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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?


  1. Excellent analysis, and particularly for spotting how final report seems to be responding to Henderson.I cannot conceive how the cylinder could do that much damage to reinforced concrete without being virtually destroyed. However that gut-instinct (I'm trained in physics and chemistry) needs backing up with a simple empirically-determinable factor: how would the mgh of impact be shared between cylinder and concrete? My instinct says that if one is highly rigid and the other (mild steel) is relatively elastic would not, say, 90% of it be reflected back to the cylinder? Is there a materials science sub-discipline that could answer the question of energy sharing?

    1. Thanks, Mike! Also no expert, but going by instincts … mine differ here. Elastic … steel container vs. steel bar … one being in a flat form, one a force-redistributing dome shape (arches, eggs, airplane nosecones all draw strength from that). I'd suspect plenty mutual damage, but cylinder winning, by a margin dependent on its velocity.

      If comparing to cases where it looks like a soft stick of butter dropped in front of the fridge... that's solid ground for you. Everything's elastic compared to that.

      IF a cylinder did this damage (it could do similar, depending), it sure as hell wouldn't stop that suddenly, or close, and not without a lot of deformation. So not this cylinder, and not with that final resting place.

      Otherwise, up to now I could see a similar tank doing this at an early time, fully entering of course. But seeing Henderson's report helped it click that this almost surely was an explosive thing. My main question before was 'where is the frag pattern?' Now located, all fits.

  2. Yes, if competition between two mild steel objects of differing structure, as you suggest. But reinforced concrete is a different entity to steel, indeed to unreinforced concrete. So a mild steel cylinder filled with a liquid striking concrete makes me think of a tomato hurled at a window pane; it would burst. Or, a rubber ball; it would bounce. But we need an expert here! Regardless, Henderson's analysis is way more plausible than OPCW final report; infinitely more plausible than Forensic Architecture. All the best, Mike

    1. Right on, but FWIW, … Depends on the glass. Inherently a flat pane is not strong. I can see a rubber ball and even a ripe tomato breaking a window, if the glass is thin or the thing is thrown really hard. A baseball or harder is a no-brainer.

      Besides being flat, reinforced concrete is nothing fancy, as you can see in the pics. The concrete just has bars in it. It's rigid, fractures easily, and has weight. That weight works against it, once it goes mobile. It can add to the pull on some bars so they snap, nullifying the reinforcement and adding to its kinetic energy once a big enough segment comes loose, apparently making it swing that far out in a case like this.

      But your point was cylinder would be pulverized. I mostly agree anyway. It would be way more damaged than it is, probably about what the models in Henderson's report show, as I included above (I'll be a nitpicker and suggest these overrated the structures and underrated the cylinder by a bit, but same concept is bound to apply).

      Also I tried for a few minutes to think of what would cause the round cylinder dents we do see. Didn't think of anything good yet...

  3. Excellent analysis, but there's a problematic part with the blast wave.

    "But in blowing up, the weapon would send a strong blast wave in all directions but backwards [...] 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 is not exactly true. Since we are not talking about super-hyper-sonic weapons, the blast wave is much faster than the weapon itself, so a spherical blast wave with stationary center is a much better approximation in this case. Actually you need such an energetic air burst for a hole like this that it would've destroyed the surrounding walls and the floor as well.

    The hole and the corner damage were likely results of mortar shells with impact fusing, and the disc like spray pattern could've been the result of the dislocated debris from the corner explosion, not fragments. Actually fragmentation and debris damage is greatly affected by the objects around like furniture. While the blast wave likely destroys them, they quite effectively slow down or stop debris and fragments. We don't know what was on the balcony when the shell that made the hole hit.

  4. no... you start sounding like you might make sense to me, and there are probably valid problems with this, hopefully small ones. But no concrete dislodged bits will punch holes like that. Pretty sure. Blast-hurled fragments of the right stuff, sure, but that's all fragmentation, primary or secondary (the right stuff though is not to be expected - a deck chair won't lead to these marks. Shell landing in a box of small metal bolts would.

    Also no cause to think the blast wave would be stationary. The stuff is in motion as it blows up. The shape I suppose depends. I was thinking like with rockets, as I've studied (tubular packing). I presumed mortar shells are the same but shorter. Maybe packed in the front too? If not, the forward part of the blast wave might be a sort of eye of the storm hollow, or not, depending on the mysterious ways of blast waves I don't ACTUALLY get. But I like how they could punch a hole AND pass around some of the rebar. It should be the first to arrive, and the cause of the damage, if it exists. I suspect it did and all lines up somehow, but there is room for debate.

  5. "hopefully small ones"
    Indeed. I think it is beyond doubt that some kind of explosion(s) was (were) responsible for the damage, it couldn't have been the cylinder. The exact nature of weapons may be a question, itself secondary.

    Touching on that, the weapon(s) must've been some low yield ones, otherwise big parts of the walls and the floor would've been blown away. Mortar shells and their improvised equivalents are good candidates. As far as I know these are usually impact fused, with a fragmentation pattern that is perpendicular (with considerable angular spread) to the impact route.

    So a floor level explosion of a mortar arriving almost vertically but slightly from the direction of the corner of the balcony could've produced the slanted disk pattern especially if there was something close to floor level that slowed down or stopped most fragments there. I can even imagine that simply due to the fusing delay the shell may crack a small hole before actually exploding, and this hole is responsible for the "missing" lower level frag pattern. Unfortunately, I'm no expert on this, but I can imagine that this pattern is perfectly normal.

    As for the blast shape for air burst, I think this question is almost irrelevant. Such a strong air burst that can punch such a hole would've destroyed the floor and the surrounding walls as well. The shell speed is only relevant for the blast if it is significantly high compared to the speed of the blast wave (the speed of sound for our purposes). For mortar shells this is not the case, but perhaps even a Grad can produce strange patterns.

  6. OK. I have a lot of questions.
    1) What exactly are "reinforced concrete beams, filled with cinderblocks," ?
    2) You highlight two issue from the Henderson report :
    a) " "deformed rebar splayed out at the underside of the crater,"
    Now, you post a picture with a lot of arrows on it :
    I found one version of it without your annoying arrows :

    Now all of a sudden the "deformed rebar splayed out at the underside of the crater" is not so obvious any more. In fact no "deformed rebar spayed out at the underside of the crater" is visible.

    3) Henderson (and you) mention "an (unusually elevated, but possible) fragmentation pattern on upper walls". Where is that exactly ?

    1. "Annoying arrows"? Anyway - the purple line, a few seconds in from different angle here


      might have to click on "Stäng" and wait for an advert (if you then do full screen + pause, click x top right to close advert then you can skip through it while paused)

    2. a bit slow: reinforced beam - concrete with interwoven rebar. With cinderblock fill means filling the space between beams. And the concrete layer is app. on the top and bottom.

      Sorry the arrows annoyed you. No, not really. Serves you right. You think the arrows made the concrete seems played? Can you link to the version with the-at effect? It sounds like gibberish. How would my additions make Henderson see the same from site images and visits? He saw it too.

      As I meant to explain, the secondary frag pattern I think he meant is what the little orange arrows point to - little dents in the wall.

    3. Surely the contention isn't whether such a fragmentation pattern exists but if it can be linked to the crater and rooftop damage. Why would an internal report for OPCW inspectors make that up anyway?

      One argument for the bouncy cylinders was that munitions frequently fly off in unexpected directions (if I remember rightly, that person too seemed annoyed by arrows.. and angry at everything they deemed a 'conspiracy theory' rather than offering any interesting opinion)- for some reason this doesn't also extend to munition fragments..?

  7. Baffling stuff in the Lucas addition - he seems confused about many points, curious he'd go for historical damage when witnesses told the Sunday Times that "the building [next door] was being pummelled by a new round of barrel bombs". I wonder in Annex 6 #4 exactly what the FFM thought could "demolished" and "mangled" the metallic frame and mesh prior to April 7.

  8. A.9.2 of FFM report refers to data collected by the FFM - "drawings" - would be interesting to know if in fact these were the "not to scale" diagrams included in the appendix of the Henderson report.

    Likely already noted:
    "12 Metal fragment from the terrace (level 3)"
    "46 Metal fragment from the bedroom floor"

    1. Of course as a simple object, fragment can mean any part of a former broken thing. If they show them, and it means fragmentation fragment (nice proper terminology btw), that would be interesting. I suppose they would try not to collect those?

  9. Your top image here needs some adjustment

    If you look at the Y axis, the first number above 0 is a single digit. It is 0, 5, 10 etc. all A.6.7 graphs start at 30 m/s.

    The people who complained the numbers in the Henderson report were illegible didn't seem to mind the illegible numbers in the FFM report, funnily enough.

    1. Thanks, what I was asking for over there. It looked like a digit, but the rest … plus what the Russians app. thought … I checked that, but maybe not well. And I think probably this is final impact only, with the sudden drop at first impact with solid material, would then be less an issue once it got broken. What would be absent, or less pronounced than it should be, is where it hut the rebar grid (if modeled in all detail - doubtful - it'd hit a few layers, and that shouldn't just be average in like it's all a blended frappe of materials, perhaps infused with elastic fibers...). Still processing, off and on...

  10. I thought this a good point from your addition for Mr C

    There is no indication from damage included or excluded by the FFM report that they know the "history of the attacks on the building": i.e. they don't explain that they exclude the relevance of damage x or y because it was from a prior attack.

    Not ruling out HE mortar or rocket artillery round as per Henderson report here?

    Historical damage is certain (unless the cylinder also smashed the balcony windows and filled the buckets with rubble), considering Annex 6 #6, A.6.4 photos and no apparent satellite photo damage time verification - all gives the impression that the FFM have made an assumption on the roof damage.

    1. Irrespective of his response, I think we should give Mr C the benefit of the doubt that he is who he says he is btw (personally I feel sorry for him, I don't think he should ever have been sent there in the first place.)

      Annex 6 #4 also suggests the FFM do not know when balcony damage happened.

    2. I feel sorry for everyone, him included. And I'm nervous about this one, considering … the tweets do show another slip or two where his knowledge wants to matter, although he finds it shouldn't matter, and switches to game mode. And how do you reliably establish battle history? Who keeps track of that you can just trust? That thing he demands, it's not even a thing. Of course we lack it. We have: unknown time: this thing impacted +blew up here. A6 #4 is interesting. They'd say they know though, the night of April 7. ironwork "demolition" might've been another attack, or just torn down in a rage and left … still not clear what they mean then about the supposed impact marks (if torn down, maybe it just tipped over sideways onto it and got these lines 'seared' in?) …

    3. That one must have bounced too!

      It does fit with Henderson report finding cushioning effect to be "negligible". Hitting the mesh not a linchpin to the theory so just left as a maybe, not included in A.6.6/A.6.7

  11. https://archive.is/HRmiJ

    FWIW historical damage would include the possibility of something else being in front of the lower balcony walls at the time of explosion (e.g. sandbags or similar that could physically stop fragments). Later removed leaving only an 'elevated pattern' with less visible damage further down the walls.

    Sometimes seen in sniping positions for example:





    1. I skipped explaining this in a reply, but then it came up here: https://twitter.com/CL4Syr/status/1408707599537606663

      No covered walls needed, no continuous damage expected. This is just the pattern to look for - cylinder-shaped core of packed fragments is hurled out radially = a fat disc of frags - where it hits is a dense band of marks. The angle of the band shows the munition's incoming angle, a clue to firing direction and distance. Here the disc suggests the shell came from the north-northwest, fairly close to moderate distance, but that's after deflecting off that corner, so original trajectory is harder to say.


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