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Warning: This site contains images and graphic descriptions of extreme violence and/or its effects. It's not as bad as it could be, but is meant to be shocking. Readers should be 18+ or a mature 17 or so. There is also some foul language occasionally, and potential for general upsetting of comforting conventional wisdom. Please view with discretion.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Who was Behind the Kibbutz Massacres?

October 7 Massacre in Israel, p. 2: Who was Behind the Kibbutz Massacres?

November 26, 2023

< Part 1: Which Israelis are "Making Up Stories?"

2A) Inside the "Be'eri Massacre": The Dagan House 

The most detailed account of IDF hostage elimination in the October 7 massacre comes from a woman named Yasmin Porat, who has given at least 4 interviews.

10/15 Kan News, Haboker Hazeh interview: Israeli forces shot their own civilians, kibbutz survivor says | The Electronic Intifada 10/15 with updates: "Although it no longer appears on the Kan website, there can be little doubt about the recording’s authenticity." By October 23: "Porat's testimony mysteriously disappeared from the "Haboker Hazeh" program, leading to rampant speculation about censorship." 

10/24 CNN interview, somehow omitting all the controversial details: https://www.cnn.com/videos/world/2023/10/24/hostage-hamas-released-israel-ebof-sot-vpx.cnn

11/15 Kan News, Kalman Liberman program, including 2nd hand testimony from fellow survivor Hadas Dagan: https://omny.fm/shows/kan-news/4-26 - 11/25 analysis Israeli October 7 posterchild was killed by Israeli tank, eyewitnesses reveal - The Grayzone - Israeli child “burned completely” by Israeli tank fire at kibbutz | The Electronic Intifada

11/18 https://nationalpost.com/news/world/family-gathers-for-a-farewell-ceremony-for-liel-a-12-year-old-victim-of-hamas

From these sources, here's a detailed narrative: Yasmin and her boyfriend Tal Katz weren't locals, but came for the Nova party. They had just left that when a rocket attack occurred. They took shelter in a house in Be'eri with others until they were discovered by Hamas gunmen and taken captive. They were driven to another house with yet other prisoners. There were 15 captives there total: Yasmin and Tal, the 12-year-old twins, Liel and Yanai Hetzroni and their great-aunt Ayala, and 10 other hostages, "most of them elderly kibbutz members," including house owners Adi and Hadas Dagan. 

The Hamas fighters "treated us humanely," Porat said, meeting their needs and calming their fears as possible. “They did not abuse us. … No one treated us violently.” She was told and believed “The objective was to kidnap us to Gaza, not to murder us.” She says that fellow survivor Hadas Dagan told her that “There were no executions, or anything like that. At least not the people with her.”

A Hamas commander decided the IDF had already blocked the roads out of town, preventing their escape (everyone else seems to think he was mistake and they could still have escaped). He asked Yasmin to call the police, thinking that could help them get around the blockade and/or survive. "She said she made seven calls to the police during the afternoon, at the behest of the terrorists. In one of the calls, the terrorists put the frantic Liel on the phone, because they thought Porat was being too controlled in her conversation and they wanted a sobbing child to get on the call." 

Two hours later, the police arrived. This time allows for a briefing on special tactics for this situation. But when they arrive, Porat says, "A gun battle takes place that our police started." 100+ shots were fired by both sides, leaving hostages and kidnappers ducking for cover, It sounds like one shot grazed Yasmin's leg, leaving just a bruise. 

The commander was talking with police, wanting to surrender. Around 5:30 PM they had him strip and go outside with that Yasmin lady they spoke with. He walked over with her in front at gunpoint until the police took her and arrested him. In the CNN interview, she seems to say that other Hamas fighters had threatened to shoot the commander for ditching them like that, but for some reason they never did. She was safe, but "my boyfriend and the others are still there with 40 terrorists because just one surrendered." She never mentions the army arriving or just how it was that "no one stayed alive." 

On her way out, Yasmin saw 5 or 6 hostages on the grass outside, wounded and/or just laying low "from the massacre, in the line of fire between our forces and the terrorists." Interviewer: "they could have been shot by our own forces while they were trying to eliminate the kidnappers?" Porat: "Absolutely. It's painful for me, they fired on everyone there, including the hostages." On the grass: her boyfriend Tal, another man named Tal, house owner Adi Dagan and his wife Hadas, 1-2 others.  

It seems she remained on-site to observe the following events, probably hoping for Tal to be freed. She stayed involved, explaining in the 11/15 interview: 

“I sat there with the commander of the unit,” Porat recalled, “and I described to him what the house looks like, and where the terrorists are, and where the hostages are. I actually drew it for him: ‘Look, here, on the lawn there are four hostages that are lying this way on the lawn. Here are two that are lying under the terrace. And in the living room there is a woman lying like this, and a woman lying like this.” Porat explained, “I told [the Israeli commander] about the twins (Yanai and Liel Hatzroni) and their great-aunt (Ayala), I didn’t see them. You know what, when I left, they were the only ones I didn’t see. I heard Liel the whole time, so I know for certain that they were there.. I tried to explain to [the commander] that from somewhere near the kitchen, that’s where I heard the screams coming from. I didn’t see her, but I heard her, and I heard where the screams were coming from. I tried to explain to them where all the hostages were.”

The timeline is a bit confused, but 2-3 hours after her release, the Israelis opted to end the standoff, perhaps using that information.

10/15: "The fighting apparently ended at 8:30 after insane crossfire. Two tank shells were fired into the house. It's a small kibbutz house, nothing big. You saw it on the news. ... and at that moment they were all killed. There was quiet, except for one survivor that came out of the garden, Hadas." 

11/15: "At around 7:30 pm, after some four hours of crossfire consisting of “hundreds of thousands of bullets,” Porat peered from behind Israeli lines and observed an Israeli tank firing two shells into the small kibbutz house." Someone explained to her it was "to break the walls, in order to help purify the house.” But there was no need to enter, as the situation was ended (purified?) by those 2 shots. Everyone was "killed in the crossfire," not just possibly but "undoubtedly" killed by the Israeli side. 

Yasmin says the damaged Dagan house was seen "on the news." I'm not sure which house it is, seen where ... it could be this one, from the Be'eri massacre Wikipedia page. To me this looks like 2+ impact of differing power, perhaps from tank shells (which Hamas did not have) and/or, perhaps, a powerful RPG, which they might have had. 

Note: I'm not expert enough to decide exact weapon was used. Almost down the line, what could be Israeli missile could be a heavy Hamas mortar, a tank shell or maybe a heavy RPG shell, etc. Any of them could damage a building, blow in a car's roof and set it ablaze, as far as I know. Some expert analysis could help narrow down the possibilities, but for me, the evidence is mainly too ambiguous to easily pin the blame on either side for all that happened. A more expert opinion might help here.

Several houses were damaged, most of them less visibly, and most or all suffered fires like the kind that often follow such attacks, but could also have been started by Hamas trying to smoke people out of their shelters. From the Gray Zone article on events at the Dagan house, a picture of a house with consistent damage used for illustration, but that I found is specified as a different house. "Mati and Amir Weiss, the parents of kibbutz security-team member Yuval, were at their home, pictured here, when Hamas fighters burst in. He was unable to reach them in time. REUTERS /Ronen Zvulun" https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/israel-palestinians-kibbutz-attack/

Maybe it's this place? (image from around)

Dagan told Porat how the tank shells detonating hurled her in the air, leaving her "covered in her husband’s blood" and seemingly paralyzed for a few minutes. "Upon regaining consciousness, Dagan realized that the captives who had been lying on either side of her – her husband Adi Dagan and Porat’s partner, Tal Katz – had just died from tank shell shrapnel. “When I opened my eyes, I saw that my Adi is dying,” Porat recalls Dagan saying. “Your Tal also stopped moving at that point.” 

Total killed: 13 hostages including 2 children, and some 40 Hamas terrorists - apparently none of them killed by Hamas terrorists. Adi Dagan was confirmed dead prior to October 9 (Times of Israel). "Tal was declared missing for several days until his body was found." His red dot placed among the deaths at the rave (Oct7map). Yanai Hetzroni was identified but Liel and great-aunt Ayala were presumed kidnapped - not just missing - as of October 26 (post - linked article now 404). Aunt Ayala was identified prior to a November 15 funeral (for her) and 'farewell ceremony" for Liel, burying some belongings in lieu of a body. Giving Up Hope, Family of 12-year Old Israeli, Missing Since Hamas Massacre, Says Goodbye - Israel News - Haaretz.com Maybe they hadn't been informed that Liel's fragmentary remains were identified on November 13 12-year-old girl missing since Oct. 7 found dead in Be'eri - The Jerusalem Post (jpost.com). They were found in the wreckage of the house she was last seen in.

Over the following days, Israeli official accounts announced Liel's murder by Hamas to refresh the horror and the hate.  Former PM Naftali Bennett: "Liel Hetzroni of Kibbutz Beeri was murdered in her home by Hamas monsters.” Israel on X: “All that remains of 12 year old Liel Hetzroni is ash and bone fragments. ... #HamasMassacre" 

Well, 100% of the surviving witnesses disagree. Hadas Dagan confirmed to Porat that it was the IDF's tank shells and ensuing fire that turned Liel into charred pieces: “‘The girl did not stop screaming for all those hours … [but] when those two shells hit, [Liel] stopped screaming. There was silence then.” Porat concluded, “So what can you take away from that? That after that very massive incident, the shooting, which concluded with two shells, that is pretty much when everyone died.” It's not clear if the soldiers could hear Liel wailing and then the contrasting silence. But Porat says she explained all the people present and just where they were. And the police had heard from the hysterical young girl inside. And yet the IDF and everyone then pretended to have no idea, to think the girl had been somehow kidnapped away from that scene. Maybe by the time they found otherwise, they could forget that they had killed her.

That's not the whole picture at Be'eri, representing only about 10% of those killed. But it is a disturbing bit of it. 

2B) Inside the Be'eri Massacre: Elsewhere

Another account comes from Tuval Escapa who, as Blumenthal explains, is "a member of the security team for Kibbutz Be’eri," who "set up a hotline to coordinate between kibbutz residents and the Israeli army" Escapa was away on business and managed this by phone, while his partner "was besieged in her home shelter at the time." She didn't survive that weekend. This account has plural "houses" shelled before it was all over, perhaps including his own. 

“According to him, only on Monday night and only after the commanders in the field made difficult decisions — including shelling houses with all their occupants inside in order to eliminate the terrorists along with the hostages — did the IDF complete the takeover of  the kibbutz. The price was terrible: at least 112 Be’eri people were killed. Others were kidnapped. Yesterday, 11 days after the massacre, the bodies of a mother and her son were discovered in one of the destroyed houses. It is believed that more bodies are still lying in the rubble.” A growing number of reports indicate Israeli forces responsible for Israeli civilian and military deaths following October 7 attack – Mondoweiss 

A quite detailed November 2 Reuters report agrees "It wasn’t until the following day, Monday, that the IDF declared the attack over," suggesting some kind of hostage situation(s), perhaps, had dragged it out for some two days. But there's no mention of how these might have resolved. Tanks aren't mentioned at all. According to this article, the "Battle of Be'eri" was fought against some 150 Hamas fighters by lightly-armed security guards (with the heavy guns locked away and the key missing on the killed commander), along with some disorganized volunteers, and army units that only came and went most of the day.  Some "slow" troops arrived around 2pm, and by around 6PM, they had commenced battle. The article ends its coverage with a volunteer rescuer killed by Hamas fighters around 10am on Sunday. Some 24-36 hours or crucial events are simply omitted.

Lt Col Salman Habaka, who would later die fighting in Gaza, "was among the first Israeli troops to arrive ... and later described his part in the fighting in Be’eri in a video interview." (The Guardian) He saw it differently, or saw a different part of it, or was just sent out to contradict the above claims: “I arrived in Be’eri to see Brig Gen Barak Hiram and the first thing he asks me is to fire a shell into a house [where Hamas were sheltering],” he said. “The first question that comes to your mind is – are there hostages there? We did all the preliminary checks before we decided to fire a shell into a house. Then we went from house to house to free the hostages. " Apparently he did not fire his tank, since hostages were inside. But he was asked to, despite that fact? Instead, they went house-to-house. "And that’s how the fighting was until the evening. In the kibbutz and in the streets." 

Maybe it was only after evening fell that the operation changed, and he just didn't mention that. After that, at 7:30 or 8:30 perhaps someone else followed another request to blast terrorists along 13 hostages, including children. And aside from that house, the stand off lasted 2 more days to Monday night before the final turns with more shelling of occupied homes and some 130 killed in the end.

Consider: tank commander Habaka said "as soon as people heard the rumbling of the tanks, they suddenly had a moment of security," while Yasmin Porat "described a sense of panic as she watched the tank trundle into the small community." 

Some wonder if the young female tank commanders celebrated in this video were responsible, but they came from the south and fought at Sufa and Holit - one recalls being told to fire on a building with terrorists inside. She asked if there are civilians inside, and he said "I don't know. Just shoot." She says she checked, like Habaka did, found there were civilians, and used lesser means instead. 

The site October7map.com does not cite these accounts in its explanation of the "Hostage Situation in Be'eri." Citing one news article, they relate how Hamas "captured around 50 civilians, some seen in "harrowing video footage ... being led barefoot along the streets to the Kibbutz dining hall. When Israeli security forces arrived at the scene, the terrorists barricaded themselves in the kibbutz dining hall, beginning an 18-hour long stand-off. With the arrival of additional Israeli security forces, the hostages were liberated and the terrorists largely neutralized."

Perhaps another 100+ were also held in other spots and later killed rather than freed. If so, this report doesn't mention it. No one's even directly refuting the alleged final turn of events, they just ignore it and focus on more pleasant episodes that keeps blame on Hamas and off of the IDF.

Same site: "The chilling aftermath of the Be'eri massacre exposed a scene of merciless brutality, with approximately 80% of the recovered bodies showing signs of torture." Perhaps 100% of that "torture" was instead caused by IDF weapons exploding. "Particularly harrowing were the accounts of a ZAKA official describing two piles of ten children each, with their hands bound together, burnt to death." However many bound kids were found bound is a number of captives Hamas probably meant to take alive to Gaza until something went wrong.

Reuters, November 2: "Reuters identified at least 42 residential buildings – nearly a quarter of those in the kibbutz – with substantial structural damage," mainly in the western Olives and Vineyard districts (a map is provided). "This is likely an undercount; only buildings with burn scars or obvious major structural damage were included." From a short drone view attached to this report:


Hidden at the far end of this view is where tanks left new tracks, as seen from a different angle in another video (at right). I didn't read the entire Reuters report, but the word "tank" doesn't appear once. It seems that all damage is assumed by Hamas, using whatever weapons, and all deaths and injuries are assumed to be their work alone. 

Two soldiers and a ZAKA rescuer claim to have seen bound bodies executed with gunshots to the head, and two women disrobed as if raped. But others describe scenes likely to result from tank fire or the like. "a young person, burned beyond recognition ... and both forearms were missing. ... two children whose skulls had been crushed and had knife [shrapnel?] wounds on their bodies. Their parents lay dead nearby, he said, with similar wounds." 

Stories of people shot and/or grenaded in their safe rooms appear in the Reuters report and others. these accounts are numerous, detailed, and plausible, along with the efforts to smoke people out. To kill Israeli civilians was surely allowed, if not the main plan. If that was to abduct as many as possible and get them back to Gaza, they would need to do it quickly before the IDF could rally and prevent their escape. They might have time to try brute force to get at some resistant people and encourage them to surrender. They could shoot people then offer medical aid - carrot and stick. But for the most part, they probably would not have time to engage in much rape or intricate torture or dismemberment, managing who has to watch what, and so on, as alleged.

Death toll review: Oct7map lists 85+ Murdered, 26+ Kidnapped, including 13 Kidnap Survivors (safely retuned as of 11/26), 4 Missing. Different sources give a final death toll in Be'eri of 112+, or 130+. Ha'aretz listed 99 names when I checked, including a 10-month-old girl, who was then de-listed (maybe re-added since). Other infants may have been killed and never listed. ZAKA head Yossi Landau said they recovered 280 bodies in Be'eri, 80% showing signs of "torture." Some 150 terrorists as said + 130 civilians as said = 280. That adds up pretty well. At least 10% of the civilians (13 hostages including 2 children) were almost surely killed by the IDF and not Hamas.

2C) What about the Other Kibbutz Massacres?

It's not clear if Be'eri was the exception or if events unfolded similarly in the other kibbutz attacks, but some evidence suggests others went the same way. The site October 7 map.com (https://oct7map.com/) shows the affected kibbutzim (villages) with red dots for the killed and black dots for those kidnapped clustered around them. An interesting pattern emerges.

Yasmin Porat said that it seemed like Hamas' objective was "to kidnap us to Gaza, not to murder us.” If that were the plan and it worked smoothly in any kibbutz, we would see a few deaths of security guards, a number of kidnappings, and no additional murders. If the plan was thwarted completely, then no Hamas fighters escaped, at least not with captives as planned, but sadly many civilians might wind up killed instead of whisked away. 

There may be smooth examples, but it's not clear if so. Nir Yitzakh seems closest, with 7 dead including "several" defenders and 7 kidnapped. But even there a clash with the IDF was involved. Most other villages witnessed their own battles where Hamas fighters were pinned down and killed, quite likely while holed up with some their hostages just like at Be'eri.

Seven examples with notes mainly from Oct7map:

Nir Yitzhak: 14-hour ordeal (7am to 9 pm): "The kibbutz's security squad bravely confronted the attackers to safeguard the community. The head of the kibbutz's domestic security and several security squad members lost their lives during the conflict. Numerous civilians were taken hostage. Responding Lotar unit members engaged the terrorists at the kibbutz, neutralizing the majority and subduing the remainder." 7 kidnapped, 7 killed, one specified "on duty" and "several" others should be too. If 7 defenders were killed, that means 0 civilian murders to achieve these 7 abductions.

Nirim: 3 security personnel, 5 civilians killed, and just 4 kidnapped before village defenders rallied and chased Hamas out of the town long before they commenced any mass abduction or mass killing, and long before the IDF showed up. Here, perhaps Hamas unnecessarily killed 5 civilians before they were forced to stop. Or maybe they got out of town with 5 other hostages but had their car(s) hit by Apache helicopters and had to take the blame for their grisly torture and murder there on the roadside?

Nir Oz
- 27+Murdered (~34 red dots), 75+ Kidnapped, 16 of them now returned home safely. Haaretz: 27+ deaths listed - 3 girls of Siman Tov family age 4,6,6 killed with their parents and a girl, 12 = at least 4 kids at Nir Oz listed.

"For 10 hours Nir Oz residents fought desperately to keep them at bay. ... Military personnel arrived later in the afternoon to evacuate and assist the surviving residents." (Mapping the Massacres (oct7map.com))  Some buildings wound up burned, with some bullet marks seen around evidencing a firefight - but reports say the gunmen all escaped "before help arrived"  https://twitter.com/i24NEWS_EN/status/1723340892491178069

Alex Gandler on X: "Most houses burned completely, those that haven't been burned show signs of struggle and death." Photo: bloody handprint and explosive fragmentation marks on the same wall. Perhaps Hamas shelled people in their homes after circumventing the guards, just to be vile or because they resisted - or perhaps, as in Be'eri, this was caused after "help arrived."

Kfar Aza: Killed: 48 civilians + and 23 on duty + ~5 unnamed red dots (total ~76). Kidnapped: 20 - none returned yet. IDF arrived before Hamas left. There was a battle, after which Hamas fighters were left lying around dead - supposedly unrelated to the damaged and burned homes and killed civilians, including "At least 40 babies, some beheaded" in this one village alone (as some claimed) - Kfar Aza kibbutz attack: Children, women, elderly 'butchered' in Hamas attacks on border communities, IDF says | CNN

Holit: 3 killed on duty, 14 civilians killed, 4 kidnapped. "By early afternoon, a Shaldag Unit reached the kibbutz, engaging and neutralizing ten terrorists with the support of armored units." - gung-ho female tank commanders deployed here and at Sufa - in Holit, one says she was told to fire on terrorists, but held off when she saw there were also civilians inside. Maybe 5 of them? If so, they may be the ones who wound up dead, somehow. The video host praises the ladies: "Eventually, you saved many lives in Holit." https://twitter.com/IsraelWarRoom/status/1728829568918945989

Sufa battle and Sufa massacre: 3 killed on duty, 5 civilians killed, 0 kidnapped. "Elia Lilintal, Sufa's head of Domestic Security, quickly detected the intruders. From his bathroom window, he eliminated several terrorists and rallied his six-member security squad. They successfully defended the kibbutz, protecting about 200 of its residents. Tragically, the onslaught claimed three of their own. Six hours later, as reinforcements reached the kibbutz, ten terrorists were captured and twenty were neutralized." This is where "an ISIS flag was discovered among the terrorists' remains." Gung-ho female tank commanders engaged in this battle (see Holit above). 

Kissufim: 30 killed, 4 kidnapped - "at least 15 civilians and six Thai workers" were killed, along with 1 security guard (?) and 8 soldiers in the 51st Golani Battalion in "an hours-long battle. Following the heroic battle, by late afternoon, they were assisting trapped residents to safety. The confrontation claimed the lives of eight soldiers. - also labeled: "Kissufim Battle" "Roughly 50 Hamas terrorists stormed a post where soldiers from Golani Brigade's 51st Battalion and some of their families, visiting for Simchat Torah, were located. ... Meanwhile, Hamas terrorists managed to infiltrate Kibbutz Kissufim, slaughtering residents. A special unit helped secure the area; it took nearly 50 hours to gain complete control." No hostage situation is mentioned, but something drew it out for over 2 days, and quite a few locals wound up dead, perhaps along with all the Hamas guys they had been packed around.

Ofakim: 52 murdered (~60 red dots), 8 on duty, 23 named civilians - 14+ injured, 0 kidnapped, some rescued "Prolonged fighting ensued between the terrorists and a local security group made up of civilians, police and IDF soldiers. . While the locals were able to eliminate most major threats by 10 a.m., the terrorists murdered over a dozen people. During the attack, Hamas took hostages in a private home, who were later rescued in a police operation." (In Ofakim, one woman's graceful bravery offers precious solace to a grieving nation | The Times of Israel) Any other hostage situations go unmentioned, but some 50-60+ civilians wound up dead.

Limited Abduction Zone mapped: Consider if the plan was to abduct and not murder people, and it went smoothly in some villages, you'd see a few red dots for the security personnel there but no more, and quite a few black dots. That might apply in some places, but what stands out is how black dots fail to appear outside certain zones hugging the Gaza border, marked out here in blue ... 


At the north end, NetivHaAsara and Zikim beach were perhaps both perhaps isolated after strikes on the Erez crossing, and wound up all killing, no abductions. To the east, Ofakim as noted, Netivot and Yakhini, and at least the police station in Sderot all wound up bloody failures, if kidnapping was the plan. The police station apparently was a "Hannibal" situation, and these other village massacres might have been the same.  

By this, Nir Oz had the best survival rate. The peace activist Yocheved Lifshitz was abducted there, along with her activist husband. Maybe it was with her help that the kidnapping process went extra-smooth so many had left before "help arrived" and finished off the stragglers. It did reportedly take until mid-afternoon for the army to arrive. Maybe in other places, the urge to resist and hide helped drag the process out so no one got out alive. Hmm. 

We can't prove the full truth, and in its violent incursion Hamas is sure to have killed a number of civilians past the soldiers and security guards they would need to kill. Some of those may have resisted with guns, while others just by refused to be quickly abducted. But from the available evidence, a sizeable portion and perhaps the vast majority of them might have been "Hannibalized" by the IDF rather than slaughtered by Hamas. 

Note: It's not clear if any Hannibal-type endings were improvised or on orders. But the hostage situations that dragged on for about 2 days and then ended suddenly on Monday suggest a centralized decision to wrap this up, get a final and large death toll rife with "Hamas torture," and commence using that to justify flattening north Gaza. 

Finally, we have the 200 Hamas fighters initially counted as murdered Israeli civilians (see part 1). They were found mangled and charred in close proximity to charred and mangled Israelis they had taken hostage. Some of these 200 fighters may have been toasted in individual combat or in their own vehicles, etc. Others would be driving hostages who would end up the same, or holding them inside buildings the IDF blasted. 20% of them should be the 40 or so killed in gun battles or by tank fire at the Dagan house, along with 13 hostages. They all wound up the same way, at the same place ... logically, for the same reason. 

But the civilians, we're told, were hacked into tiny pieces and torched, and their houses perhaps blasted with RPGs, all before the army ever showed up to ... kill a bunch of terrorists without having to blast or burn anything? And then they forgot about it? Didn't they even have some idea how many they had killed, to subtract from the death toll? Of course they did. But the supposed lapse allowed Israel to claim the highest possible death toll early on, when it mattered most in forming opinions. Later, they revise it, brag about their transparency, and studiously ignore the lesson - the IDF probably mangled and charred ALL those people. 

On the map above, one might notice the big red blob of deaths at the Re'im/Nova rave/electronic music festival - and the roads leading from it - some 364 deaths and just a few successful kidnappings in this open, sprawling killing field. What happened there? That's the topic of part 3.

Friday, November 24, 2023

Which Israelis are "Making Up Stories?"

October 7 Massacre in Israel, part 1: Which Israelis are "Making Up Stories?"

November 24, 2023

1A) Introduction

This site has never promised to cover all "massacre marketing," and it hasn't done anything for some months. I was slow to decide on even this - massacre marketing by the State of Israel over the events of October 7. "Israel's 9/11" was used to justify its assault on and invasion of Gaza, which is definitely genocidal by at least some definitions (with some details unclear to me). Their attacks have killed an estimated 15-20,000 people so far, including Hamas fighters but mostly civilian and nearly half of them children. (EuroMed - "Euro-Med Monitor estimated that at least 15,271 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed, including 3,561 women and 6,403 children"). Some half of North Gaza's housing has been destroyed, and around one million people are temporarily displaced, with Israel perhaps hoping to make that permanent. They seem to be dismantling and depopulating north Gaza, maybe in hopes of settling it as Israeli. 

It could take a while to finish the job, depending what the job winds up being, and the Israeli people might need a lot of hate to see it through. October 7 and/or the propaganda surrounding it provided for that. 

Partly from ignorance, I had no horse in this race to start. I'm certainly no fan of Israel under Netanyahu/Likud, but I also distrust Hamas. I imagine Israel is right to say they hide themselves among the people after their provocations, complicating military response and/or endangering civilians. But I couldn't say how widely they do this, and it seems Israel exaggerates this limited truth to pretend Hamas is in every building, freeing them to flatten the place.  

So to start, I was half-inclined to believe that Hamas would provoke Israel with a gruesome slaughter as alleged. That still seems possible, to at least some extent. However, upon examining the claims and evidence in middling detail, I suspect most or all of the extreme allegations were fabricated, to help Israel justify its appalling plans. 

Hamas fighters (terrorists) can be seen on videos, including their own body cameras, killing some civilians, reportedly beheading soldiers, and desecrating their bodies. As far as I've seen, they display a mix of hate and restraint that's bound to vary, Here (IDF on X): on body camera footage they threaten to kill an Israeli Arab "collaborator," but the worst the video captures is one fighter kicking the man in the face as another calms him down and has him handcuffed. Here: on security camera footage, it seems 2 young women trying to flee are shot dead by a gunman, one after she drops as if begging for mercy. 

Consider that Israel claims it killed about 1,000 of the attackers, maybe all of them equipped with cameras. But I haven't seen even a claim that any of the gravest crimes - like rape, or beheading babies - has ever occurred before any camera. That's likely because these things never happened. All after-the-fact evidence that's presented fails (see part 4), and so it says the same thing: these stories were probably just made up to sow more hate. 

It's also clear now that the scale of Hamas' killing is distorted. At least some and perhaps the vast majority of civilians killed that day (and in standoffs sometimes running 2 days after) were caused by the Israeli military itself - and not just by accident. This emerging picture is not as clear as some think, and the reality is likely more mixed than "Hamas massacre" or "IDF false-flag." I suspect it's more of the latter, but what are suspicions really worth? 

In the next 3 posts (still in progress), I'll consider the evidence presented and what it actually shows so the reader can form their own improved view. I've gathered some reports and debunks published by others, along with some critical review of the same, and some original observations. In one case, I found strong clues suggesting a young woman was killed by Israeli helicopter fire, and also suggesting some twisted manipulation of the victim's corpse to show how she was "raped" and "burned alive" by Hamas. I should probably lead with that strong medicine, but maybe just the mention here lets me start with this introduction and buys me time to finish the ordered approach I set out on, where that case comes up in part 3. 

1B) 10/7 Death Toll

Concerns about Gaza civilian deaths under Israel's bombs are often met with the note that Palestinians, children included, basically deserve it for tending to support Hamas, voting for them years back, or even celebrating the 10/7 attacks (which they saw differently). Or some of them (the children) might be kind of innocent and their deaths are Hamas' fault alone for starting the war; the IDF is dropping the bombs killing them, but they need to do this, either to hit Hamas targets or just for revenge, and should never let up until Hamas is destroyed, however many Palestinians die or get chased away in the process (and to some, it's "the more the better."). Humanitarian concerns are for humans, and ever since some of them behaved inhumanly on 10/7, Palestinians cannot be considered human. This is a serious and driving trope is Israel right now. It's pretty scary. Netanyahu has invoked Amalek.

But after all, Hamas did start it by breaking a ceasefire with their provocative kidnappings and especially with their grisly massacres on the 7th, where as some say they murdered over 1,400 innocent civilians. 

First, it seems people on both sides are confused about the death toll. Early counts grew with searches and resolving hostage standoffs to finally claim "At least 1,400 people were killed, many of them civilians, including children." (HRW) About 350 military, police and intelligence deaths were acknowledged, but it was claimed over 1,000 civilians were massacred, all by Hamas. Then it was revised down to "about 1,200" total by Nov. 10 (Israel revises Hamas attack death toll to 'around 1,200' | Reuters). As far as I can tell, this is close to a final number and it's probably a reliable count. The best source I have is:  https://oct7map.com/ - an interactive site based around a map of the attack sites all around Gaza's periphery. This might be dated, but it says "The attacks claimed the lives of more than 1,194 individuals, of which 843 of the identified bodies are civilians." Some were still buried in rubble or missing, but this may be close to a final number. That leaves 351 military. Earlier reports had at least 340 active soldiers and intelligence officers killed. That squares pretty well.

As for that revision: Israeli ambassador Mark Regev recently explained to Mehdi Hassan - as an example of how transparent his government is being - how some 200 of those dead were actually Hamas fighters so badly burned and disfigured, and in such proximity to badly burned and disfigured Israelis, that "we thought they were ours." Quds News Network on X: "Israel admits some 200 of the bodies they said were Israelis killed on October 7 turned out to be Hamas fighters. https://t.co/5mWfRZe4MF" / X (twitter.com) We'll come back to this. 

At least 843 killed civilians, broken down for reference: 364+ were killed at the Nova rave (updated count), ~55 were killed in and around the city of Sderot, ~424 were killed in the various Kibbutz attacks and scattered on the roads in between them. 100-130+ of those were at Be'eri, at least some of them "undoubtedly" killed by the IDF (see part 2 if you don't yet know about this, or the Gray Zone piece linked below), and ~300 died in the other kibbutz attacks combined.

There's another list at Ha'aretz of Israelis or foreign civilians and Israeli military, killed anywhere that day or since then - "Over 1,300 Israelis, civilians and soldiers were killed ... in the atrocities of October 7 and the subsequent Israel-Hamas war." It's not complete, even for those confirmed/reported: 1,152 names when I checked, about 1/3 of them military, and some postdating 10/7. I estimate perhaps 200 victims of the day aren't included, for whatever reason. 

I've seen this list used, several times now, to refute "40 beheaded babies" by showing there was just one (specified) baby listed, assuming that's all that was killed. That was true when I first checked (10 month old girl, killed in Be'eri), then it was revised next day to remove that entry and list no (specified) babies at all. So the list is not complete and, perhaps for privacy reasons, is specifically lacking in infants who were killed. I suspect a few were killed (5-10?), along with some toddlers ("babies" to some), maybe along with some older kids making 40 total? But they died in the disputed circumstances we'll be considering. 

But it was the manner of killing, as reported, that unsettled so many, and opened some minds to consider genocide in Gaza a fit response. It turns out no one but British tabloids and the like ever said 40 babies were beheaded, in one village or in total (Propaganda and co on X ). But killing children, some of them by beheading, killing adults in several ways, committing insanely brutal rape that breaks bones, raping children, torture, dismemberment and mutilation, fetus removal and execution, burning people alive ... these claims stand, supported by the Israeli government and accepted by its supporters worldwide.

But did Hamas really do all of that? Did they even do any of it? There is evidence to show something horrible clearly happened to a lot of people, so what else could it be? 

1C) Which Israelis are "Making up Stories"?

Tireless pro-Palestine activist Roger Waters - Pink Floyd himself if anyone is (and no one is) - gave an interview with Glen Greenwald for his November 1 episode of System Update. They discussed Waters' alleged antisemitism in light of the recent events in Israel and Gaza. His denial was sort of rambling and probably not convincing to the critics, but FWIW I believe him. To the same effect, he suggested the 10/7 attacks were perhaps allowed for some reason (but he was only "a little bit down that rabbit hole") and the Hamas massacre story "was thrown all out of proportion by Israelis making up stories about beheading babies."  Interview With Roger Waters: Musical Genius, Political Activist, Accused Anti-Semite | SYSTEM UPDATE #174 (rumble.com)

Israeli I24 News ran a critical review by Philip Podolsky November 07 that explained how Waters is "notorious for his anti-Israel vitriol" and stands accused of "antisemitic abuse." This is meant to shed light on why Waters now accuses 'Israelis' of  'making Up Stories' About October 7. (Podolsky seems to forget how he has even dressed as a Nazi-ish guy on stage, and wrote songs about killing "queers," "coons," joint-smokers, people with "spots" ... and of course Jews. And he had a pig with Shell oil logo on it, etc.) 

He's, like, a modern-day holocaust denier. Podolsky grants Waters saying "If war crimes were committed, I condemn them," but notes how he followed this by "casting further doubt on whether those took place." Though his reading adds or subtracts little from the evidence in question, Waters' doubts are valid, and his citations are good. 

"There may have been individual things," he said, referring to a report in Grayzone, which denied much of the evidence Israel has produced from the scenes of the massacre. Grayzone is a widely discredited site known for airing propaganda for the Russian and Syrian regimes, including the denial of Damascus's chemical weapons attacks on civilian population." 

The Gray Zone has refuted Syrian chemical attack claims partly based on amazing analysis I was involved with, pairing ballistic readings with video geolocation to essentially prove, in 2021, Western-backed (and Israeli-backed) Islamic militants launched whatever chemical attack there was on August 21, 2013. Syrian insurgents guilty of ‘red line’ 2013 sarin chemical attack, study finds - The Grayzone One way or another, they - and not Syria's government - caused the several hundred to 1,000+ civilians deaths, including hundreds of children, that occurred just then. Israel has never cared much about the truth of that incident. Invested as they are in toppling the "Assad regime," they'll accept or help fabricate any accusation against them and use it as a pretext to bomb some airport there, at the same time absolving and encouraging genocidal terrorist massacres. 

For some reason, I24 did not link its readers to the Gray Zone piece or name the author, Max Blumenthal - "my good friend," as Waters calls him - who can't as easily be called antisemitic. But then Waters wasn't very specific, so I'm not even sure, but ... I think this is it, questioning Israel's evidence - great piece: October 7 testimonies reveal Israel’s military ‘shelling’ Israeli citizens with tanks, missiles - The Grayzone, posted October 27. And note others had already made a similar case - e.g. MondoWeiss.net on Oct. 22.

Podolsky also fails to relate its actual core argument; Israelis were killed in their homes, but at least partly by their own military, in a cynically disproportionate response. Anyone who reads the article can see it's based mostly on reports from Israeli media citing survivors and military personnel involved in the events. Therefore, Podolsky's and I24's implication is that these Israelis are making up stories. The military command is telling it right, and anyone who says otherwise is either engaged in antisemitic smears or - if they're Israeli Jews themselves, well ... one way or another, they can't be trusted. 

Here are the two Israeli stories, broadly speaking, one of which was "made up." 

The story from Israeli civilian captives: noting that others tell different stories (see below), that either story could be untrue, told under terrorist duress or to bolster Israel's case, and that both stories could be true to some extent ... several accounts (many but not all included in the article in question) converge on a basic picture: the Hamas men were not brutal but polite for kidnappers, and seemed intent on taking captives peacefully for rational gain - they did not seem bent on murder, rape, torture or mutilation. Most or all civilian deaths were - from what they saw - caused by powerful Israeli assaults that killed captors and captives alike. I won't relate any of these accounts right here, but by topic over the next 3 posts. 

This might sound like an insane development, but consider this is Israel and, as Blumenthal noted: 

"If Israel’s military had intentionally targeted areas where it knew the captives were held, its actions would have been consistent with Israel’s Hannibal Directive. The military procedure was established in 1986 following the Jibril Agreement, a deal in which Israel traded 1150 Palestinian prisoners for three Israeli soldiers. Following heavy political backlash, the Israeli military drafted a secret field order to prevent future kidnappings. The proposed operation drew its name from the Carthaginian general who chose to poison himself rather than be held captive by the enemy."

In the few cases this directive was followed, the suicide was "assisted". One possible example occurred that day, at the overrun Erez crossing, where the commander called in a strike to destroy the still-occupied base, to kill the terrorists and/or prevent the capture of any troops (MondoWeiss). 

Another example from the same day was at the police station in Sderot, a city militants couldn't take like the villages, with some 50-60 scattered, perhaps targeted killings, but including several seniors killed at a bus stop. The only hostage situation that formed here was at the police station. The Cradle reports: "Hamas fighters had taken over the local police station, and were holding Israeli police captive inside. Both the Hamas fighters and Israeli police were killed when the Israeli army fired tank shells at the police station, killing everyone. Israeli forces then bulldozed the station." Mapping the Massacres (oct7map.com) says, in contrast, the terrorists killed "approximately 30 individuals" at the station before the IDF arrived and "regained control of the situation, neutralizing some 35 terrorists in the process," and apparently killing no one else. Just 8 red dots are shown, and 8 names of those "killed on duty" are given. Does the "approximately 30" deaths include "some 35 terrorists?" Once IDF was there, "the Southern District commander ordered the event to be ended at all costs - even if it meant destroying the station. Just after 22:00, a bulldozer began to demolish the station. This triggered heavy exchanges of fire, and the station began to burn. After a prolonged battle, the police announced that control of the station had been regained."  No survivors are mentioned.

As I gather, the Hannibal option is usually meant for military personnel facing abduction, not police, or civilians. But extending it to civilians would have the same basic logic - prevent terrorists from getting any advantage from kidnapping Israeli citizens. Instead of take-no-prisoners, it's an allow-no-prisoners policy. You don't have to bother with exchanging anything for their freedom if they're simply dead from the start. And anyway, 10/7 was a case where both civilians and military were abducted - any effort to differentiate who to kill might fail, and widely. 

IDF Reserve pilot Col. Nof Erez doesn't seem to have direct, inside knowledge of the day's events, but when interviewed by Ha'aretz, he said "the Hannibal directive was probably deployed" for this hostage situation, but it was not the isolated kidnapping they had trained for; "What we saw here was a MASS HANNIBAL. There were many openings in the fence, thousands of people in many different vehicles, both with hostages and without hostages. It was an impossible mission to identify and to do what [the pilots] did." In such a chaotic situation, they would almost surely kill some hostages and perhaps even civilians fleeing from the terrorists. https://twitter.com/WarWatchs/status/1726671271017013494

The IDF would deny the killings in such a case, as much as possible blaming the enemy, and so the killings would add propaganda value - there's an actual motive to kill civilians "in the crossfire" or "Hannibalize" them, even in large numbers. They could re-brand every arbitrary insult of the blasts as some bizarre Hamas torture, as it seems they have done. People get much angrier over a massive and grisly terrorist massacre of children than over some calculated abductions.

The story from the Israeli military: Hamas militants abducted some locals but opted to brutally massacre most of those they ran across, committing every act of barbarism short of perhaps cannibalism. They say this all happened before the IDF arrived to eliminate the terrorists with heavy weaponry. The terrorists might have tried using the captives as human shields hoping to prevent attack, but the IDF did attack - they'd have us believe - without killing any of the captives. All harm that was caused to them can be assumed from Hamas, who had already hacked and burned everyone available in the crudest and cruelest way possible, in "ISIS fashion," leaving them no human shields to even try working with. That, of course, is because Palestinians are inhuman beasts full of hate and lacking in foresight, and Israel would be right to be inhuman back, to kill thousands of kids in Gaza as they flatten the place and re-populate it with God's chosen people. (The last part is just sort of implied.)

The same basic story also comes from some survivor/witnesses, like Dani Fux (second-hand source: https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/massacre-on-kibbutz-beeri/), with a sort of vague overview of events as witnessed from a hiding spot in the attic, emphasizing a curiously explicit acceptance of a "Hannibal" ending consistent with the story he and the IDF deny: 

"The terrorists went from door to door, abducted people or killed them. Sometimes they only killed. Sometimes they took the kids and killed the parents, sometimes the other way around.” ... Dani had a handgun and he and his parents agreed that they would use it if they were detected by the terrorists. They would die in all likelihood under that scenario, the family agreed, but “we would not be taken prisoner.”

So even if the army did wind up killing some people, maybe it was for the best. Nothing is worse than being taken alive by those Muslims, who might skin you alive or rape you to death, or just create a disadvantage for Israel ... as it continues trying to keep its people safe from genocide ... here, perhaps, by killing its people ... to justify some revenge genocide ... that could spark some revenge genocide later ... maybe requiring some "final solution" because, as they say, "never again."

1D) Discrediting the Messenger, Killing the Message

Philip Podolsky at I24 knows the playbook - attack the messenger instead of the message. You accept the military story and any similar reports, and ignore the discrepant stories from Israeli survivors ... until Pink Floyd and the Crazy Zone cite them. Then you blame them and "antisemitism" for inventing what could be the ugly, uncomfortable truth. It's the truth that the Netanyahu regime fears, and those who know it best ... some would be involved in the crime and would mainly keep quiet as ordered. Some saw part of the story and have told it, while others are blockaded inside Gaza, and the best witnesses are of course dead. There are still accounts to be heard, but we might not get to hear them for some time.

Israel first rejected an offer from Hamas to free two older women abducted on the 7th, in exchange for nothing, before agreeing and then regretting it. Yocheved Lifshitz, an 85-year-old Israeli peace activist, and her 79-year-old friend, Nurit Cooper were filmed having tea with their captors and, upon release to the people with the Red Cross, Lifshitz shook hands and wished peace on one of them as they parted. 

As Blumenthal adds in relating this: "During a press conference that day, she recounted the humane treatment she received from her captors." She never mentioned witnessing any kind of massacre by either side. But then she and some 70-80 others were presumably whisked away from kibbutz Nir Oz before a battle ensued there. In the end, the remaining terrorists were killed, and some 27+ remaining civilians also wound up dead. She probably saw none of that. 

It should be no surprise that, as Blumenthal notes, "The spectacle of Lifshitz’s release was treated as a propaganda disaster by the Israeli government’s spinmeisters, with officials grumbling that allowing her to speak publicly was a grave “mistake.” They probably prefer that she had been killed back at Nir Oz. Allowing Lifshitz, Yasmin Porat, Tuval Escapa, and the others to speak publicly is all a “mistake.” The truth they help reveal complicates the genocidal war effort. In the current climate, we can expect pressure to come down on publishers to prevent more stories from emerging.

Like others have, Blumenthal contrasts this regret with the Times of Israel report that “The army is concerned that further hostage releases by Hamas could lead the political leadership to delay a ground incursion or even halt it midway.”" And he compares it also with the Hamas claim - unverified as far as I know - that Israel had killed “almost 50” of the 240 hostages with its missile strikes, even before October was out. It seems like they'd still rather kill those people while killing more Gazans than to have them freed, in exchange for fuel, for a ceasefire, for any Palestinian prisoners, any more PR points for the enemy, or even just to get its own people back.  

This would be consistent with a policy implied above - it was better to have those civilians killed - so long as that can be blamed on Hamas - than to be captured and used to Hamas' benefit. 

Late add, perhaps to move: "An anonymous group of Israelis has written an open letter calling for an independent investigation. But Israel seems unlikely to allow this, and appears to be covering up the evidence, burying some bodies before they have been identified." (https://mondoweiss.net/2023/10/an-open-letter-to-israelis-from-israelis-we-deserve-the-truth-about-october-7/ - via The evidence Israel killed its own citizens on 7 October | The Electronic Intifada)

Next: Part 2: Who was Behind the Kibbutz Massacres?

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Ghouta Report Debunk Efforts: Still Not Refuted & More from Marschke

August 31, 2023

(rough - edits pending)

Still Un-Refuted 

I got sidetracked with this so it's now been 10 years and 10 days since the Ghouta chemical massacre in the wee hours of 21 August, 2013. The Syrian military allegedly fired rockets and shells containing sarin nerve gas on opposition-held areas in the Damascus suburbs of East and West Ghouta, killing hundreds of civilians - reportedly as many as 1,100, 1,429, or even 1,700. (I can attest to a visual minimum of around 500, mostly geolocated to Ghouta, and I suspect the true number is around or over 1,000) It was the deadliest chemical weapons attack of the war or ever, aside from Halabjah in 1988. 

And yet, as many now complain, no one has been held directly to account or adequately punished, assuming this would be the Syrian government. They did already have to surrender their CW program, at least supposedly, to avoid US military strikes, and military aid to the insurgents increased due to the incident, among other detrimental effects. But none of the economic sanctions saddling the Syrian people, for example, were directly in response to this attack, but that could well change. No arrest warrants have been issued over it. And of course Assad was not deposed - there was no "ultimate price" paid. Folks are saying that needs to change. 

The always-amazing Aaron Maté recently reminded his followers on Twitter (now "X") "Today is 10th anniversary of the Ghouta chemical massacre in Syria. US blamed Syrian gov't, but all evidence points to sectarian death squad rebels. That's why Obama didn't bomb. There are Western officials who know more about Ghouta than has been publicly disclosed. Just as the OPCW leaks exposed the Douma deception, perhaps they will find a way to tell the truth about Ghouta." 

He followed with a shorth thread, concluding it with this note: "A 2021 open-source study from @MichaKobs , @CL4Syr and others traced all missile impact locations in Ghouta back to the most likely launch spot where they all intersected: a small area within insurgent-controlled territory. No one has refuted it."

As one involved in that study (I'm CL4Syr), I can boast that this study (embodied in TWO reports) is not perfect but actually pretty damn amazing. The material writes itself with the unfolding of reality, which is apparently pretty damn amazing - we're just there to transcribe it. Improvements can and have been made, but it remains the definitive work on the E. Ghouta volcano rocket attack. 

A few people have disputed it, some of them many times, in many ways. But, although they pretend otherwise, they've disputed it very poorly and no one has come close to refuting the study. 

Here at this blog I assessed the initial efforts to discredit it (general) (Prof. Scott Lucas in some detail). These were mainly irrelevant ad-hominem attacks, suggestions that we were bad people so our work was probably all wrong, or whatever. Essentially: "the findings could be true, for all we care, but these are such bad people with such dubious motives and characters - [we were called "Nazis"] - that just to spite them, you should go ahead and assume it's all wrong, or just refuse to even care. Take the risk of approving and continuing the coverup of this crime - the deliberate chemical mass-murder of several hundred Syrian citizens, including hundreds of women and children. Don't even worry how likely that risk is."

Such people are keenly aware that "Assad" and his "regime" and the people of Syria that rely on them need to be held accountable and punished further - punish them more - steal more oil & wheat, forbid rebuilding or any business interactions or any normalization, then maybe bring the war back in. To that end, guilt for as many crimes of the war as possible needs to be kept on Assad, by whatever fake news stories or backroom deals that requires, - especially as the alternative blame would tend to fall on foreign-backed "opposition" fighters and terrorists. Why complicate that imperative with any size a question? 

And a question the size we offer ... these people don't want that in anyone's mind, nor any of its associated details. Discussing the evidence just breathes life into it. Better to embargo the evidence into silence, or you could say better to "suffocate the truth," Put it in a bag, perhaps mark it "Nazi," or something to that effect, and throw it in the river.

A few started to challenge the actual evidence early on (see general post), but not very well, considering the many supporting layers of it in our study. German (I think) regime-change activist Kostja Marschke is an extra-prolific critic who does engage the primary evidence, and at least pretends this is what drives him to the familiar blanket derision. His opinions don't matter much, but some. He's no slouch when it comes to declaring fraud over our work, even including a few valid questions raised along with dozens of bogus ones, with a pretty obvious gatekeeper kind of agenda. 

But his efforts have offered more passed tests than we've gotten from everyone else combined, and merited a whole post already, besides mentions in the first debunks post, and now this post as well. Technically, he's been at it for years. Just recently, he's raised several bogus points based on imagining hard facts from unclear pixelated satellite views (grass where there should be concrete, no grass where there should be), reading some 3D models too literally and pretending these win some conflicts with the cases they're made to illustrate, not to replace, and other stupid tricks to invent all kinds of supposed fatal flaws. 

He never stops to re-assess the balance of evidence in light of each debunk, pretending there never was any evidence except the one point he pretends to disprove at the moment, and maybe for comparison, a few others he remembers casually chuckling over. He'll say our "entire theory relies on" X which he finds wrong. And it also relies solely on Y, and on Z, he says at other times, and separately it relies totally on AA, BB, CC, and so on. Each basis is clearly and incredibly wrong, he says, with frequent typed indications of laughter. He makes a repeated show of kicking each solitary support out from under us, always supposedly knocking us down, when we've supposedly been down from blow 1. We should be ground deep into the dirt by now, to hear Kostja boast. Yet we remain worth all the effort to pretend, over and over, to have finally disrupted our actual, upright position.

Aaron Maté - in another recent reminder -  had noted how "No one has refuted" our study. Marschke replied that it is "one of the most laughable "studies" ever produced" and essentially refutes itself. This baseless hyperbole is typical of his whole performance. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.

Two Top Reasons

Marschke selected just 2 favorite arguments to show Aaron's readers how "laughable" our work is:

"1) The evidence for the field being "insurgent-controlled" is that a tank "cautiously" moved in an allegedly surrounding area 15 months after the attack. That's it, that's the entirety of the "evidence" for that claim." (post)

Also: "This is exactly why I've blocked Kobs: He's a liar. Look at his reply to my rebuttal: He just simply lies about the date of the tank video (The only "evidence" from his "study" supposedly showing opposition control). Not disclosed in the "study" either, by the way."

There is no reason to "disclose" any "lie" about the video date. Co-author Michael Kobs said in a separate tweet that the video in question (from ANNA News) is from "August 24, 2013." I've said the same on a few occasions, following his lead on a point I hadn't followed. That was wrong, but we honestly misunderstood co-author Chris Kabusk's explanation, as accurately put in the report, citing a relevant date wrongly. 

The video was posted about a year after the attack and might be recent or older - it compiles images of a whole military campaign to reclaim the wider area, running perhaps for months. But it shows damage to a certain building that, Kabusk decided and no one has disputed, did not exist yet in the August 23 Google Earth satellite view. So the video is from August 24, 2013 OR LATER, and perhaps months later. Someone more read-up on the course of the fighting could offer a decent guess for when, but it's not a pressing issue.

The salient point is the Syrian Arab Army was shooting towards this field from the north, as if opposition militants controlled the area, at some point at least 3 days after the chemical attack. That stands as evidence for opposition control on 21 August, although a longer time span would allow for possible back-and forth where the SAA - other details permitting - could have been in control of this field on the 21st.  

Marschke suggests regime troops might have had control or access on the night of the attack - but of course this field had nothing to do with the attack (right?), so ...  it just shows how wrong we are to make such a claim based on one video of unclear date. 

But it was never the only evidence. Michael and I got sloppy with this point partly because it was never major or central like Marschke pretends. It was just a bonus illustration of the well-informed and generally-agreed situation that Marschke is pretty well alone in questioning. The fact that he doesn't seem to realize that makes me feel I really wasted too much time on this poser.

Michael replied: "I love such attacks from behind a block. But your claim is BS. For eight years, hordes of investigators (including Eliot Higgins) have investigated the Ghouta attack, but you're the first to question the line of demarcation. Do you have any valid reason for this?" I think Kostja un-blocked Michael then - some debate ensued. Michael showed Charles Wood's 2014 map as used in both our reports and available at A Closer Look on Syria, but with approximate launch spot added. 

This map was based on numerous primary sources (published maps, reports, videos (notably by ANNA News), satellite imagery). As Wood explained for my report: “Contact lines are indications based on insurgent and ANNA videos and my training in basic infantry tactics. Narrow contact lines between Police College and Qaboun, and Syronics and Qaboun are an estimate based on no reported serious damage to either institution.”

The Eliot Higgins/Bellingcat take was based on similar study of the same open-source evidence, combined it on the map in almost totally the same exact way. Bellingcat excludes this field from their green island of government control in exactly the same way Wood's map did. 
Monitor on Massacre Marketing: Rocket Man: Some Government-Held Firing Spot or Other (libyancivilwar.blogspot.com)

The only real difference between these maps is in the upper part of black-dash area on Wood's map. This had tanks present on 23 August (Google Earth satellite view), likely a new development amid a fast-moving offensive that only started on the 20th. Bellingcat maps assume a presence here already on the 21st while Wood and I doubt it, although it is fairly possible, and likely enough in my opinion. 

That minor dispute is only somewhat near our field in question. Neither map includes the field in question as government-held. This isn't gospel or certain fact, but a well-informed guess, with the disputed ANNA video just going to support that this field was rebel-held that night, and for some time after, probably continuously.

This "entirety of the evidence" claim is so stupid and easy to disprove I suspect it's no conscious deception - Marschke just wasn't paying good attention. He saw the note that this was the only video we had so close to the field itself, took it to that to mean it was the only evidence there was regarding the local control situation. He should know better by now, if he knows this case like he pretends to, after years of supposedly disproving us over it. 

"2) The methodology on how the trajectories were "measured" by the study is laughable, too. Investigators on the ground couldn't measure the impact direction, but Kobs tried to do it using the size of bricks. Lol." https://twitter.com/KostjaMarschke/status/1688992180164001793

When I asked what he meant by "couldn't measure" - he meant the 2 sites out of 3 they visited in E. Ghouta but did no measure for, finding it "pointless," as he put it - not exactly impossible. https://twitter.com/KostjaMarschke/status/1692495054252728478 

They actually said the other 2 sites “do not present physical characteristics allowing a successful study of the trajectories followed by the rockets involved, due to the configuration of the impact places."” We found one impact to an apartment wall and balcony extremely vague, but the other on a rooftop more useful, pointing northwest - and the investigators apparently agreed somewhat, citing it to Joby Warrick as if they had used it to find the northwest firing area.  https://www.securitycouncilreport.org/atf/cf/%7B65BFCF9B-6D27-4E9C-8CD3-CF6E4FF96FF9%7D/s_2013_553.pdf

The Syrians Executed the Most Deadly Chemical Weapons Attack in Generations—With U.N. Inspectors There (newsweek.com)

But this brick issue refers to the garden wall impact investigators never even looked at (above, Wall 2, in magenta). Using a brick as a handy measure works fine when you're looking at basic proportions to set a basic angle for mapping purposes. The rocket impact in the ground is about 3 bricks right of where the rocket punched through the wall, and about 1.8 bricks out from the wall. The actual brick size doesn't matter - the proportion is roughly 3 to 1.8 (also = 5:3) of whatever unit. 

People on the ground could do it better, but no one did, so this is the best we can do (Michael's work, and I follow and agree). It's not exact, but pretty good - a visual reading that sets an approximate angle that, like the others, points back roughly to the same field. Marschke doesn't even explicitly challenge the measure itself, or venture his own measure or method, Is it more like a 2:1 angle? Determined how? He doesn't care. It points to "hold Assad accountable" and it's politically biased and "insane" to look for yourself and find any differently. 

He: "Just listen to yourself with your 1.8 bricks as measurement. Listen to yourself and consider what a person who isn't incredibly politically motivated would think about this. It might explain your disagreements with [UN investigator Åke] Sellström."

Me: "Any person who wants to form a basic idea of what happened. What's wrong about that? I'm s'posed to feel shame or something? F off w/such efforts. Shame. my dude." 

He: "Any person who would want a "basic" idea" about what happened would start making insane measurements based on bricks?" He just couldn't explain what's actually insane about using a handy measurement unit to establish a basic proportional angle. He apparently doesn't even understand what we did here or how hollow his effort was. He just took another random chance to call us biased and insane. 

"Disagreements with Sellström"

On the side with the above, another thread emerged - my "disagreements with Sellstrom." Pressed to specify, Marschke explained: "You haven't noticed how your entire theory relies on Sellström being wrong about both measured impact angles"

No ... it INCLUDES the UN-OPCW report being wrong about the one. The other doesn't matter. Maybe he thinks we argue the D30 howitzer was firing on Moadamiyah, and that both fronts of attack were from this one field. I'm not sure where he heard that, as we did discuss it some, but I don't see where it made it into the final collective report, and it sure isn't in my side report. I for one never agreed to this point, but then I didn't follow the evidence closely. Maybe "Sellstrom" was wrong about that angle and maybe it was fired from here. Marschke says "The D-30 doesn't support the caliber used in Moadamiyah," so not if he's correct. I really don't know and don't greatly care. My own take on our theory has no reliance or opinion on this point. 

Anyway, our theory does include "Sellström" being wrong about the site 4 angle, and we definitely noticed that. We also noticed that he just signed off on it. The OPCW's representative, Mr. Scott Cairns, is a more likely source for the measurement and/or reporting of the rocket angle. And for what it's worth, Marschke - once adequately pressed - has to agree that this reading IS wrong after all. Did Marschke ever notice that his theory relies on "Sellström being wrong" about the same angle?

Me: "No more talk until after you've given some answer to the 8-degrees-blind-trust question. Review my latest tweets as needed. Otherwise, you've become completely pointless to me." 


I've asked him several times to affirm or refute this alleged reading or to comment on his ally Eliot Higgins doing both. Until this point, Marschke had ignored the requests to press his urgent interrogation about a supposed shadow or something.

begin reply: "...As for your question: I don't think that angle is either 8° or 39°." 

That's something I can my teeth into, finally. He thinks everyone was wrong until he had his layman's look. How clever! He gets to maintain we're wrong, even as he admits so was the UN-OPCW investigation - or at least he agrees that the printed and visible angles clearly do not match. Marschke hesitated for a while, but finally agreed his theory also includes Sellström being wrong. It's OK for him, he assumes, because he's still blaming "Assad" like good people do. He doesn't see a "conspiracy" to frame Assad. And neither do we, for sure. We admit it might be some coincidence in which they published an angle 30 degrees wrong that, intersected with their other angle, indicated a regime-controlled artillery base many sources like HRW and NYT pushed at the attack origin. It was a handy political effect, but possibly achieved on accident.

Kostja Marschke is not the first regime-changer to grudgingly or mutably acknowledge the fact of this angle mismatch. As related at Rocket Man: Just Blindly Trust the "UN Azimuth", Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins did as much in at least two comments from January, 2014, having seen all the images and some views of a quality 3D model produced by Chris Kabusk: "the UN azimuth for one of the rockets doesn't match the 3D model on those maps, seems 50 degrees off to the north." - "Based off the geolocated munitions the point of origin is from the north (even the UN one they said was from the NW)"

By September, Bellingcat was in effect and, perhaps coincidentally, Higgins had changed his tune. He seemed to be in basic agreement with Kabusk, until he noted this new estimate added to his emerging picture of NW origins, in fact near the site of an August 24 sarin attack on SAA troops - as the likely spot we identified in 2021 is. This had to be sitting poorly with Higgins. The overall angle, as Chris put it, is "like UN's presumed flight path but off a bit and 1.5-2.5km ranges." Higgins replied incredulously: "You still think the wall Volcano was measured wrong by the UN?" He was perplexed, if not appalled, to hear the real angles described as "off a bit" from what the trusted "UN" had reported. It's as if the reading had been shown correct somewhere since January, but that can hardly be. Higgins was insisting on deference to something he knew to be false. He would later accept praise from others for "replicating" the UN-OPCW finding with his open-source work that always pointed more to the north. And it was never very good - most of the good parts were copied from Kabusk (and 'til recently containing one of his errors we've since corrected).

Ok, back to Marschke. He gave some explanation for his disgreement with Sellstrom and everyone. 

"Why do I think that? The shadow of the rocket...is at an [angle] > 90 degrees relative to the wall. As a layman, [I would] think the sun would've had to come from an almost orthogonal direction relative to the rocket to achieve that, given how small the shadows of the inspectors are. Where did the sun come from, though?"

"That's tough to say, given that we don't have the [exact] time the video was taken. But there's a clue: We can see the inspectors take a soil sample a few seconds later. Only two soil samples from the report match that, taken at 14:34 and 14:38, respectively."

"That also explains why there's not much of a shadow from the wall.

It also passes my eye test better than your angle which, needless to say, is quite clownishky [sic] measured."

"Now, does that say definitely where the rockets come from? No." 

He was too responsible to specify an area or direction, of course, based on such limited information. But what WOULD his angle say? I read him wrong in haste, thinking he saw the rocket as roughly perpendicular to the wall like its shadow was. I had some laughs about that, then read it more carefully. ESRL Global Monitoring Laboratory - Global Radiation and Aerosols (noaa.gov) gives me, for August 24 at 2:34 PM a reverse azimuth (shadow angle on flat earth) about 27 degrees clockwise from north, or 20 deg clockwise from perpendicular with the wall. Orthogonal = at a right angle. A rocket orthogonal to that sunlight would be about 20 deg. from parallel. OK. I'm not sure how he reasoned it out, but that's actually not terrible. Not 8 or 39, but something like 20, right in between - just different enough to say no one got it right until Kostja had his look. Not even the trusted UN-OPCW inspectors.

Our "clownish way" - "needless to say" - includes now at least 4 ways total, in broad agreement. Others had read higher, partly from shadow illusions and a sense of "almost perpendicular" - 50-75°. Eliot Higgins saw it off by about 50° from the UN angle, so around 58°, similar to WhoGhouta, Richard Lloyd, and Chris Kabusk. That was based partly on Kabusk's model (see above the Jan. 2014 tweets). He's one of us on the 2021 study, so that's one of our 4 methods - the fanciest, but not the best (dark blue wedge w/Eliot's take down the middle in yellow). I did a rough visual study (see here) that said it was definitely less than 48°, with no clear bottom (43-48 shown here) - it seemed everyone else had read it a bit high. Later (at least from my end) Michael's flight-line view got 38°, and I had to be a butt and refine it to 38.5 rounded to 39 in my side-report, with a fair +/- of one degree. 

That's 3 ways. Just now I tried another method that occurred to me. The tail end is visible at a 45-ish angle. With the wall running basically ahead, the circular tail would appear at a 2:1 vertical-horizontal ratio at a proper 45° angle and 1:1 ratio if parallel and seen from behind. 1.8:1 as seen is 1/5 of the way between those, so I reason 9°. less than a 45, or around 36 degrees. Exact 3D details maybe notwithstanding, that's probably close to the facts, and very close to the excellent measure we still go by. Again, the "precise" measurement endorsed by the trusted UN-OPCW was about EIGHT degrees from parallel. We'd see that rocket almost entirely from behind.




Note this isn't a vertical object, ground not level - shadow cast too complex for me to read. Here's a modeling Michael did including the rocket angle we estimate and the angle of sun at the time, plus his estimate for mound shape, all seeming to explain the video view quite well. This might help understand why the "perpendicular shadow" is a misleading illusion.


We have 4 different ways to say the angle is 55-60, ~45, 38/39, or ~36. That's a wide spread, but this totally wins over a single quick estimate that lets Kostja Marschke pretend he's the first one to ever get it kind of right. This is, as I said, vague, disingenuous, and very poser-ish. I could ask Marschke to "Just listen to yourself with your "rocket is kind of at a right angle to the sun" and consider what person who isn't incredibly politically motivated would think about this. It might explain your disagreement with Sellström and everybody else." His theory relies on Sellström being wrong and, as he had just explained, such disagreements might be motivated by the same extreme political bias that has one undertaking crude measurements and making insanely bold claims. Huh. He might be onto something after all.

But he has a solution where the OPCW got it right and only Chris. Michael and I - along with Eliot Higgins, Richard Lloyd and WhoGhouta - got it wrong. Or actually, we got it right enough or not and it doesn't matter - the original angle was just as reported, and simply never seen. It's an article of faith.  

As I follow, he suggests the inspectors must've measured 105/285° "precisely" with "no form of lateral bending." first, then pulled the rocket aside, leaving it aligned 30° different than before - or he thinks more like 12° - and coincidentally pointing to the same field 7 other rockets point to - or he thinks pointing to a different spot, when the rest all point ... wherever we don't say they do. And then all known images were taken after that strange manipulation - the original correct angle Kostja proposes was never seen. It's mythical. And the photos and videos where it's 30° different, after whatever change ... it still shows no form of lateral bending nor any sign I've noticed of the engine having been pulled from its original angle.

That sounds plain absurd, but he had, in fact, just imagined this as a way around the whole problem. 

"The inspectors could've moved the rocket after measuring the azimuth, for example, to inspect the side of the warhead. That renders everything you and I said moot anyway." https://twitter.com/KostjaMarschke/status/1692581076395262063

It's a very imaginative solution that probably sounds soothing to his ears - it's all "moot", like it was just a dream. I bet he'll settle on it as the answer to this whole problem. Inspectors coincidentally MADE the tube wind up pointing to that field 2km away, even as 7 other rockets also point there. Oh, and the 7 others must've been moved around too, coincidentally to point back to the same spot, rather than to their actual origin(s), which ... 

He'll decided that the firing spot can never be known. It's way too complex and stuff, and will remain a mystery where faith alone matters. Kostja Marschke knows what good people should believe, and how that belief should "moot" the facts of the 3D world. Of course, we inhabit the 3D world, and are somehow interconnected with everyone else in it, and also with some hundreds of Syrian civilians who no longer inhabit it, after this not-so-mysterious crime 10 years and 10 days ago claimed their lives. 

Done Talking

Me: "bump on this as more interesting. @KostjaMarschke  what angle were you thinking, when you decided to question Sellstrom & everyone? 8 deg. from parallel would show the tail end at 1.2:1 ratio, and we see 1.8:1, = ~36 deg. or roughly what we got looking right down the tube (38/39)"

Marschke: "Nope, no more talk until we're done with the field."

We would never be done with the field until at least one of us stopped talking, and I was already just about ready to quit the game anyway. So I replied:

"Well I'm done with that, so we're done. I have you at something vague and disingenuous where you're the first person to get it right, but not specified, where the shadows and time mattered somehow, and you were apparently clueless. I'm good w/that." (I figured out the best reading, above, after that comment.)

He: "Of course you're done with that" because he was totally winning, listing absurdities in our work he claimed to have proven. 

Me: "yep, your big ol' list I finally got bored with. Go play with that."

He: "Of course, you're not out of arguments, you're just "bored"."

Me: "just sick of it, for a bit before that ultimatum. I know it could go on forever and you'll always "win." Let's just cut to it. You "win" as always."