 2013
May 3-8, 2019
Important add Nov. 21, 2019

Douma Chemical Massacre, April 7, 2018
Victim Analysis

In part 2, I related the possible links between the “Caesar torture photos” - purporting to show victims of mass-extermination in regime prisons - and the 2018 Douma chemical massacre of civilians voluntarily sheltering in basements, carried out from a helicopter with just chlorine gas. Again, it seems the victims in both disparate classes were ... maybe not so disparate. Many clues say they were all all held captive by militants, probably the Saudi-backed Jaish al-Islam, who deliberately gassed them to death with caustic agents (perhaps chlorine), often while they were bound and suspended upside-down.

Now, it may seem I've gone off on a weak limb here connecting proven regime torture in 2012-2013, and a helicopter-launched chlorine attack almost five years later, by calling them both the work of hitherto unknown rebel gas chambers. However, a few events in the 2013 span help to trace the same signs, both in incidents said to involve chemicals and some said not to. This takes a sort of zig-zag track through the first 8 months of 2013, but always in the same basic area – within the broad reach of the Douma-based Jaish al-Islam (known as Liwa al-Islam prior to Sept. 2013).

When I first decided on a mask of death part 2 (as I was doing part 1 a year ago), I thought it would cover all the connections I finally covered there, plus those we turn to now in part 3, and even more. The material needs room to breathe, first requiring three chapters, and now I'll be splitting the remainder even further, so there will be one more crucial part 4 picking up where this one leaves off, with some review needed, so... I suppose a part five will be needed to wrap it up right, because...

... even as it may seem to ramble on conjecture just going by the visuals, there is a huge and important story here either way. All this "mask of death" study is just to start on the visual proof portion of that overwhelmingly strong case. Foreign-backed terrorists, not the demonized Syrian government, are responsible for the interlocking crimes of exterminating thousands of prisoners (Caesar) - and hundreds more to stage the Ghouta chemical false-flag - and besides other things before and since, killed another 42-187 civilians for the 2018 false flag at their last stand in Douma. They did the latter two, and perhaps all those, using deadly chemicals, with captives stuffed in gas chambers. That will become clear, if not by my hand or by the exact avenue I'm on here. But if my reading is right, this thread of clinical signs will be what links all those together forensically, a modus operandi.

Reference: area map (improved 8 May) - "Caesar photo" victims documented partly or totally at military hospital 601 (red dot, west side of map) after being killed … probably somewhere in or near the area shown. My money is on somewhere in that red-shaded area, but near the frontline (Douma, Harasta, Mesraba? Body dumps at the edges of Qaboun? or in Barzeh orchards? Ain Tarma?)

3A) Obscure, mid-2013 CW Attacks
The Douma-based VDC martyrs database lists several victims of chemical weapons in Eastern Ghouta clashes in several unreported incidents of mid-2013, mainly killing Douma-area “FSA” fighters, as they report it. This query from 20 March to 20 August includes some outside our area, but mostly within it, and one stray Ghouta entry (Aug. 12 is a typo).

First, this vague label “FSA” refers to a semi-mythical “Free Syrian Army,” and applies to most opposition militants listed, here including Liwa/Jaish Al-Islam, groups allied, and groups opposed. It does usually mean they aren't with ISIS or Nusra Front, who get listed under these other two of three primary labels the VDC uses. Considering the victims of the Douma massacre in 2018 were likely related to an “FSA” commander, and JaI probably killed them with caustic gas after placing them in captivity... we could - and will - wonder about such fighters and their family, if they appear possibly gassed, and also die in suspicious clusters, etc.

There was some media attention at the time for near-daily reports of sarin attacks in Jobar through April, 2013. This is inside Damascus proper, not Eastern Ghouta, but it was opposition-held, and Liwal al-Islam probably operated there. But in these cases, there's not much to show - at least this one death the VDC lists: Ibrahim Darwesh, FSA, from Jisreen, killed 14 April in Jobar "due to inhalation of toxic gases as a result of the regime`s use of chemical weapons on one of Jobar front-Eastern Ghouta side, report to be validated." Visual notes: fairly bland appearance, pale, maybe a touch of cyanosis...

But these less-noted attacks closer to Douma were deadlier, especially one on 23 June, with nine fighters listed as killed in Zamalka. This comprises two sets of related men and other fighters from Zamalka and, unusually, from other parts of Syria. But these have no images available, and the slimmest video record. I saw in a video at least two faces in enough detail to say there are no obvious signs here either.

So let's focus on ones that do have visuals or other details that might bear, and as it happens, we wind up considering most reported anyway, to some degree. Many display the same basic signs as those killed in “torture chambers,” to varying degrees, and nearly all on fighters who are from Douma. These work best presented in reverse chronological order.

3A.1) 30-06-13, Adra?
(edits May 10) The latest one to pop out like this was on 30th of June: Ammar Qatat, “FSA” Douma (VDC entry). Killed 2013-06-30 by “Chemical and toxic gases.” Notes: "Martyred due to inhaling chemical gasses delivered by the regime`s army forces in (Kasas Adel) battle." The location isn't specified, but that battle was near Adra, and claimed many lives, including some who look gassed like him, but usually reported as a death by “shooting.” (see section 3C)

Visual notes: swollen, skin-colored eyes like in the Caesar photos and even more extreme than most of those. It's settled high like them, perhaps an upside-down clue. Moderately purple lips, also swollen, and mucous bubbles (weak foam, from minimal struggle to breathe at the end?). He has totally clear nostrils at the moment, which would complicate the CW argument a bit, except the argument was apparently already won in this case. They were suctioned clear at one point.

Video check: of six linked on the VDC entry, 3 are still available: LCC Douma video is low-quality, but the description adds he was a fighter with Liwa al-Islam, and Kasas Adel translates to Just Punishment. His body is held on a wiggly children's slide, common practice in Douma. another video adds nothing (app. source for VDC still) Yaser al-Doumani video (v=EwqiCNk8_1Q) shows a faint trikle of orange fluid from the mouth, better view of the eyes (rotated, cropped, stretched to normal proportions at right).

Aside from no starvation, etc. this is a face that would fit right in with those in the “Caesar photos,” and it's said to show the signs of gassing. I'd say the agent is probably a caustic one to damage both the eyes and airways like that, and from the degree of damage, I'd say it's not likely to have happened out on some battlefield as claimed. To me (again, no expert) he looks more like he was locked in a room with the stuff.

Name search (family targeting check) for Qatat/Katat ( قطط ): 5 killed, all time, everywhere - all from Deir al-Assafir except him, but probably including him. In this case, the entries are far spread out, so no clustering or other clues as we'll see with most cases below.

3A.2) 26-06-13, Homs Road
And then just a few days earlier, on 26 June, there was Adnan Mohe al-Deen al-Shathely ( عدنان محي الدين الشاذلي ) - Douma, FSA, Known as (Abu Majid), killed 2013-06-26, “Due to chemical gasses used by the regime`s army forces in (Furkan) battle on Damascus:Homs road.” (this is the highway along the north of Damascus, by Douma, on the way to Adra, and the rest of Syria. It was fought over and cut by "liberation" at many points, briefly.

Visual notes: image is at an oblique angle, but bloody and interesting. A linked video is still available - Douma: Martyr Adnan Mohiuddin Al-Shazly inhaling toxic gases, by Yasser Al-Domani (app. the same we know from the 4-7-18 Douma attack coverage). This holds about the same oblique angle for 12 seconds, some lighting changes and one zoom (shown here). So it's not the clearest, but ...That's some chemical exposure. Nose plugged by what should be mucous, presumably in foamed form, but almost red with blood, and there's more blood on his shroud to show serious prior leakage, even if his face itself is pretty unclear. Out of his mouth is ... something blood-colored, internal... Can a person literally cough out part of a lung? It doesn't look at all like a tongue. It should be the same mucous in his nose, but it would have to be a huge glob, and it seems too solid and non-white to be foam (a lot of tiny, reflective bubbles creates the white appearance). So to me it's unclear, but terrible, and worth showing.

Moving on: Eyes are unclear. Blood up the face as well, but there's a fair amount at that end of his shroud. Apparently no cyanosis (as noted in part 2, more intense, bloody exposure seems to relate to shorter struggle, less blue-shift). He doesn't have the neck burns we see in the “Caesar photos.” Whatever did this, if it's a chemical, it was corrosive/caustic, and It seems unlikely that it would result from open-air exposure to a weapon-delivered gas. That's possible, but these results could be more easily achieved in a gas chamber environment.

Family targeting check: ( الشاذلي ) in Damascus suburbs: 14 killed and it seems like they all include Mohiuddin as well, or are just missing that part in 2 cases (not from a common father: a young boy and a 70-year-old woman share it, the latter with an Ahmed in between, so she'd be Mohiuddin's granddaughter). A girl, "Islam al-Shazli" rep. starved to death 5-5-2015 due to siege on Douma (and/or poor-food sharing there). Aside from those 3, it's 11 men killed, including FSA Adnan, and what could be his son: Mahmoud Adnan Muhei Eddin "al-Shatheli" a civilian who died 2015-10-14 "Due to the shelling of Hosh Nasri area." No same-day killings or other clues as often pop up below.

3A.3) 19-06-13, Zamalka
(general updates and adds here May 9)
A week before that, on 19 June, three “FSA” fighters were killed in Zamalka "as a result of regime`s army forces shelling with chemical gasses." Bassam al-Masry from Zamalka is described as "Battalion operation leader," has no image or videos linked. Abo Ali Toubeh from Aleppo has no images, but a video. But the third man, Malek Moustafa Kaekeh from Douma, "Known as (Abu Anas)" has an interesting image (right) and a video.

Visual notes: Moderate poss. eye swelling (blood from the eye?) and maybe faint cyanosis, and apparent skin irritation (marks on forehead), besides thick pink foam filling his nostrils – lighter in color than above, but still a lot of blood, but a lot of struggle forming it into foam. Again, this was some serious exposure to an unspecified chemical, sort of implausible happening to a few “FSA” men per week in these days.

Video check (Add May 9): Props to James Graham checking a video I didn't. It shows Mr. Kaekah earlier, with massive pink foam in the mouth and nose, all across his face, and up into the corner of his eye.. Note where the bubbles pop it turns to blood and trickles down his cheek. The video description gives no details on this victim, but says "The brutal regime, in conjunction with the Hezbollah gangs, used chemical weapons, which the regime considered to be the trump card against the people of Syria. This time, in the town of Zamalka it was used in a high concentration, which resulted in the deaths of 3 martyrs and more than 25 cases of suffocation and tremors." Tremors should mean a nerve agent like sarin, but the blood means it's also caustic, as we know the impure sarin used in Syria is.

Forehead marks not as clear here, but present, I think. Eyes: the right one looks clearly swollen, the left one probably - a glimpse of white - that could be eyes (relative white - clear vs. pink can't be called), or some thick tears or mucous.

Checking the others, Masry no image or video, but Abo Ali Toubeh has a video to show he has blood coming out, but it's entirely liquid, not foam, when seen. Also he may have been stripped to his undershirt for this fatal battle, considering the blood on it. Another short video shows what might be him, getting treatment in his underwear. Two other videos linked (likely just copies) are now unavailable. (same with the second Kaeka video)

Name search/Family targeting check: Masry is very common, and Zamalka is good sized … Toubeh's relatives are in Aleppo, not as clear to trace.. This whole thing is so long and I want to be done adding more, so... just for Kaeka ( كعكة ): (could also be render Kaka, etc. but I'd rather not) An Aleppo branch and a Douma branch have died equally, 22 each - in Damascus suburbs: 22 killed. Of special note: civilians Moustafa and Taysir Moustafa (father and son) killed in shelling 2012-10-05. Note CW death FSA Malek is likely another son who survived that strike only to die 8 months later: Middle name Moustafa, and VDC adds that someone else thought his name was "Malek Tieser Kaekeh." It seems he was related to those guys, but someone got mixed up; as the VDC decided and logic suggests, the unlucky Malek was Tieser's Moustafa's brother, not his son.
Add Nov. 21, 2019:
3A.5) 23/24-5-2013, Adra 
out of numerical order but chronologically inserted 
An incident of 23 May was reported by the US and/or Qatar, but the UN investigation at the time didn't receive enough info. I had a presumed 0 deaths, but \just now stumbled across a video:

5/24/2013 Adra - cases of suffocation with chemical weapons (trans)
by Ahrar Douma Network - Damascus Countryside (trans)
Posted May 23, 2013 (=early on the 24th in Syria)

One death at least expected: a purple man deep in suffocation gulps air desperately with his mouth as a lot of salmon-colored foam pours out of his nose (that's 2 parts blood, one part mucous, lightened to pinking by the optics of a moderately worked-up foam. He's suffocating, maybe fading. No one is or is preparing to suction any of that foam to help him pull though. Is this a clinic or just a death-filming place? They are injecting things, maybe into both arms, maybe to speed things up?
Another man is brought in better off but looking doomed too. Weird extra color a bit out around the eyes, no redness inside that ring, on the lids or the eyes themselves. Yet he's got some yellow mucous issues all over the lower face,  and a familiar redness starting there, worsening at the upper cheek, under and a bit above the eyes... cropped and rotated view enhanced to clarify this (color balance left as found, saturation increased, contrast and gamma increased)

And how did I miss the VDC listing 3 fighters as killed by CWs in Adra on 23 May? Judging by the video, at least the one was not a highly-valued fighter...

---end 11/21 add---

Otherwise, it's nearly all fighters of this name who die, especially in the first half of 2013. One dies in clashes 3 Feb. in Adra-area (Kasas Adel) battle, then another falls 4 Feb. in Adra-area "clashes with regime forces at the Kimyaa battalion" (chemistry barrier? 39 Brigade?) More Kaeaka FSA men died on 14 Feb. and then on the 23rd and 24th of March, for five in a 2 month-span, with a pause from there to the gassed Malik in June, and then just three more die evenly spread over the next two-year span. That's the presumed normal rate. Why it became abnormal is of some interest.

3A.4) 27-05-13, Harasta
27 May, Harasta, 3 killed, including a civilian: unreported attack on 27 May in Harasta, next to Douma, Mahmoud Omar al-Eiss a local civilian “known as (Abo Sayah)” died “Due to chemical gases exposure in shelling by the regime's army forces with three rockets on the High way front.” visual notes: Mr. Eiss: not much purple in the lips or elsewhere ... poss. Swollen eyes, yellow substance from the mouth, sticking to his beard. Little if any sign of blood suggests only moderate damage, if it's even a caustic thing. As reported, that's more like a civilian killed accidentally in one of several unreported attacks on “FSA” fighters. In fact … three are listed as CW deaths this day, 2 are FSA fighters from Harsata, both named Afof/Afouf. One of them has an image: blurry: little sign by color. Eyes are closed, possibly a bit swollen. A plug used for airway clearance is left in his mouth to suggest he suffered pulmonary edema. Otherwise, not much is evident.
Left: Mr. al-Eiss. Right, Mr. Afouf
Afouf name/targetting search: Interesting. The dual gas-deaths of 27 May start off quite an unlucky streak for Harasta "FSA" men named Afouf. A further THREE of these died from “shooting” the very next following day, 28 May. Then 2 more at once on 1 June, as normal luck re-stabilizes? That leaves a total of seven killed in a five-day span. That's some bad luck, and part of it was dished out with chemicals, they say.

Name search for Al-Eis ( العص - many transliterations) from Harasta: 39, mostly civilians with little or no related signs, but clustered strongly - in the 4-year span 2014-2017 are just 4 entries, compared to 5 killed just in March, 2018, during final government offensives (and possible hostage liquidation). There were 7 killed in October 2012, as Liwa al-Islam consolidated power in its core Douma-Harasta area, and in 2013 ... six killed in late April, and five in late May/early June. 21 May: Mona Abdel Ghani Alas, by shelling – 27 May is Mahmoud Omar, the one blamed on chemicals – 31 May: Abdo al-Iss, FSA, killed in clashes – 1 June: two FSA brothers both shot in clashes the same day, as often happens. Mohammad al-Ouss killed "with his brother Mahmoud" and Mahmoud al-Ouss killed "with his brother Mohammad.” I don't need to see gassing signs to suspect family targeting, but there are some images … none seem conclusive, but the FSA Mohammad has eyes that seem worth showing and considering.

In his own stretch of bad luck is Ahmad al-Es, "Abo Gassan" (shown here) – an older civilian from Harasta killed or listed 2013-08-22 (just after the Ghouta chemical massacre) in Douma, by “Warplane shelling” that seems to have stabbed him in the top of the head, and caused perhaps no other injuries. Not an evident gassing case, but has spots that could be minor skin burns and something with his nose - possible mucous. Perhaps a too-mild gassing had to be finished off? We've seen that in other cases of people not-quite-killed in the Ghouta massacre.

3B) Publicized CW Attack: Ateibah, 19 March
Ateibah (diff. Transliterations – Arabic: العتيبة ), south of Douma but closer to the airport, was coming under LiA control when reports emerged, mid-morning on 19 March, 2013, of a government rocket attack that released a toxic gas. Actually it may have been vapor, like sarin is; one witness claimed it was a dark, foul smelling liquid. It was said to cause paralysis and breathing problems, all suggesting impure sarin, but the OPCW was never able to clearly verify it in this case. This attack, like those above, apparently targeted opposition fighters, some of whom wound up choking but lived. In the end, only six civilian men were reported dead, and then an infant boy at least was said to die from exposure (later or somehow unreported).

The Douma-based VDC lists all seven fatalities, blaming “regime`s use of chemical weapons which caused cases of Hysteria and Paralysis.” Four men total are seen in provided images or linked video. Two have an unusual but maybe familiar yellow stuff from – probably the mouth, running all up their faces. That's not enough to say they were hanging upside-down, but it's consistent. (maybe just heads rolled back, etc.) One is the unidentified man, a possible fighter (from where he's seen, and from the scarf) but listed as civilian. The other is named Hasan Qashishe who also may have swollen eyes. (yellow faces shown below)

Qashishe is an Aramaic family name, so probably Christian, historically at least. Half the vitims have this name; two possible brothers of his (Husam and Yousef Qashishe) also died, perhaps in the same way, but are not show­n to compare. Was that really just bad luck?

Name search, Qashishe ( قشيش ) - 11 killed all time, all from Ateibah. All of them in review: first, civilian Fayez Kasem Kashesheh was shot dead on 30 October, 2012. Then Two child sons of Husain Qashisheh were killed by Mig shelling 27 Nov. 2012. Then these three (brothers?) that represent more than 25% of the list. Then three who joined the FSA - so probably not active Christians - were killed in action, it says, during 2013 (17 April, 14 June, 27 November) Next, a Mohammad Ali Qshaishe was killed 2014-02-25, one of the civilians (human shields?) killed in "a massacre of a group of FSA members and Civilians ambushed by regime army and Hizbullah forces while trying to get out of the East Gouta" No one of this name died 2015, 2016, or 2017. One FSA fighter killed in Daraa clashes, June 2018, end list with no likely 2018 liquidations.

The other two men killed were young brothers, perhaps twins aged about 18-20 (visual estimate); Malek and Qaesm Abu al-Khier; both entries say "He was martyred with his brother." As shown at right, they look different from Mr. Qashishe and unidentified - a bit purple but clean on delivery. That could mean two or more different poisons or methods were used in this case.

Name search: all Abu Al-Kheir from Ateibah = 9 all time. Ali Abo al-Kheir and Issa Abo al-Kheir, civilians killed by "shelling" on 3-18 and 3-21, and these brothers in between is nearly half of those in a four-day span. And as we can see, it's common for such bad-luck spans to have this CW aspect. As for this name; like most, it's Arabic origin, not specific as to religion. Logically, they wouldn't want to kill all Christians here, so I'd guess these men were Sunni Muslims who were seen as supporting the government, or having families who did.

The child is listed by VDC later, only on 19 May: Mohammad al-Sawah was from Harasta, it says, but died in Otaiba from Chemical and toxic gases. Notes: “Two weeks old, IDP with his parents, the parents didn't allow documenting his name until today so the exact date of death is unknown but he was exposed in 19/03/2013. Martyred due to exposure to chemical gasses, reports to be validated.” (my own note: it's possible those weren't his real parents, but then if he were part of a deliberate killing, why not publicize the displaced baby as the centerpiece? Later idea to show they don't know who all was killed in an open release? "I mean, it's not like we just use the number of people we put into some gas chamber.") There's a photo. Visual notes: nothing obviously wrong with this infant, but in context, there may be faint skin irritation, and his eyes do look a bit swollen. That can have several causes, but here, that foul  chemical is said to be involved, and might be the cause.

Name search for Sawah, noting it may not be the child's true name: just 5 Al-Sawahs from Harasta listed, with this the latest one. The other four all - all civilians - died in a one-month span between 24 September and 20 October of 2012: a boy of 15 and a "special needs" man of 47 killed by snipers, a woman and a 12-year-old boy killed by shelling. That's an odd record.

This event in Ateibah apparently had a larger purpose; it was reported on the same morning as - perhaps within minutes of - a sarin attack in Aleppo that killed 20 (19 civilians, including a medic, and one soldier, among many soldiers and civilians - about 100 in all who were sickened). Syrian and Russian sources reported that a locally made “Bashair 3” rocket was fired by terrorists (known or presumed to be the Al-Qaeda franchise Jabhat Al-Nusra) early on March 19, and it hit near an army checkpoint in the Shi'ite majority town of Khan al-Assal, which the jihadists had just been chased from 3 days earlier. Russian tests identified a “cottage” variety of sarin. Syria immediately asked for UN-OPCW investigation of the attack, which the Western powers labored to stall, complicate, and turn into an Iraq-style “inspections regime,” apparently as groundwork for another regime-change campaign. (see here for the sordid details as I followed them at the time, before those "inspectors" arrived in August, landing in Damascus just in time to be sidetracked by having to verify the new Ghouta incident instead).

Khan al-Assal was also claimed by the opposition as a regime strike, hitting their own on accident with a scud missile and/or a jet strike (accounts differ, but rebels don't have either!). But in the end, two things mattered more: eventually, the kind of sarin used was matched by UN-OPCW investigators (however clearly) by impurities with ... the sarin used in the Ghouta attack later in the year, so government forces did both (and what a strategy that would be)! And more immediately, it seemed to be coordinated with the Ateibah attack, which had made some rebel fighters sick, so could be taken as clearly by “Assad.”

And furthermore, there was an abortive effort to claim a regime CW attack in Homs on the same day, reported vaguely, with no deaths phoned in and no confirmation at all. But there were reports of Syrian army troops getting gas masks delivered in the afternoon. So most likely, any Homs incident was in the mid-morning as well, presumably coordinated with the other two, for an ambitious plan to have “Assad” launch three attacks at once in or near each of Syria's three main cities: Damascus, Aleppo, Homs. That immense capability was supposed to be the main proof “Assad” gassed those Shi'ites and soldiers in Aleppo, and those Christians and FSA troops in Damascus, and whoever it was supposed to be in Homs ... That might have crossed a red line or two, and some clues suggest Saudi Arabia arranged this, after insisting on some pointless provocations in Damascus the day before.

See also:

Side-note of some importance: this scenario would suggest  Liwa al-Islam in Ateibah coordinating with (apparently) Jabhat Al-Nusra in Aleppo, and whoever in Homs. Al-Nusra (the Al Qaeda franchise) was on good terms with LaI, and would team up with them on operations at least through the Adra raid in December, 2013. They could conspire, agree on a time. But apparently it fell apart. In the end just two attacks came through, and the larger one always looked like a terrorist crime, all at least as embarrassing as it was useful (and there were efforts to make it pay off). It would take at least one more try.

All that said again, it goes to show who had the motive to see this gas attack lodged, and thus to have some people gassed, and who would have picked the targets on these tellingly sectarian lines. The visuals reflect on the “mask of death” set of signs partially, via that yellow substance at least.

3C) Douma Morgue Photos
Among the images that caught my attention, some were found in videos and photos posted on Facebook by Civil Defnse Douma (CDD - pre-White Helmets) in 2013. There were many of these, mainly claiming to show fighters killed in clashes, and a few civilians killed by regime shelling (why some and not others is unclear). In most cases, the manner of death is presumably that given, but several that passed through between April and August seems to display the same signs we're studying, looking like the harshly-gassed victims in the Caesar photos, but in milder form. A fuller analysis here is simmered-down below.

This is odd, since the above cases of CW deaths fall in the covered span, but none of those people seems to appear on the CDD Facebook page, which doesn't seem to note any CW attacks prior to Ghouta, despite warning about them almost a year before that in mid-September, 2012, prior to just about anyone. (their cited cause for concern: the Alawite "Nussayri" regime with no morals, and also CWs.)

3C.1) Chemistry Barrier Massacre
The earliest examples I noted – if not the clearest – came on 28 January, 2013, when opposition fighters just found 6 or maybe 7 unidentified men, brutally murdered by regime thugs at a “chemistry barrier” or checkpoint near Adra – see analysis post with some IDs and other details. This post is apparently near Maydaa, and quite likely the 39 brigade base (stays government-held - see map). Why it's called chemical isn't clear (the factories it guards access to?)

It's not claimed as a chemical incident, but the place name is suggestive and as it so happens ... they display between them blood and mucous in the airways, red eyes, likely swollen eyes, purple lips, a purple upper head, and hair sticking up. But here the signs are all spread-out over different victims, and intermixed with violence; one has an eye seemingly gouged out, three have their heads split open, one of them to the point his head is missing. The clearest mix of signs is on these three victims below. The one on the left is clearly one of the reported six, the middle one (a teenage boy) is shown in all scenes, but reported differently, and the man on the right being the less clear body #7 shown as an unidentified martyr of this massacre, to the 6 claimed, and never seen alongside the rest. The best correlation seems to be seven killed, with two different ways of skipping a guy to call it six.

Family targeting? Three names given by the VDC seem to connect to victims of this:
- Osama Abdelhamid Al-Boush (matching visual), from Haran Al-Awameed, field executed 1-28, in Damascus Suburbs: Meda'a.
- Mohammed Hosni Kisaneh, no image, a fighter with "FSA" from Haran Al-Awameed, field executed 1-28, also in Meda'a, and
-"Husain Ali" (full name unknown) from the same town is included, killed "with five other persons on al-Chimia Checkpoint" in "Adra." It sounds like family name missing in his case.

Al-Boush family has bad luck, including another man shot the same day (28 Jan), 5 Al-Boush men from Irbeen killed 12-12-12 with bloody signs of possible gassing (like Anwar al-Boush and his son Mothhar. Anwar is shown at right - that seems to all be cotton, to absorb the internal fluids they all have - so what happened to his eyes?) - two Al-Boush women killed in the 21 August Ghouta massacre (prob. both from Irbeen, "moved to" Zamalka), and 3 men from Harran al-Awamid killed by "shelling" in another place rebels were losing (Hazzah and Eftrees) on 5 March, 2018, including another father and son.

Now for the supposed "FSA" man, Mohammed Hosni Kisaneh. That family name, all Damascus suburbs: only three killed all time, and all in a 5-day span: 27, 28, and 31 of January, 2013. The ones before and after are civilian relatives. In fact, the one killed day before might be his father: Husni Ali al-Qesania, from Haran Al-Awameed, also field executed near Adra. (likely arrested together) All his kids should have Hosni as a middle name. And is Hosni Ali the same person as "Hussein Ali" killed with his FSA son the following day? That would be double-listing, fairly rare. Or more likely a brother of his? Or also likely, someone from some other family with a father named Ali? The final entry here, might be his or their father: Ali Qesanya age 80, from Haran Al-Awameed, field executed the 31st at "the bank" in a "summary execution by regime forces." Sure it was. Grandfather, father, and son, in a few days...

3C.2) 27 February: Firas Mahdar al-Shamia
A month later, we have quite a find, I think, with Faris Mahdar al-Shamia ( فارس محضر الشامية VDC entry lacking middle name - CDD photo with full name), a Douma FSA fighter killed in the clashes 27 Feb. There's no hint of chemical anything in his story, but the visuals disagree. VDC has a small image, and CDD posted a very high-resolution photo with his head wrapped, combined here with select areas in detail.

Visual notes: swollen eyes, blood and mucous from the mouth and nose, over the upper teeth and tip of the nose, up the face, across the forehead - eye fluids leaking up the face, (alt. view shows blood-smeared forehead, no cyanosis, hair sticks up) - poss. burn under outer corner of the eye, a common location in other cases, both in and outside "Assad" dungeons (see part 2 and below). He was possibly emaciated, apparently dehydrated (see cracking mouth corners). All over is an unusual stickiness that glues dirt and pebbles to his face after he was laid that way. All this looks just like one of those Caesar photos victims, except for being in someone else's photo. 

Eyelashes, eyebrows, other facial hair; strangely bleached, damaged/tangled and pointing “up” more than usual? This is pretty consistent here and seems like a clue to the caustic agent used. It's something I haven't even noted much of in the Caesar photos, but those are lower-resolution and in dimmer light, usually. And I did not do a thorough search for this sign, may have missed it (will see about looking for it).

In the full-size image (cropped off here) some fresh blood runs across the tiles (left middle), and his wrapped head could suggest a serious cranial wound. But the unwrapped VDC image suggests no such thing; just a blood-smeared forehead and vertically-crusted hair was covered up. I don't imagine this man bled from anywhere but the mouth and nose, and we can see that's all dry. Maybe that blood is from someone else next to him, or his body was shot with a gun for effect, since it's said that killed him. (considering the above case a month earlier, that seems likely enough). But I don't think a gunshot anywhere made his eyes do that.

That was a lot to say about one man from just two images. After these early cases, most of the relevant images leave less to comment on. About a dozen or more popped out to me, appearing in a main stream from April onwards, with the victims cleaned up and wrapped for burial, so less likely to show all those clues above. The following summery shows a couple examples of the bland kind, and the few exceptions to that norm that really seem to show some of the "mask of death" clinical signs.

Add 7 May: a bit more on this man and his kin, based on his name and area: 14 Shamias from Damascus killed and 18 from Damascus suburbs. Some best examples of shady clustering:
* On 19 Nov. 2012, these two FSA fighters were both killed in clashes: Wasef Shamiiah from Assali (killed in Damascus: Ghazal area) and Imad Wasef Shameih, from Qadam, died in clashes at Damascus Suburbs: Sbeineh. That's all the same basic area - south edge of Damascus and down next to Daraya. Still they both died, and by names, Imad should be Wasef's son.
* Two more died in the market attack false-flag massacre of about 100 all-male hostages on 16 August, 2015: Mahmoud Mahdar al-Shameih, "Abo Sayah" and Omar Muhder al-Shameih, Known as Abo Fares. Both these men should be brothers, and also brothers of the man shown here; all have a father named Mahdar. Furthermore, Omar here named his son Faris - perhaps after his uncle, the "FSA hero martyr." Many or all of these people were killed before the blamed rockets even landed, and the evidence is clear those rockets came from a surface spot ~800m south of the markets, not from a passing fighter jet.
* In fact eight entries share that middle name ( محضر ), or 9+ including Faris (middle name missing here) - 8 men, 1 boy. Can one man have 9+ sons, and maybe daughters too? Yes. The closest in time are 2 civilian men killed by shelling: poss. brother Fadi killed 13 Jan. and Ali, age 25, apparently a younger generation, son of Nouaaman Mouhder Shameih (so poss. nephew - dual middle names can signify two generations, I think...) died 3-21 from shelling "injuries two days ago" (the day of the Ateibah CW incident, for what that's worth).

3C.3) April-August Mainstream
The earliest entry there and here is a bland example; Mohammed Jamal Noureddine, “FSA” from Kafr Batna, shot during clashes in Douma on 10 April. Visually, there's moderate purple in the lips (possible cyanosis), little dark marks on the lips, possibly swollen eyes with no bruise color, and a suggestion of fluids leaking from the airways (plugged nostrils). All consistent.

Others who share this basic look: Khalid Khbayah 2-6, Mohamed al-Haboush 4-8, Yasser Abdel Razzaq Mahmoud 6-8, Fayez Al - Barazi 8-8. (see analysis post for links and images)

Another who looks similar down to the (lip burns?): Mohanad al-Saour (VDC) "FSA," from Douma. Big difference here: nose not plugged, also not wrapped just yet. He was "martyred due to his wounds sustained by regime's army shelling" – not the usual shooting - on 28 July. Are they leaving it open that the shell contained some toxic gas? Since the pre-wrapping body wash (Islamic practice), he's poured out a lot of blood, and has oozed some thick white mucous from the right nostril (distorted from how he was laid). That's pulmonary edema, possibly from irritant gas exposure, and not many other things. He also seems to have somewhat puffy eyes, and a pale to bluish color, consistent with some suffocation - which is only logical given those fluids.

A likely relative of that man (sharing the family name الساعور ) died a week later on 5 August, also during clashes near Adra but from the usual "shooting," and had his image and video posted by Civil Defense Douma as well. Mohamed Yassin al-Saeour “Abo Qasem” - "FSA" from Douma (VDC). He died with blood over his nose, up to a point, white, undamaged eyes, and facial burns of a kind appearing on others in these days, and also similar to those in the Caesar photos. In fact, there are specific similarities to the apparently mask-strapped “unknown branch” #550 (already compared to the Douma mask pattern back in part 2). Numerous similarities pointed out below (probably some coincidence there, but not entirely. That eye corner is a catch point for people in goggles, as identified in the 2018 cases. The photo of unknown 550 is dated 1 July, a month or so earlier than Mr. Saaour, in “Assad dungeons” nearby. Can these things really be separate and yet apparently equal?

Like the Saour men killed so near in time, others in my study stand out for relatives dying close in time, which might suggest family targeting besides, of course, coincidence. There were two Sheikh Al-Qusair boys, possibly brothers, killed by chance shelling on May 1 and then on May 2 (the latter shown by CDD with possible skin burns and puffy eyes) More common is FSA brothers or relatives dying together like Khaled and Hassan Khbayya on June 2, Rida and Mohammed Abdo Hashem on July 30, etc.

Belated name search for Saour ( الساعور ) (Added May 12, 2019) But just keeping with al-Saour as one more name as another to check: = 129 killed. Mohamed Yasin likely brother: Khaled Yasin al-Saeour, FSA, killed only in 2015-03-31 by Warplane shelling in Damascus Suburbs: Otaya, the same day as Khaled Mowaffaq al-Saeour ("FSA") and Basheer Hasan al-Saeour, a civilian, died somehow in that same shelling. Other clusters:
* 10-02-2012 A family of 4 is killed by shelling behind a school, the kids but not parents identified, and a fighter is shot in clashes the same day
* 13 January an unrelated woman (Maysa Ahmad) and girl (Qamar Omar) killed by shelling
* 9 March poss. sister of that girl (Rouaa Omar) killed by shelling along with an unrelated boy (Qusai Mohammad), 10 March a civilian man (Yaser al-Saour) also dies from shelling
* 15 April a FSA and a civilian, lacking middle names, both killed by shelling
* 28 November: Mohammad Khaled al-Sawor "FSA" by shooting as (his sister?) Fatmeh Khaled al-Saour dies, also on 11-28, from shelling. Then a few days later: 2 December Yosef Mohammad al-Sawor 10 months old, "Martyred as a result of malnutrition and starvation because of the siege imposed by the forces of regime on the city." That's a possible son of that Mohammed, or one of the 2 others killed earlier, or the 6 after, or none of them...
* 2014-09-09 A civilian man (Kasem al-Saaour) and a boy (Yasser Mohammad = prob. not his son) killed by shelling. 09-10 Aref al-Saeour "FSA" is shot in clashes somewhere in East Ghota
End May 12 add

Most intriguing is Mohammad Loay al-Afyouni, a civilian from Jobar, displaced to and killed in Douma on 30 July by “warplane shelling” (VDC). Visual notes: … no signs, basically. He's gasping, which doesn't prove suffocation or chemicals. Loks plain dropped dead, as many victims of the Ghouta chemical massacre would just 3 weeks later.

It's not a common family name at all; An Arabic name search at VDC shows just 14 killed, most reliably linked only to Jobar, but with eight killed in a single event just three weeks after Mohamed Louay - in the massive Ghouta chemical massacre on 21 August. 4 women, 4 men, and no children share his family name, but none has an image or video linked. It's said they're from Zamalka, but it might say that if they were from Jobar too, just “displaced” there with scant details. Adult children of a Marwan, Mahrous, Deeb, and Moawafk al-Afeouni appear, the latter of which appears as a middle name on 4 entries, one of which is Mohammed Louae Mowafak al-Afouni. 

Mohammed Louae is apparently a compound personal name, and not a common one, preceding the Mowafaq (father's name) shared with three others. So it's possible this is the same exact man, listed twice. But more likely, these are cousins of his, one sharing the name of, perhaps, grandfather Mohammed Louae. If so, others who died may be siblings of the July death, and either way, family targeting is strongly suggested here, and they were most likely all nine killed by gassing.

3D) Comparing the Body Streams
That last entry takes us a bit ahead of the curve, so let's first pause here in early August, at the end of those Douma morgue photos showing puffy eyes, blood and mucous, skin burns, cyanosis, and some evidence for inverse suspension (Faris Al-Shamia at least). Those signs, seen widely and in more extreme form in the “Caesar photos,” here were similarly played-down and passed off as other things. All told, these signs are said to be caused by: that massive regime torture, by some regime chemical attacks, and also by regime shooting and shelling – at least during early-to-mid-2013, in and around E Ghouta.

And besides similar content, which remain debatable in its relevance, the Caesar and Douma photos seem to stop at the same time, within a few days of each other. The CDD Facebook page continued to Feb. 2, 2014 with no more evident examples past those posted on 8 August of 2013; clashes would go on and martyrs would keep falling, but they stopped looking like that. And as it happens, the last two collection dates for the “Caesar photos” were 8 and 14 August, allegedly because the defector felt unsafe, and decided to close the project around then.

That last folder may cover photos prior to the 14th or after (both kinds exist, not sure which it is). But it could cover nothing past his flight from Damascus, which was sometime in August, all sources agree. Only a 2015 SNHR report drawing on direct interviews with the secret man specifies a date: “On 20 August 2013, Caesar decided to defect and leave Syria after he felt threatened” with discovery by Syrian authorities. But they note for balance, or to help deny an important aspect of the true story: “He also felt threatened by armed opposition groups who were not informed of his undercover work.” He was so not-in-contact with the terrorists running Eastern Ghouta it was dangerous, as he explained it to them with limited logic.

Also the reports of regime CW attacks dropped off, both in number and in newsworthy fatality. Probably the most exhaustive list of real and alleged and misreported CW incidents is the German GPPI's 2019 report "Nowhere to Hide: The Logic of Chemical Weapons Use in Syria." It never did explain the logic part very well, but managed to blame “Assad regime” for 98% of CW attacks, ISIS for 2%, and no one else for any of them, and that's from the biggest list ever, with more than 300 incidents. But in line with the cases above, they show a steady stream of claimed attacks in E. Ghouta through the middle of the year up to late June, followed by a sharp drop-off. The following are all entries from there to 21 August, with notes added and no events left off.

* 23/06/2013 Zamalka Reef Damascus Unknown Assad regime (the deadliest of all happens to be nearly the climax)
* 24/06/2013 Qaboun Damascus Unknown Assad regime
* 27/06/2013 Qaboun Damascus Unknown Assad regime (might be where Mr. Shatheley got that internal bleeding, as listed on the 26th, or did each list miss one attack here?)
* (then a missed event on the 30th? That should be where Ammar Qatat, FSA, got those puffy eyes)
* 05/07/2013 Al-Khalidya Homs Unknown Assad regime (outside of our area)
* 21/07/2013 Al-Yarmouk Damascus Unknown Assad regime (closer to but outside our area, also poorly supported: Van Wagenen). My Q; gassing claim made from or vanished into thin air?)
* 05/08/2013 Douma Reef Damascus Sarin Assad regime (in our area, related to the below, no fatalities)
* 05/08/2013 Adra Reef Damascus Sarin Assad regime (plume said to drift to Douma and sicken people there, likely cause of reports there – no human deaths, but shady; videographers involved in supplemental poisoning of stray pets?)
* 21/08/2013 East Ghouta Reef Damascus Sarin Assad regime

The Adra incident on the 5th is the one notable event in this once-busy area, a strangely clear yet non-fatal sarin prelude to the 21st, that was careful to include the same mysterious “volcano” rockets linked to the later incident. (two views of the thing at right, conveniently in the same number sequence, and with mysterious dark liquid residue on the metal inside the tank... note: same fragment, flipped over, diff. lighting, time elapsed). Eliot HigginsMalek and co. to noted it then(as "reportedly used by government forces in Daraya, Damascus in January, and in Adra, Damascus in June" (dates: 4 Jan. 11 Jun. - no app. incident links to the above, but the same greasy black residue - but not numbered yet? to be added at the post "Black Sarin?" in due time). That all got them a lead in helping link the UMLACA-Volcano to the regime and establish guilt for Ghouta when the same weapon came up a few weeks later.

This last rocket appearance happens to come within days of the last of those morgue photos in Douma; people stop looking gassed there just as sarin lands again nearby, in this peculiar preview sense.

So it's unprovable but worth wondering if this is all a coincidence, or if there was some mysterious force shifting gears in those days of late summer, and especially the second and third weeks of August, 2013. And would those shifting gears in the Damascus-East-Ghouta area have a chemical extermination aspect, as I'm seeing in the visual record? If so, why? Was there some larger plan at work?

In case all the build-up and foreshadowing wasn't clear, yes we'll cover the August 2013 Ghouta chemical massacre of several hundred to 1,000+ . Not here, as I had promised in part 2, but we're unavoidably worked up to it as the start for a journey-closing part 4.