Warning

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.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Takfiri Terrorists Pushing for a Third Ma'an Massacre?

Adam Larson aka Caustic Logic
March 23, 2017
(imcopmplete) 

Hama offensive: the Islamist multinational forces in Hama province are trying hard to break the pattern of defeat they've suffered lately. In recent days they've overrun several towns and are pushing further on several fronts, including towards the city of Hama itself, and getting dangerously close. Hama has never remotely been overrun by rebels, just much of the provincial countryside. Latest Peto Lucem map (Twitter) shows a bad situation trying to form.

This will be routed, but perhaps not easily. I haven't followed in detail, but will catch up (random prominent link: SyriaDirect report on the advances). In lieu of newsy analysis, some recent history as a backgrounder...

Along the north-eastern immediate front-line area (cropped below), note the villages of Ma'an, Tulaysia, al-Zughba, still holding under government control, but threatened. These (and others, unclear all which) are primarily Alawi (Alawite) villages, maybe sparsely-populated by now, and hopefully with good evacuation plans. The same foreign-sponsored Takfiri terrorists have overrun these villages in the past, and it was horrific and genocidal.



In late 2012, as rebels struggled to create the huge green area shown above, they were frustrated by the holdout areas they say hosted attacks on them, as they expanded towards crucial Morek. In mid-December, they launched the "Ma'an Offensive" to take out this and other Alawi towns. Not to sectarian ... it just had to be done - military strategy. Up to December 23, rebels updated us on their push right up to their stated goal. A fighter jet was shot down. Quietly, Islamists showed off videos of dozens of soldiers and local militiamen slaughtered and dumped outside Zughba. But ... Did they ever take Ma'an? They remain vague.

The SOHR heard and reported with some worry that Islamist rebels did overrun and occupy the town, from Dec. 24-26. Rebels don't confirm. A week later, they announced by the way, there was a massacre in Maan on Dec. 25. Rebels had been there but left, and then regime forces came in, and massacred the few Sunnis in town. As reported to Der Spiegel, in Holocaust-sensitive Germany, "members of the Shabiha militia in the village of Maan, in Hama province, have beheaded 23 people." We suspected there was a 2012 Ma'an massacre (ACLOS page), but no one else reported it (the SOHR didn't have this part reported to them).

In February 2014, they did it again, smashing defenses and raising the black Shihada flag over Ma'an, abducting nearly 100 citizens after executing dozens of others in a 2014 Ma'an massacre. About 40 civilians and 20 soldiers were reportedly killed. As usual, they primarily killed fighting age men, every one they could get their hands on. And they usually count from age 13 up, with a vague or non-existent upper end. No massacre there was reported this time. Instead, most of the dead were apparently laundered as victims of two Shabiha massacres in Sunni towns nearby (26 men and an older boy were shot dead in Souran, and all 17 mixed-family killings happened over in Jalama).

A few others got laundered in different ways. They say regime shelling hit a bus near Tamanah (was in northbound, maybe, fleeing from Ma'an on the one axis they left open for civilians to escape by? Maybe.) After it was hit, rebels in the area boarded it and photographed three women they found with heads sliced apart byt eh "shelling," but looking more like the work of a sword. This is the kind of investigative reporting regime-change supporters rely on for their lists of unacceptable regime crimes.

We have no direct proof, but it's likely the 80 or so hostages, mostly women, children, and elderly, were used as raw material for various alleged attacks by government forces over the following months. Notably, almost every fatal chlorine gas attack rebels phoned in during 2014 was nearby and after the Ma'an raid. Allegedly, these attacks managed to kill just members of "displaced" families. In the first case, the chlorine apparently failed, and they say two immediate deaths (a young girl and an old man) actually died of head wounds from the barrel bomb's impact, but they didn't show these wounds to see if they too might be sword-shaped. 

One detailed report explains the 2014 massacre in Ma'an, plus the little-known 2012 massacre there, as we had noted. (SyriaNews.cc) Now in March, 2017, they're pushing forward in the same area, perhaps more savvy, but also more desperate to deal some major blows to their enemies - the people of Syria. Hopefully there won't be a third Ma'an Massacre. But it wouldn't be surprising if there was such a blatant crime against humanity, and if there is, it will be yet more innocent blood crusting the hands of those criminals sponsoring these genocidal gangs of terrorist mercenaries.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Report: Red Flags Across the Red Line

138 Alleged Chemical Weapons Attacks in Syria
And 159 Question Marks Over Government Blame

March 4, 2017

The infamous Ghouta alleged sarin attack nearly triggered US military strikes in 2013, by virtue of clearly crossing a "red line" set by president Obama exactly one year earlier. He warned everyone how any use of chemical weapons would (be presumed the work of Syria's government and) likely trigger strikes against the government. And so this threat could also serve as an invitation to rebels, if they were capable: create the impression of 'a regime CW attack,' and you might get the kind of military help recently given to Libya's armed rebellion. Whether it was a failed threat or an accepted offer, innocents started dying regularly in random chemical attacks blamed on the regime, beginning in late 2012 and continuing to the present, over four years on.  

This whole time, western powers and anyone bent on regime change in Syria have have proceeded on the notion that “CW=Assad,” almost by definition. This has from the start (mid-late 2012) flown in the face of some evidence, since grown to undeniable proportions, that rebels were behind at least some attacks. In April 2016, a rebel group (Jaish al-Islam) acknowledged some of their chlorine weapons were used to deadly effect in Aleppo. But some evidence suggests the same group was gassing fugitive religious minorities in the Ghouta area three years earlier, and simply blaming the "regime" for all of it.
 
These and others feature ignored question marks or red flags which have emerged in the course of research into them. Now  138 alleged attacks (using sarin, chlorine, other or unclear) have been collected, placed in context in time and space in a 6-page table. Each entry has basic details (location, date, poison, broken-down death toll) and identified red flags (marked X, and see definition below) with the briefest notes, and links to some explanation for the curious. 

(sample, from the 2013 section - red = gov blamed, green = rebels blamed, brown = contested)
This includes hopefully all of the major alleged chemical attacks in the Syrian conflict, from 2011 through the end of 2016, and many of the minor ones, excluding those attributed to Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL/Daesh). Those incidents are likely about as reported, and so of less interest here; to include them here would take too much fresh research and settle too little controversy in the bargain.
The more interesting incidents that are included here are primarily blamed on Syrian government forces or allies, but some claims were lodged by Damascus, complaining the foreign-backed “terrorists” had gassed Syrian soldiers repeatedly (27 alleged instances are included here). The prevalence of those red marks indicate these chemical killings might all be committed by “FSA,” “moderate Islamists,” or Jabhat al-Nusra. This is where the information jihad aspect might be seen playing out in the space between competing claims. ISIS has killed 1,000 with poison gas? Assad is believed to have killed more in a day, once. But 7 flags' worth of evidence suggests “moderates” - using gas chambers - did it on his behalf.
The table is too big to show here - download/view the PDF
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Summary: 
- 159 red flags
- 138 Alleged Incidents, from Nov. 17, 2012 to Feb. 9, 2017
-- 109 Attributed to Syrian Gov./allies
-- 27 attributed to opposition forces
-- 2 clearly contested (both sides blame each other)

- Total Fatalities (range):
- Civilian: 612-1,910 (Most variation is with 8-21-2013 Ghouta incident)
- Rebels: app. 84
- Gov/allies: app.128-143

Red flags:
Placed in the form of a red X, these are abundant here, representing signs the author has noted (more are likely to be found) that rebels/terrorists might have been behind the incident. These include attacks on Syrian soldiers (red x on green line) and a red x on a pink line means blamed on the government, but perhaps falsely. These may include deliberate chemical execution (as in gas chambers) of people held prisoner by opposition forces, including soldiers and government loyalists, religious enemies, and rival fighters.
This is a somewhat arbitrary system, but it gives an idea of how widespread and consistent such clues are across this time-line of back-and-forth allegations. The tally: the 138 listed incidents yield 154 red flags between them. So, there are more identified causes for concern with the “CW=Assad” notion than there are reported incidents, even including ones blamed on rebels (but again, not including ISIS).
Causes for red flags, largely noted briefly in the notes/links column, include:

• Government or other credible claim of CW use against soldiers of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) or allies, or civilians of minority groups (ex: Khan al-Assal, 3-19-2013, Nawa 4-24-2014, Daraya 2-15-2015, Ishtabraq 4-15-2015, etc.)
• Credible hostage claims (ex: 4-29-2013)
• Hostage evidence: claims the victims are IDPs (internally displaced persons - did they flee, or get kidnapped? Ex: 11-17, 11-23-2012, Hama/Idlib 4-11, 4-18, and 5-22-2014), gender segregation, starvation or torture, etc. (ex: Ghouta 8-21-2013, Jobar 8-20-2014)

• Signs of family targeting: (same killed near in time and space, etc. (ex: Sarmin 3-16-2015), related FSA fighters died together or alongside related civilians (ex: 5-27 and 6-23-2013, 5-3 and 10-31-2015, etc.)
Alternate poisons indicated (ex: 3-16-2015, opiates or such indicated, chlorine reported)
• Chlorine victims who just passed out in their homes and breathed too much, or 'sat there and died' - illogical claim (see here)
• Far too many people died or were reported dead for the opposition's story to make sense (Ghouta, 8-21-2013)
•Proven rebel execution of a survivor of the attack (Ghouta, 8-21-2013)
•Suspect timing (incomplete) – when “Assad” decides to gas people during a UNSC session about just that (ex: 4-16-2015), one year to the day after Obama's red line threat/offer, and as UN CW “inspectors” arrived in the area (ex: Ghouta 8-21-2013)
•The attack coincides with, and was likely coordinated with, another attack that merits red flags.
 

Also note:•Red flags are not proof that the allegation is false, and many of these likely mean nothing. But these problems are probably too frequent and consistent to ignore the broad pattern.
•The lack of a red flag does not mean the story is just as reported. In fact, considering the prevalence of these causes for concern, it's perhaps safer to presume all of these are suspect, and possibly laundered crimes of opposition actors or, in some cases, simply made up. But let's not presume anything and consider the evidence. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Al-Quds Hospital Blast: An Inside Job?

Adam Larson, aka Caustic Logic
March 1/2, 2017
last adds March 6

This famous subject should need little introduction, but a few basics and a few other details are helpful. This rebel-affiliated hospital in East Aleppo was supported by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). After an alleged attack of April 27, 2016 it was originally declared by MSF "destroyed by at least one airstrike which directly hit the building, reducing it to rubble." They think it was hit twice; one strike damaged the entrance to the emergency ward, and another 5 minutes later destroyed the emergency room itself and the upper floors at once. It's not clear what kind of munitions were supposedly  used, "barrel bomb," missile, or what. After "recovering bodies from deep under the rubble," it was alleged 55 people were killed. (see ACLOS for more)

By now all agree the building appeared moderately damaged but totally intact at the time, and still does.


Note: the roof is not blown off  - there never was one. That's just a decorative wall around the edge of the roof - see Russian aerial view from April 29. That shows the roof is intact as well. Nothing blew in through the front wall, the side wall, or the roof.  It simply does not seem to have ever suffered a direct air attack. MSF acknowledged Al-Quds was back in operation after 20 days and some repairs. A reasonable conclusion , widely reached, is that the hospital was mildly damaged from a strike to a nearby building, and all else was probably just made up.

moment of detonation as seen in the main hall
This is clear to everyone by now, but it's based on views from the outside. That almost certainly does rule out an external attack, which was the allegation. But it doesn't address the security camera footage from inside the hospital that shows there was a powerful blast. Actually there are three blast scenes from three different cameras, and we'll consider all of them here. But one is most-often referred to (see frames at right, and bigger below).

This was presented as coming from outside, from the air strike. We're to presume this flash (and ensuing plumes of smoke and debris is from an aircraft's weaponry, blasting through this external wall, or coming in that doorway anyway.

But anyone who's bought that should look back above and ask which external wall this flash and blast came through. It couldn't be either, because they're intact. So, if not the outer walls ... what gives here?
 
How the Precedent Swings
It isn't essential, but helpful, to know from the start about the three previous attacks on the same hospital that were reported by MSF (September report). Twice, they heard (July and August, 2015), government barrel bombs were involved; both were aimed at other buildings, and only caused indirect damage, and caused no injuries. Until April 27, the most deadly incident at the hospital was this earlier and possibly illustrative episode:
  • June 2014 - Gun fire /Kidnapping: A member of an armed group arrived to the hospital and demanded a service that was unavailable at the time. Angered by the refusal of service, the member of the armed group fired shots in the hospital and kidnapped a member of the staff. 1 hospital staff member killed and 1 kidnapped. ...
It seems the unnamed group had the perp's back, and it took a massive strike of sorts by all hospitals in east Aleppo to demand the group hand the hostage back unharmed. It's unclear if that happened.

(note: one later attack is listed in the report: Aug. 14, 2016 Al-Quds and another hospital (Zarzour) were hit the same day, right after al-Quds got its latest MSF supplies, which were likely all ruined and had to be re-sent. )

Presumptions have been that the April attack was more like the 2015 "barrel bomb" attacks. Something else - maybe legitimate - was the target, and al-Quds took some flak. And it may be so in this case, but we may have two answers; it was reportedly hit with two direct attacks. And as we'll see, that answer can't cover the alleged, deadly, and multi-part second strike. And it might not apply at all.

Could this be more like the 2014 incident, but more extreme? Ain Jalout school, a base for Jabhat al-Nusra, was destroyed in a first air strike of the night, just minutes before the hospital, MSF heard. That's too far off to have damaged the hospital, but it was then flooded with their fighters, wounded and maybe frustrated at times ... Something happened. It seems something near the entrance, and the emergency room both blew up. Maybe someone blamed the hospital for a friend's death, for example, shot up the entrance, and threw some grenades into the the E.R.

But even that would fail to explain the evidence we'll consider now. (see also ACLOS talk page where I started this, and will likely continue, besides adding to the front page, etc.)

Dr. Maaz Walks into a Blast?
Among a reported six staff members and some 49 patients and others that were allegedly killed in the attack, the most famous victim is a Dr. Muhamad Maaz. He was said to be the last pediatrician "in Aleppo," meaning rebel-held east Aleppo, until he was killed in the second blast. 

It's said he left the intensive care ward and was about to start his night shift in the emergency room. It's 8:39:05 by time-stamp (the time is apparently off, early by about an hour). The following is important. Note he's seen on three different floors in sequence, down one flight of stairs, then over (around the broken elevator) and down the next. I didn't know floors, so to avoid confusion, I gave them letters - d,c,b, with room for "a" below if needed. It turns out the final hallways is the the main hall, connected to the main entrance we've seen, on the ground floor, so b=1, c=2, d=third floor. 

cnn vid https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1Wg-xeUUnY


We've established there were five above-ground levels, plus the walled roof. We also heard from MSF that the second blast destroyed the upper two floors. But that's unproven; they aren't shown at all here among what seems to be the bottom three. (There's probably a basement level or even 2 of them, but that's probably irrelevant.)

The stairwell should always be on the same side of the hall, and it is - the right side. So these cameras are all facing the same way and there's no confusion. (There are 2 stairwells on floor 1, but the one on the left must only go down, as there's no second set on the upper floors)

Maaz  passes floor c, and gets to floor b at 8:40:53, with an awkward step. A guy looks at him. He pauses, adjusts his booties for a long shift, and walks towards camera 13 and towars the main entrance. He turns off-frame at 8:41:02. Then suddenly it's 8:42:12, and flash. Below are two consecutive frames. Between them, digits change too much, and the sliver of a barely-open door in the background disappears (lime green box).

This edit is in both versions of the footage, so it was done before it was handed over to Channel 4 and CNN Arabic (and, it seems, no one else). It's not clear this proves any deception, or just a dramatic cut. It wouldn't be a good deception. News reports tend to say he walks off-frame, and then "moments later," the blast. Is it more like 2 moments, or 70? Maybe they don't want to step on anyone's toes, and don't specify.

The 1:10 is not all missing: 28 seconds is missing, then (earlier in the video sequence) three guys wheel out a person on a gurney (time:8:41:30-8:41:43 - that's after Maaz entered). Then there's 29 second unseen, then the blast. (see blasts timeline below) How this adds up is unclear, but it's established.

This should be emergency room - Dr. Muhammad Maaz was said to be on his way to work there when he died, and MSF heard it hit there, so he must have been there, and that must be it. Whatever it is, there's no video footage from there. It must have all been destroyed? The video New York Times got of the aftermath briefly pans over the other door(s) into the room (between the red and green boxes above), - see 1:43. It has gurneys and seems burned, is all we can say from the quick blur. No photos of it were released.

So, Maaz walks in ... presumably stays ... and after a minute or so a strange blast. Below, see on the left horizontal puffs of smoke through ... the windows of doors on the left, or something in that area, either in or on the other side of that wall.  Then the flash, then the blast wave. This seems to be right on the other side of that left wall and detonating there - the door to the left and those windowed doors likely open on the same room behind that wall. Did someone have a bomb inside the emergency room and detonate it?

Blast on Floor C and the Opposing Blasts Problem
At the same moment, 8:42:12 by time-stamp, there's a blast - presumably the same one - seen on the second floor (c). Camera 5 shows a woman is standing in the corner (top left frame below). First we see light smoke, coming from high, possibly down the stairwell (bottom left frame, and note as the windows shows a new light outside). Depth is hard to read clearly here. But then an odd, small flash occurs, up high somewhere in that same area. Then heavy black smoke rolls in from the right, as the wallpaper is blown off the opposite wall (bottom right), and then a door flings open as smoke billows around. After, the woman is down and still. Later, people are giving her, or someone, blood for their injuries.


Here's the problem: the stairwell is on the right side of the hall in each case. On floor C, the blast comes from the right, the stairwell side (compare to Dr. Maaz's walk above). As shown above, the smoke and apparently the flash on floor b come from the left side. Double-check that if needed. These must be two different blasts, coming from opposite directions, but all at once. 

Logically, there can't be any outside attack from two opposite directions. Whether it's front-and-back or left-and-right, one missile would have to plow through other buildings first before they met in the middle at the same time. And, of course, the other would have to pass through walls that we can see weren't passed through. 

But where else can two different blasts in the same building come from? Maybe ... different rooms? Was this completely an "inside job?"

The External Portion
Now we turn to the third of three blasts seen, providing an exterior aspect. I guess we're supposed to presume this is where the missile or barrel bomb hit. I thank My Home Syria on Youtube for bringing this to my attention (analysis, part 2, about 3 min. in). It seems the same pre-smoking explosion is seen here in front of the hospital. So how does this connect?

Here are two views compared, from the two and only known versions of the footage (CNN Arabic: top, and Channel 4 (UK), bottom (not the best copy, sorry).) Marked in each: the median's near edge, top of the light pole, and a white van parked up against the pole.  The van is visible in the CNN view (an earlier scene). That video doesn't show the important scene. Channel 4's does, but it's obscured under government blame.

I have my reservations, but there's a case to be made this blast lines up just with the back half of that van. For a few frames before, I think we see some little puffs of smoke about there, similar to the pre-blast smoke inside. Then it flashes - first, seems like the van is just glowing, right along its edge. Is that a blast wave?  It's a low light, on that or a similar line (see shrubbery shadows below).

However, the light may be at the wrong angle for that, and the van may remain intact ... more analysis to see if I can figure out how to figure that out. Exact location not set, but it will be approximately in front of the entrance.
--
(Add 3/2: it seems likely the blast is a bit behind that van, not in it. Earlier, the space behind the van is empty. But later we can't see if anyone pulled in behind after the last footage. If it was a white car, maybe ... I don't see a white car. Could another kind, or none. Maybe the blast is at the entrance, but it's apparently not inside the entrance (the light is very bright and expansive, not narrowed as if shining through a doorway) So, it's an outside blast, but the finer details are unclear so far. It could even be a mortar strike, but it seems to line up very perfectly with these other blasts, and seems similar, so likely, it's something on the ground, and on the same timer).   
--
After this, the detonation flares again (secondary blast, or just video artifact? It's very quick), and a cloud of smoke and large, amber-colored sparks rise up and swirl on the wind. The color might suggest aluminum particles, like from a missile tube or a vehicle that blew up. Later, we'd see a blown-up and crushed car, and no sign of this van, but the scene needs more analysis to see what makes most sense.

Unlike the others, this blast has started a fire that's still burning five minutes later (see timeline below). Blown-up vehicles will do that.
---
Add 3-6: Video of the obscured scene - the blast clearly is not in the van, but behind it and closer to, or perhaps at/in the entrance. There may be related objects in the moments before that, small and white, moving around the van. But these are hard to separate for sure from the many blowing dust particles and their related video artifacts (tracers and echoes).
And notes from after the smoke clears (not shown here): we see a van driving off. It may be a different van. The camera has shifted views so we can't see that area. The light has been knocked off its pole and left dangling (as it would be seen the next day). Some apparent power lines, however, were already down. They seem to be laying across the van, and are illuminated there by the flash (see video). 
---
Inside Job?
At the same moment, the same kind of smoke-then-explosion occurred, probably, then explosion in multiple spots. I have no guess what this is - that's not my area. In my tentative mapping at right, they're clearly in three different spots. The blue line is Dr. Maaz. (also at the top/back is floor 2's hall and window superimposed)

- Outside the entrance is different from inside the E.R., where smoke is coming out the other doors before the blast. So that isn't just an outside bomb shining in here.
- The other one is upstairs and already shown to be unconnected.

Logically, this almost has to be an inside job, by the kind of guy with keys to different rooms. He might have  a grudge, got hooked up with rival jihadists, or helped steal all the money. A guy like that might agree to plant bombs and fake his own death, etc. He may have walked off, dropped a final bomb in a parked car. Or perhaps others helped with some, or all of it.

Maybe it was meant to line up with this video proof to show an outside-to-inside "attack" - at least to the gullible. Because the "air strike" did this deadly and well-coordinated work  all without leaving a mark on the outside walls or roof. It's brilliant! ... sort of. Not really, when you're going to blame an air strike. What were they thinking? We'll never know.

Who were they? We might know that someday soon. One suspect is pretty obvious, but that could be a tricky illusion. Dr. Maaz might just be an innocent victim.

But we don't need to name suspects anyway, just show that it's got nothing to do with the government's much-frustrated efforts to reclaim Aleppo from the occupying terrorists.

How does it line up with a presumably legitimate strike on the Jabhat al-Nusra base minutes before? This was "at exactly 9:37 pm" as HRW heard, and the hospital was hit around 9:45 and 9:50, with a "staff residence" nearby hit in between, around 9:40 (all estimates - only the Nusra base has an exact time.) First, that base was already mostly-destroyed, I hear. It's not clear another strike even made sense. JaN might have blown the remainder themselves, and then continued the "regime attack" into something blame-worthy. And then, if that was a government hit, maybe the terrorists were waiting for it, and launched the follow-on "hospital attack" for them as soon as those bombs fell. That's two ways it could line up fine.

Now let' re-consider the first blast near the hospital. It was just as outside as that apparent coordinated car bomb was. Was it part of the same inside job? If this was pre-planned, odds are slim that something nearby, 5 minutes earlier, was anyone else' plan.

In fact, it might be the trigger to Dr. Maaz it was time for shift change. Everyone else runs around wondering what that was (on the second floor, at 8:37:57 - men go down to look, women stand by). But one floor above, he seems unaware or unconcerned. One minute later (8:39:05), with 3 minutes left before the other half of this "double-tap," he's locking the door, and putting the key in his pocket. To me, this seems strange in itself. He heads down to the ER with his heavy shoulder bag (to die?), passing fairly near the supposedly damaged entrance (with no sign of damage, commotion, or worry, and no sideways glance from the doctor). He acts as if nothing unusual is going on. Then the video record breaks and things get fuzzy.

What about that locked door on the third floor? That floor isn't shown after he leaves it.  It's perhaps exactly above the blast on level 2. Layout suggests the window seen on floor 2 faces the back of the building, maybe on a breezeway between buildings (it must extend further back than it seems relative to the stairwell).

If so, the light must be reflecting off concrete from ... the window of the floor above. The first floor main hall ends in a wall, that's part of the side entrance hallway. So any back window there would not allow light from the ER or entrance-area blasts. It can;t be from 1 (no window), or 2 (no detonation yet), so it must be higher, and apparently just a bit.

So it seems likely there was a third-floor blast of some power. If so, the detonation there was a split-second before this one. So is what we see that blast breaking through the floor, or a separate one rigged up beneath it? This could be a visual minimum of four separately-placed bombs.

Or it could just be three - the difference is pretty minimal. This could still bear more professional scientific and/or criminal investigation to build a legally admissible and unassailable case. But I'm calling it proven already. The al-Quds hospital bombing, blamed on the the Syrian government, was clearly an inside-job, with origins somewhere in the brutal and deceptive culture of terrorist-occupied Syria. It means you can't trust these "activist" sources. It means all the condemnations and demands placed on Syria over this "unacceptable violation" have been misdirected. Will there ever be any furor from the same quarters that's properly directed? I doubt it. Someone else will have to take up this case.

Reference: Blasts timeline
(note: Video time-stamp are off by about (and maybe exactly) one hour from MSF-reported times - refer to fuller CNN Arabic version)
  • interior footage starts 8:37:57, with commotion on floor "c" suggesting a noise outside, nearby, that people are a bit worried about (0:10 in the video). Men go downstairs to investigate, women go back in the rooms. Time estimate for that noise then is about 8:37:30-50. No sign of any damage, smoke etc. inside at this point, from any camera view. (could this be slow reaction to the semi-distant Ain Jalout strike at "exactly 9:37?" Or the first strike at the hospital's entrance? If it's the former, then there's no reaction to any nearer strike. This is the only commotion we see before the blasts inside.)
  • 8:39:05 (video) - Dr. Maaz locks the room on floor "d", then goes downstairs
  • 8:39:35 - external camera shows possible dust from earlier strike blowing on the wind, no new explosions.
  • 8:40:53-8:41:02: floor "b" Dr. Maaz walks into (emergency room?) (1:04 in the video)
  • 8:41:30-8:41:43 - floor "b" patient rolled from (ER?) down the hall, into another door (0:30 in the video)
  • 9:45 (app.): MSF estimates first "direct attack"  on the hospital, damaging the entrance to the emergency room
- second blast(s):
  • 8:42:12 floor "b" - smoke, the big blast (from E.R.?)
  • 8:42:12 floor "c" - smoke, then small blast (from above, stairwell side?)
  • 8:42:12 external - smoke, then a bright, low-level, sparkling blast with no rubble, some smoke (from below, in or by a parked van?)
  • 8:47:02, external -seems the building, or truck, still burning? Bright fire and smoke rising from below.
  • 9:50 (app.): MSF estimates second direct air strike hits emergency room and/or the 2 upper floors

Monday, February 20, 2017

Does Chlorine Make You Pass Out?

Syria Chlorine Allegations:
Does Chlorine Make You Pass Out?
Seems Everyone Says it Does, in Syria Anyway
Adam Larson, aka Caustic Logic
February 21-23, 2017
important additions, March 16
last edits March 23, 2017

Does chlorine gas cause a victim to lose consciousness, or pass out, often on first contact? Syrian opposition activists, Human Rights Watch, several powerful governments, and many others seem to feel this is standard, or at least a very common effect. For a recent example, on February 9, one rebel died in Irbeen, Damascus suburbs, in a supposed chlorine attack by Syrian government forces that also sickened many. An opposition source said "four victims were transported to Arbeen Hospital with symptoms consistent with chlorine gas exposure including; difficulty breathing, loss of consciousness and foaming at the mouth." (Press Release)

The main relevance of this supposed symptom is how it cause so many chlorine attack fatalities to, as I recently panned it, "just sit there and die." I decided to put my foot down on this subject while reviewing a Human Rights Watch report, detailing 9 to 16 fatalities from eight attacks in rebel-held eastern Aleppo in late 2016. In perhaps every case where the chlorine bomb fell into or near someone's home, everyone inside apparently passed out or got paralyzed, and inhaled a fatal amount before anyone could come rescue them. Some might have been alive still, but they'd be well doomed by then and die eventually, no matter how good the medicine.

(note: "foaming at the mouth" is also overrated: strained, rapid breathing, with mucous involved, can cause bubbles, which can form a foam. It's not really a chlorine indicator.) 

This instant blacking-out is also reported in earlier attacks, back into 2015 and 2014, and has been the norm - individuals and whole families just sit there and die every chance they get. (some review at the end). That's obviously not because they're so dull, but because they passed out, or become paralyzed, early in the process and couldn't do anything after that. 

However, the people telling and selling this story seem to be some combination of liars and idiots. Chlorine does not make the victim just black out.

Maybe the core research was done by some Islamist watching the cartoon show Futurama. In this scene, a chlorine gas cloud is produced after "Nibbler" drinks an entire swimming pool and then burps. The non-robots cough a bit, and then tip over unconscious and lay there. The immune robot  laughs, then rusts and tips over.


That seems like a good fit with the cases reported out of Syria. It starts out right, but quickly goes wrong, from a scientific standpoint.  (An accurate response wouldn't be funny at all, like this sort-of is) Let's take a moment to consider this as if it matters.

The basics: chlorine turns to hydrochloric and other acids on contact with water. So moist tissues like eyes, airways, or sweaty skin will be damaged by droplets of highly corrosive acid. That's how it kills germs in water, and how it would kill a human or animal. The effect is mechanical, and the injuries are incurred during exposure, however intense and however long that is.

The patient remains conscious, but starts coughing, eventually with blood coming up (they would want it to, to make room for air). Death only come later, as chronic low blood-oxygen, damage to the lungs, and the body's often fatal response play out (a secretion of protective mucous often comes far too late to help, and contributes to suffocation). There's little that can be done medically to reverse the damage. Medics can suction the lungs and provide respiratory support to keep the patient breathing until, hopefully, they pull through and heal. But other times, even that's not enough and the patient dies after a long struggle.

The Literature Says:
A seminal source on chlorine's effects was compiled after the first World War, when it was widely used as a chemical weapon (to mixed effect, I might add). Medical Diseases of the War" by Arthur Hurst, M.A., MD (Oxon), FRCP. - excerpt:
The first effect of inhalation of chlorine is a burning pain in the throat and eyes, accompanied by a sensation of suffocation; pain, which may be severe, is felt in the chest, especially behind the sternum. Respiration becomes painful, rapid, and difficult ; coughing occurs, and the irritation of the eyes results in profuse lachrymation. Retching is common and may be followed by vomiting, which gives temporary relief...
... When a man lives long enough to be admitted into a clearing station, he is conscious, but restless; his face is violet red, and his ears and finger nails blue ; his expression strained and anxious as he gasps for breath...
The closest we get to the cartoon version - 
Severe headache rapidly follows with a feeling of great weakness in the legs; if the patient gives way to this and lies down, he is likely to inhale still more chlorine, as the heavy gas is most concentrated near the ground. In severe poisoning unconsciousness follows; nothing more is known about the cases which prove fatal on the field within the first few hours of the "gassing," except that the face assumes a pale greenish yellow colour.
The chlorine-colored face is something other sources don't mention, but the kinds of clouds made in World War 1 have rarely been seen since. And our central question, it's unclear how closely or uniformly black-out  "follows" in severe cases. It's generally not mentioned at all on lists of symptoms: Wikipedia: consciousness not mentioned - Medline: consciousness not mentioned - US Centers for Disease Control (CDC): consciousness not mentioned.  (see also an earlier list at ACLOS, where it also never comes up)

Another, more detailed CDC page acknowledges passing out is sometimes associated with chlorine poisoning, but puts in context:
"Not all of the signs and symptoms exhibited by subjects exposed to moderate to high concentrations of chlorine gas are caused directly by chlorine.  In general, it is believed that effects such as nausea and vomiting are reflex in origin..." (you cough so hard you throw up) "...and headache and loss of consciousness are probably due to the hypoxia caused by pulmonary edema."
That is, fluid-filled lungs keep oxygen from getting into the blood (hypoxia), and hence to the brain, leading to an oxygen-starved brain (cerebral hypoxia). This causes headache - a very common symptom - and to unconsciousness - seemingly less common. That situation will require some minutes at least to develop, and longer yet to get that bad.
However common, headache and passing out aren't really primary signs - they're common to many different poisons, and other more obvious and specific signs should appear well before these. Other sources I've read suggest people usually don't lose consciousness at all - they remain aware and responsive until the moment they die. When they do lose consciousness, most commonly, it's a short final stage before they finally die. That is, it's more of a last thing than a first thing.

For anyone who does finally black out, they should usually get out the door at least (in the Syrian home scenario), though if the damage is severe enough, they may not get much farther before they're breathing so bad they finally collapse. But the first minutes should always be a time consciousness and free will. Wracked with pain, panic, and harsh coughing, still, they'll try to get away to fresher air, and most should succeed.

So I stand by this rule of thumb: If someone seems to just sit there and die from a chlorine attack, something unusual is probably at work.

That can have various innocent causes in fluke cases, but if the pattern is too prevalent, or other counter clues exist (both apply across the record in Syria), it's probable that the chlorine-bomb story just isn't true. Much evidence and logic, in many cases analyzed over years, suggests that anyway. In fact, it often seems the victims might have been hostages of the opposition/Islamist forces, intentionally gassed to death as propaganda devices, with the intent to get their enemies in more trouble and encourage foreign intervention. But whatever the explanation, the one offered is inadequate, and that suggests some kind of cover-up.

Add 3-16: One important aspect I overlooked at first. See below: When People Stop Walking. If you want to try and debunk me here, this is probably the avenue to explore, the best reason people might just lay there and die. But as I explain, I don't think it's adequate either. 

Recent Cases in the United States
WWI deaths happened because of trenches and enemy fire, and massive clouds made on purpose, using winds deliberately to kill - not common anymore, but industrial accidents can cause them. There are probably many examples all over the world, but three from here in the US come up prominently. None of these mentions unconsciousness, nor specifies that everyone stayed awake. But the third case at least offers some useful insights.

Festus, Missouri, 2002
First, a case with no deaths and little detail on symptoms, just for the visuals and an idea of how it spreads On August 14, 2002, tons of chlorine was released at DPC Enterprises in Festus, Missouri. An incorrect hose type corroded from the gas, and the safety shut-off failed. The resulting deep cloud, 48,000 pounds spilled, was captured on video, pinned between the plant and the raised railroad tracks. 

In a CNN Video from later, the cloud looks more yellow than it does here, and is being shut off finally and dissipates. This explains there was almost no wind, so the gas just sat there and didn't spread much, even into the nearby trailer park, which was evacuated anyway. 66 sought medical care, but apparently no one died. (CSB.gov, source for video still, which seems color-saturated by the way, but this is an exceptionally thick cloud, and would display the color well)

Spokane, Washington, 2015
This is where I live, and this was local news. At Pacific Steel (basically a scrap metal recycling plant). On Wednesday, August 12, 2015, a pressurized one-ton container for chlorine, that was supposed to be empty, wound up leaking. They don't know where it came from, or why it was not empty. Apparently, it was being put on the conveyor by a crane, but was accidentally punctured, and a cloud of gas described as yellow streamed out "in a rapid fashion, making a huge cloud," Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said. (CNN) There was enough of it people down the street saw it pouring out of the plant “Everybody saw the yellow puff,” one witness said. “The puff of whatever didn’t look good.” (Spokesman-Review)

CNN's report sounds almost like those from Syria at the same time, but truer: "Those in the area said the gas smelled strongly of cleaning products. Many nearby began experiencing breathing trouble and tightness in the throat. ... Effects of the chemical ranged from minor respiratory issues to severe respiratory issues," with no mention of losing consciousness. 

Fire officials first thought announced it was Arsenic Trichloride, but soon decided it was chlorine. (KHQ) Several plant workers were seriously exposed, with 13 admitted to hospitals, and four put in intensive care. Three of these recovered within a day or so, but one worker, named Edward Dumaw, died after more than three days in intensive care. "A family friend said doctors were unable to repair Dumaw's lungs and that his heart was failing.  Dumaw died Saturday evening." (KHQ)

One report noted "Pacific Steel could not say if Dumaw was operating a crane or on the ground at the time the chlorine gas was released into the air." (Green Bay Press Gazette) If he was the crane operator, he might puncture the tank while it was close to the cab, but wherever, he was probably closest to it, and got the most concentrated blast, maybe right in the face. This would causing massive damage in a matter of seconds. It's probably amazing he managed to live three days.

Did he lose consciousness, or walk out alert but in crisis? That's the question, but the answer still isn't clear. I was thinking of calling to ask around ... but I don't think that's necessary. Nothing so far suggests he or anyone should have passed out, and there's no mention of it. The next case may settle it.

Graniteville, North Carolina, 2015
Around 3 am on January 6, 2005, an accident led one train to crash into another that was parked, near the Avondale Mills plant. The moving train (wrongly routed by negligent track settings) was carrying several cars worth of chlorine products, which largely wound up spilled. At right is a view from the morning after, following the worst of it (cropped from the photo used at Wikipedia - note the very pale color here - this is fairly well dispersed).

A US Department of Transportation report explained:
About  5,400  residents  were  evacuated.  The  chlorine  gas  had already affected many people: 554 were treated at hospitals, 75 were admitted,  and  nine  would  eventually  die  from  its  poison  (2): 
Nine deaths gives us some depth where less-common symptoms might appear. Some cases sound like people might have passed out where they were and/or slept through their death. But let's consider it in some detail. The report gives these nine as:
...the train’s engineer (who had survived the crash), three workers in the mill, a truck driver sleeping in his cab, a man in a shack one block from the wreckage, two workers who had evacuated the mill on foot into the woods, and one other person (7).
The cited sources are gone, but Wikipedia's article suffices, saying about the same, along with names we don't need to include here, and some details that may help. The other person is a 4th plant employee. A victim #10 is added here, a driver who passed through the plume (it filled his car and he kept breathing it?). Later he had a slow deterioration, and finally died, over three months later (let's not count this one, but note he kept on driving, instead of passing out and crashing)

The dead victims are mostly employees of Avondale Mills, working at the plant at the juncture where the crash happened. Anyone who died at their work station is a candidate for instant loss of consciousness. But we don't know their stations or often just where they died. But in many cases we can see they died some distance away.

Considerations: early morning attack, it's dark, and not as many people are around. A badly gassed person could get inside, find a phone in an empty office, call 9-11, cough blood and gasp into the reciever, lay there dying, and be found dead, or found alive, but then die in the hospital. They might go what they think is upwind, and it might be, but if they breathed too much and upwind is into the woods, they'd die choking alone in the woods, and be found in the morning.

Also note: rescuers were told to hold back, not having the right protective gear. The plume drifted many miles, for days, but it was dispersed and no deaths were reported out here, just immediate acute inhalations, and the stray victim #10.

And here's a lesser known point of some interest: a piece at chemicalspill.org explains how "some trying to flee had difficulty starting their cars and trucks as the chlorine worked with the humidity in the air on ignitions. Cell phones also did not always work for the same reason." 

Chlorine Levels: "EPA set up a chlorine monitor at the crash site that maxed out at 1.5 ppm. Although the incident response lasted for several days, a better monitor that would show actual levels of chlorine in the ambient air was not used." This sounds grossly inadequate. The fatal level must have been reached, and the IDHL rating (immediate danger to health and life) for chlorine is 10ppm. Since nine died, it must have gone several times over what the meter would show. In fact, from what I've read around (see a case below with readings over 300ppm after a smaller incident), I would guess readings at the site right after would be in excess of 500ppm, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was even twice that high.)

With those points in mind, here's where and how the nine fatalities died:
1) engineer, found at site, died at hospital  - vague location, "survived the crash," but perhaps injured badly besides gassed (unable to walk, perhaps)
2, 4) plant employees, found in wooded area, dead - may have tried getting away, but slowly choked to death from the damage in the woods
3) plant employee, 25 feet inside the entrance of mill HQ, ground floor, alive but later died at the hospital - probably not at station, but didn't get far before he fell - may have been going for a phone
5) plant employee found on the loading dock - the same one he worked at? This could be a swift pass-out, or like the others but he just didn't get far
6) plant employee - found in a break area, dead
7) plant employee - found in an office, dead - (both likely going for cleaner air, and for the phone, but only after breathing way too much)
8) truck driver, found in his truck cab, dead - maybe he slept through the first part of breathing it, woke up in crisis but spent too long trying to drive away, couldn't start the engine (noted problem), could have stepped out in the cloud and tried to walk away, but likely died in the driver's seat, maybe after realizing he was doomed and giving up.
9) found in his home, dead - Maybe prior medical problems, woke up at the crash noise, fell back asleep with a vengeance (took a pill? might need them, living so close to the tracks), breathed a weaker concentration for a while as he slept, and woke up too late. I bet he was out of bed, maybe had the phone in hand and even called 9-11, but he didn't make it to the door. Likely 20 others had a similar story but fared better and lived, most of them easily.

This last might apply to the November 20 incident and other night-time attacks in Syria, where people were caught sleeping. Except it's harder to sleep through chlorine released from a barrel bomb that fell through your roof. You'd wake up right away, and sleep through none of the damage. So, no, this doesn't help in the Syrian home scenario.

When People Stop Walking
(added 3-16)
I can be faulted here for overlooking one seemingly minor effect that could actually explain the Syria anomalies. As mentioned above but not explore, this was noted in World War I. Hurst:
Severe headache rapidly follows with a feeling of great weakness in the legs; if the patient gives way to this and lies down, he is likely to inhale still more chlorine, as the heavy gas is most concentrated near the ground.
We've already established that headache, besides unconsciousness, is caused by low blood oxygen. It won't be instant. The weak legs will be fatigue, strong there as one runs to escape the cloud. This is likely the same: not enough oxygen for the muscles to work easily. This mobility problem could cause a victim to lay down, if not fully until death, at least until they got a fatal dose.

But these were WWI exposures, to fit soldiers, but ones with mammoth plumes sent over them, and nothing but fields and trenches around. There was no up, usually, and if there was enemy gunmen had it covered. The nearest edge of the cloud might be a kilometers away and hard to know which direction. Having no escape might have amplified the variable effect of the legs - and maybe the whole person - just giving up, and even seeking a denser cloud to get this affair over with. In other circumstances, it might be less of an issue.

Tulare, California, June, 2010
But a similar inability to walk, as well as a sort of paralysis and falling down feature rather heavily in this semi-recent accident story where chlorine sounds almost paralytic. This was in Tulare, California, in June, 2010 (not one I noticed in my first search). Like in Spokane, this happened at a recycling plant where a non-emptied tank with chlorine was ruptured. Scientific American would report on it 16 months later, with employee Beverly Martinez giving the most details. Not a floor worker but someone with an office, she was there when the gas hit.
A couple dozen people – workers and customers – dropped to the ground, gasping for air. Martinez fell, too.
Almost instantly, it sounds like, she was sort-of-paralyzed. "I couldn't get up. I felt like I was being strangled. I thought, 'I'm going to die. I'll never see my granddaughter grow up." But then she did get up, and started moving towards the building across the street. Then she ran into co-worker Ricky Mejia laying on the ground, calling for help. He was an inspector, and may have gotten a bad dose when he went to inspect the accident.
"Ricky couldn't breathe, he couldn't walk. I'm stocky, and I told him to grab my side. Myrna Navarro was already hanging on my shoulder. She was praying enough for everyone. In my head, I was getting to the Firestone tire warehouse across the street. It seemed like an eternity,” she said.

“Then, I couldn't do it anymore. I said to Ricky, 'Your wife is pregnant. You've got a baby coming. Get up!' " They finally made it to the warehouse, where Mejia collapsed.
When she put the options as walk or die, they all resumed on their own to safety. No one was really paralyzed,  no one blacked out, and no one died. 23 people were taken to hospitals, and 6 were admitted. Two suffered severe exposure and had to be put on life support. One was Ricky who thought he couldn't walk at first. He was kept for 11 days before he was fully recovered.  Ongoing problems 16 months later: lung problems, stress disorders, stomach problems (probably from the stress).

This apparently was a large cloud that took a lot of walking to fully escape, but I suspect it was not terribly dense, or someone would have died. The article says concentrations were measure at "328 parts per million near the tank" afterwards, which is very high and easily fatal (33x the IDHL rating). It would be even higher at the beginning. But it must have been far weaker in the swathe Beverly dragged half the crew through, because none of them died.

By this unusual account, the anomalous response so common in Syria almost makes sense. But in fact, this story sounds odd, and may not be the exact truth (possibly embellished, or just not remembered right because of the trauma). 

But let's just take the story; maybe there's sometimes a sudden fall when the bad air first hits you, like the wind being knocked out of you - you might drop down into the cloud, kneeling or laying. Then maybe there's a period of paralysis, and/or a perceived inability to walk that makes people just lay on the ground. But if so, we also see it tends to be optional - everyone in this story got over it, got moving again, and lived to tell their own story. In "Free Syria," that seems not to happen. No one gets out, or helps anyone else get out. They all die, and someone else tells the story for these peculiar victims. 

In fact, I can see some pro-rebel think tanker in the UK, with no science background and used to thinking of the Syrian people as passive props... he's drafting the list of symptoms to claim, fake, or cause in order to convince outsiders of chlorine use (drafted as "watch for these signs of Assad crime and report it swiftly"). He's eating cheese crackers from a box set sideways. He scans this very story while pondering the low-fatality problem (Of course, a few folks will have to die in order to spur intervention). Bingo! He decides paralysis and laying there is a feature to watch out for, what the Brits consider a valid sign ... and that will explain why x number wind up dying, tragically, on rebel videos. Wouldn't that be (darkly) funny? Because something similar was in Scientific American ... besides on that Futurama episode.

Recent Case With Rabbits, Regarding Syria
Consider also, how two exposed rabbits die, which should be quite similar ... as shown in Monitor analysis here, and in more detail at ACLOS, in the infamous Tekkim chemical test video, a thin, pale vapor of chlorine is produced in the flask by pouring hydrochloric acid on powdered potassium permanganate, and rolls across the floor of a small plexiglass cage, lidded over. It has no room to disperse, and will yield quicker death than usual. Also a rabbit's faster metabolism likely means it'll happen several times faster. (maybe not, or partly, whatever...)

The rabbits don't like breathing it, and blink their eyes as if irritated. The white rabbit doesn't just blink but squeezes its eyes shut most of the time, and also seems to sort of sneeze or cough a few times, and might be bleeding from the nose. One tries to get higher or escape early on, and the other only after a period of (denial?). Eventually one panics, and they both start trying, with increasing urgency, until - about two minutes in - they slip and trip over each other on the plexiglass, then struggle for several moments on the floor, but cannot get back up. They stop trying and lay there, but likely remain conscious. It seems they simply gave up at that point, and it's hard to say how quickly they black out or die after that. They remain kicking and wiggling a bit for many seconds, and then camera goes back to the narrator, who starts talking about the humans he hates, and hopes to gas this same way.

Add 3-16: This is another case for the victim just laying there file, alongside many fatalist WWI soldiers. As in those cases, though, we have to ask what friggin' option did they have? I don't think this is passing out, but tiredness plays into it. I think it's a conscious choice to give up and wait for the blackness.

This shouldn't apply to any but the most severely depressed citizens who are free to move, and just a few steps from the exit of their own house. In fact we could say if people really do just sit there and dire from chlorine, as alleged, they're more likely to be in a situation akin to a rabbit cage, than to being at liberty in their own homes.

Review(incomplete)
We see no indications that people normally just sit there and die. In massive incidents, a few fluke cases might. But what they're reporting in Syria makes little scientific sense, and it might be a complete lie, of the kind they've been caught telling before. Here, I'll try and review all related cases, with some notes on just how they sat there and died. 

all fatal alleged chlorine incidents blamed on Syrian or Russian forces (there are some blamed on rebels as well):

4 fatal incidents in 2014
...all with the relevant details unclear. But most affected displaced families (IDPs), which is its own issue, suggesting possible captivity - if so, they also will have just sat there and died, from whatever, likely in some gas chamber.
April 11 - IDPs, 2 immediate deaths, from head wounds - a delayed death in Turkey, from the gas - not a good example.
April 18 - IDPs, woman, husband, son, IDP from Khan Sheikhoun + another, details unclear
April 21 - 3 dead, boy died same day, girl and mother 4 days later in Turkey - details unclear
May 22 = IDPs OPCW: "a mother aged 30 years, her sister aged 16 years, and two children (a five-year-old girl and a four-year-old boy) belonging to the same family" - details unclear.

Two non-deadly incidents later in 2014: "The injured showed all the signs of chemical exposure — red eyes, fluids leaking from their noses, red lips. Some were choking. The worst affected had fallen unconscious." (The Times)

4 in 2015
1) March 16, Sarmin, Idlib:
“There was a very strong chlorine smell there,” Muhammad Yazan, a local activist, told Human Rights Watch. Yazan went to the impact site in Sarmin, as well as to another village that was attacked in Idlib province. “One of our team members passed out due to the smell. ..." (PBS)
"(the victims) had gone down to the basement to seek shelter from the impact of the explosion, as they usually did, which led to their immediate suffocation as the gas, being heavier than air, slipped down to their shelter."
"immediate suffocation" here doesn't mean death, apparently, just immobilization. After some time...
"... The whole family was moved to the field hospital while still alive, but  they were so severely affected that the medical staff failed to save their lives. Due to their exposure to high levels of the toxic gas and the fall of the barrel directly on their house, they died one by one."
By the video evidence, medical negligence clearly played a role in their deaths, and chlorine clearly did not. (see here)
"Laith Fares,  activist,  civil defense worker and reporter for the civil defense teams told the VDC that a large number of civil defense workers had suffered from exposure to gas  due to lack of masks. They showed symptoms including respiratory irritation, burning in the throat, redness in the eyes and severe cough." (VDC report)
He doesn't mention paralysis or unconsciousness as anything they experienced. But it seems the victims did:
“We were told that a family lives in the basement. Three of us went down the stairs. I took one breath and (blah blah)  I saw a woman on the stairs. She was blue and was not breathing...."
This the grandmother in the family. She stopped moving, passed out, fell asleep, before she got up the stairs. I know the site, there are many stairs, so it's hard to say how far she allegedly got out of the small apartment, which I doubt they really lived at (the children shown on video clearly were not exposed to any serious amount of chlorine).
"...We evacuated her and a minute later the next team went in and evacuated the other family. They were wearing masks - that is why they were able to go all the way down. They evacuated the father, mother and three babies. They all died.” (Amnesty International)
And none of them could move until then, not even to get out and onto the stairs - they just sat there and died. Five people. Only the oldest one tried to leave everyone behind and half-succeeded. Does this make any sense?

Add 3-16: The OPCW were told a different story: the parents and the boy, Mohammed, managed to get out of the house ... while grandma and the girls didn't. That's perhaps half-plausible. (UN report, page 84) In another version, they say the same but goof up ages, claiming the parents and the oldest (male) child escaped (OPCW). But Mohammed was the youngest. And everyone else, talking straight to the public, is clear that he and both parents just laid there inside with the girls, until some White Helmets types showed up to save them.

Add 3-16: And I forgot this part: After a trip to the hospital, the victims' stripped and washed bodies
continued to emit such strong fumes, Dr. Tennari claimed, that his eyes burned and he felt vaguely sick. This is a patently nonsensical claim, and furthermore, the video record proves Dr. Tennari wasn't actually there. No wonder his "memories" make no sense. (see here) He also said, (as the New York Times heard) a nurse “fainted from the chlorine fumes off the injured.”

2) March 31: little info - one man died in Idlib city, in chlorine bombing just after liberation - vacuum missiles and more were said to kill far more, and Islamist victory massacres of soldiers, minorities, or anyone apparently didn't happen at all (by reports, anyway).

3) May 2, Neirab Idlib:
A rescuer told HRW:
"I saw a small child wrapped in blankets but I couldn’t reach him. The third time, fluid started streaming from my eyes, my nose, and my mouth. I felt like I was going to pass out. I started running and I lost consciousness. I didn’t wake up until other civil defense workers washed me with water."
That's just not correct, if this is chlorine. He claims he couldn't even outrun the swift unconsciousness caused by... as we've learned, sometimes, from pulmonary edema triggering cerebral hypoxia, after a prolonged struggle with badly damaged lungs.  He doesn't even mention his lungs or coughing. It sounds more like sarin, maybe. But he wasn't alone: the older man and his infant son never moved from where they were inside, as if chlorine freezes you in place, like sleeping beauty, until a shining White Helmet can defeat the chlorine dragon, break into the castle, and kiss you.
"Two of those exposed during the May 2 Neirab attack later died: the young boy Kayali saw, who died within hours of exposure reportedly from suffocation, and his father, in his 60s, who died at a hospital in Turkey a few days after the attack." (Human Rights Watch)
4) May 15: little info, a woman dies in Idlib province, Mishmishan

7 fatal incidents in 2016
... all in besieged eastern Aleppo in the run-up to re-conquest/liberation

1) Aug. 10 - a woman and her three children killed ... "One doctor described the deaths of two children and their mother from the August 10 attack: “At first, two children and their mother arrived to the hospital. The children were unconscious and unresponsive. Their mother was shivering, coughing, and wheezing. She barely could breathe and was drooling heavily from her mouth. Their clothes were covered in a wet substance with a sharp smell, like chlorine. The two kids went into cardiac arrest after around fifteen minutes. We tried to resuscitate them to no avail. Five minutes later, the mother also died.”" (HRW)

2) Sept. 6 - "Some fainted and vomited, one doctor said." (HRW) one teenage girl and a younger man both reported dead from the chlorine - both are likely seen in different videos, and neither looks like a chlorine victim. No known details on how they were supposedly exposed.

3) Nov. 20 - a family of 6 all died in their home, unidentified by almost everyone
"Abu Mohammed, an employee at the Ikhlas Medical Center, told Human Rights Watch that at least two munitions fellin al-Sakhour shortly after midnight on November 20. One fell 75 meters from his house, he said, and another about 200-300 meters away. He put a wet cloth over his mouth and went out to check the neighborhood. In one house, he saw five dead civilians, a mother, father and three children. Their faces were blue." (HRW)

They were all in the house. Maybe one child made it out the door, or was somewhere else? All are seen in full street clothes, after this midnight attack, but with no shoes. Did they sleep in their clothes, or manage to get dressed after waking up? Because the did not get out to safety, before they tipped over and became passive props in the story, waiting for rescue.

Research suggests they were held hostage, tied up, perhaps upside-down, and gassed with something extreme, likely including smoke. That may sound far-fetched, but they look very strange, with hair sticking up, and this would explain why they just sat there and died.Further, the dark rings around their eyes suggest each family member was hit hard in the back of the head, cracking their skulls, about 2-3 days prior to their killings. Yeah... not god. That might be why they sat there and got tied up, but thy shouldv'e been awake again for whatever was done to them in the end. (see here)

CNN, referring to the same family:
"We were sleeping when a barrel bomb fell near our home," a man explains on the video. "We went down and discovered it was chlorine gas. The victims weren't activists or anything ... but they were suffocating so much, they turned blue. It was a man, four kids, and his wife. The oldest boy was 10 years old. Why did this happen? May God curse you, Bashar (al-Assad)."

In fact, research suggests they might have been a Christian family of the kind that not only doesn't support the Sunni extremist rebellion, they sometimes get kidnapped by it. "Two medics said the al-Baytounji family had suffocated to death because the barrel bomb, which fell in the Sakhour district at about midnight, had been laced with chlorine gas." (Reuters) The name seems connected to Aleppo's Christian community. (same "see here" above)

4) 11-23 - a woman died, inside her home, age 55 but unidentified by everyone

5) 11-28 - "Firas Badawi, a photographer with the Aleppo Media Center ... saw a helicopter ...the munition had hit a playground ...  "We rescued 11 or 12 people who had sought shelter in surrounding buildings, fearing an explosive barrel attack. Most had lost consciousness and there was foam coming from their mouths. We thought they had died. Others couldn’t breathe and were screaming from pain in the chest, coughing and burning in the eyes." (HRW) - 2 reported dead, no details at all.

6) 12-8 - 2 reported dead, some confusion - "Al-Khattat said that the attack killed two people: Ammar Shohaiber, around 40, and Mohammad Abrach, around 50: "Ammar’s house was very close to the impact site and it was full of chlorine gas. We gave him first aid and he seemed to get better, but at night his conditions worsened."  They don't say if he was found inside or outside his house. Mr. Abrach (listed by the VDC as an un identified woman) is even more vague - did he have his own house, or were they in the same place? (HRW)

7) 12-9 - 5 reported dead, no details at all.

1 in 2017 (so far - one rebel died, no one else apparently just sat there and died, but some people did pass out. As noted at the top of the article, activists reported " symptoms consistent with chlorine gas exposure including; difficulty breathing, loss of consciousness and foaming at the mouth."

= 16 fatal incidents total (dozens and dozens of non-fatal attacks reported). The number of fatal attacks isn't necessarily that high considering, and the numbers of dead aren't really suspect. It's these incorrect little details like  instant black-out, and other signs of cover-up, that makes these claims so dubious.

MSF: Building Images of Proof, Using Video-Word Montage

MSF: Building Images of Proof, Using Video-Word Montage
Adam Larson aka Caustic Logic
February 20, 2017

On February 15, 2016 (a year ago), Medecins San Frontiers (MSF, Doctors Without Borders) lodged complaints that Russian and Syrian airstrikes had destroyed one MSF-supported clinic in Idlib province, and then targeted a second hospital nearby. They claimed as a fact that 25 civilians were killed, and 11 wounded, in these attacks. Previous reports compiled at ACLOS; our coverage of this case was not very complete, and a year later I have no ready debunk.

But, on the anniversary, MSF revisited the issue, bolstered by video analysis by Forensic Architecture. Building Evidence with Images. The video they show can be seen alone on Youtube here. I like visual analysis and, when I have time, verifying it. They use some computerized version of the same thing I've done since 2011 the rough way - field of view, lines of sight, correlating features and geolocating scenes, and even measuring the direction of sunlight to find the time of day. Only rarely does it not pan out - the video usually is filmed where they say, and does show people criminally murdered, etc. geolocations are considered valid until I see otherwise - they're too easy to prove wrong if not. (but not easy enough to bother with right now) 

The problem usually lies with the unproven backstory attached to the video events. It's often like this: "yes, this is where the event that rebels seem to be lying about occurred, and that's the aftermath of it. They probably killed those people, and that's why they've got the bodies in their pickup truck," etc.

Still, this probably deserves a full double-checking of their video analysis work. But I'm swamped. In fact, I may do this with no visuals, to help raise the point that a snazzy visual analysis doesn't always prove the truth behind the appearance. With some thoughts from others, and just one decent review of the videos, I'll also try for a quick review here, for now raising more questions than answers.

What they add, and what questions remain:
Again, having not double-checked their work except to see that it's likely correct and not obviously wrong ... Forensic Analysis adds seemingly valuable analysis to show these blasts happened about when and where they were reported. It adds more than usual in this case, which is probably why they picked it. I've seen some terrible stories fall apart like wet cardboard as soon as I pull them open. In this case, not immediately. But I think the who, how, and why still are open to question.

We should note at the start, as MSF may not have considered, hospitals may include or be near militant targets, and be destroyed or damaged in the course of necessary fighting. If either jet strike is real, was there a legit target in the same area?
Again, the video - here are the major points raised (@=video timestamp)

- 1st attack, at Atibah al-Haboud hospital in Al-Hamidiya 6 km south of Maarat al-Numan (here on Wikimapia). Four strikes total are claimed - the first two at 9:02 and 9:05 am (and the third unexplained)?

- Geo-location from two video angles shows it is the building they call an MSF-supplied clinic that was destroyed and smoking around 9 am ...  from something that happened. They say it was a jet attack. They show video of the scene, that appears like the right time. If that's the real damage they show, it was powerful: I'd guess a car bomb, or a few heavy air-dropped bombs. Or a few larger surface-fired rockets/missiles. Most of the building is collapsed. One outer wall stands partly, but slumping. A corner stairwell-type portion is the only thing of size that really stands.If this really was a MSF-supported hospital, then one of those was destroyed, somehow.

- @2:02 -Around 9:45 (as reported, could be), after rescuers arrived, a strike (or two) seen on two video - one is described 4th Russian strike, and of a terrorist "double-tap" sort that targets rescuers. And they do run, as if the ruins would be hit again, as a jet is heard. @4:15 we hear a loud whoosh and boom, but see nothing, in either of two videos. Fakery would be complicated here - just audio editing would be needed, but also running, coordinated with the blasts, knowing sound effects would be added (we'll fix it in post). This is imaginative, but I don't suspect it's the case. Whatever the first blast was, this seems to be an airstrike.

-The loud blast has a few smaller, follow-on explosions. Are these cluster munitions? (big but few) or is this an ammunition depot exploding, perhaps? This deserves some more analysis by someone who could really offer a good opinion.

- It's not clear if they placed just where this strike was in relation to the hospital. It can be seen in frame, but the blast is somewhere else (see @5:02, sun and hospital ruins to the southeast, blast one km or more to the south). The other video is the same: people at the hospital film the distant plume rising. What was off to the south? About 2 km south, according to Wikimapia (see link above), is a stretch of the M5 highway to Damascus, with an "army checkpoint" (may be militant-run checkpoint now) on one side, and an electrical substation on the other side. There's little else but fields before that or further out. so I guess this strike was about 2 km south of the hospital, which was already in ruins anyway. Not much of a 4th strike on the hospital, and not very effective deliberate targeting of rescuers at the hospital. Still, the charges stand.  

- In later videos, there is better jet evidence than usual here, both audio and visual. It's not quite proven to me, but maybe close enough to agree on the point ...

@2:37 2 videos show strike on national hospital in the north of Maarat al-Numan, as soon as Atibah's director arrived, having left his ruined clinic around 11. Two cameras captured twin blasts near the hospital, and one view easily sets the time at about solar noon (MSF got 11:55 am) Lines of sight seem good. One view is clear, as MSF's analysis is, that the hospital itself wasn't hit.
 
@3:09 area indicated - not exact, but almost surely one hit was on the hospital grounds, a ways southeast of the main building, and the other hit a bit to the south, outside the grounds. There's little there but the road to the hospital and one small shack nearby - no likely militant bases or facilities there. 

@6:00 - a jet-shaped blur is seen for a few frames at the attack time. They think it's possibly a Mig-23, which only Syria uses, but that's extremely vague - it could be almost any jet from the pixels seen. And the pixels could be real, or added. It even seems to show payload dropping over the hospital. This seems almost too-good, but it doesn't look obviously fake, and I usually presume no CGI is used. But it is possible.This and the added jet noise would be to obscure the reality of an incoming surface rocket. But I'm leaning to this being real. 

- The lack of close-up of damage or specific claims of damage suggest MSF acknowledges the National Hospital was only "targeted," or hit near. If their work is correct, they show areas near the hospital were hit. So "another hospital that was targeted later the same day," but it was targeted poorly. Or maybe it didn't seem as expendable to the false-flaggers. Or ... The MSF-connected hospital director had just arrived, others may be following - was this perhaps a legitimate terrorist target of the mobile kind?

- unverified claims of Russian and Syrian jets taking off shortly before each attack (a rebel "observatory" claims to watch takeoffs, and might) @3:55 - Opp. sources claim they saw Russian jets take off from Hamayman airport, and carry out the first strike and watched a Syrian jet take off from Hama and hit the national hospital. It's not clear to me they really did, but perhaps. Do they have radar to follow it? Or is it just presumed (takeoff, then blast = hit by that jet)? Because it might be a false-flag rocket attack instead, timed to line up with a jet sortie, real or fabricated. But maybe those are the jets that did these strikes. Were they engaged in criminal operations, or in legitimate ones?

Summary
So the claims line up with real-world explosions, but the actual story makes as little sense as usual and remains open to question. Just to be evil and deny medical care to innocent civilians, whom Russia and Syria are constantly bombing, the Russians blow up a hospital, bomb it some more but miss by 2km, and have their Syrian lackeys blow up the replacement hospital ... but miss by a bit, twice. And good enough - they can get some fresh charges out of it and they're happy, right?

Each piece of jet attack evidence here could have one of these explanations:
- real air strikes against valid target that were near or in these places
- real strike, illegitimate target, by cited jet (Syrian / Russian)
- real strike, illegitimate target, by false flag jet (US-Coalition)
- recon or unrelated flight, synchronized with attack
- audio forgery, synchronized with attack
- video forgery, synchronized with attack
- whole attack video faked (sound and smoke plumes all edited in - why not, for logical fullness, let's list that)

I lean to one of the real jet options. Is it possible these were false-flag jets? Not likely, I should think, this far into Syria. However, that's been alleged in Russia: Sputnik, February 16, 2016 "Airstrikes on a hospital affiliated with Doctors Without Borders, or Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF), and a children’s hospital in Syria were carried out by aircraft departing the US Incirlik Airbase in Turkey, a member of the Russian upper house’s Committee on International Policy said Tuesday." The same accusation was lodged, regarding February 11 allegations in Aleppo.

But that needs a grain of salt, with the counter-claims for takeoff, including Russian jets, and neither version proven that I know of. It wouldn't look good, of course, if Russian sources (but not the MoD) denied their jets were there, if they actually were. Still, maybe they were and maybe it's still not criminal anyway - maybe some fool decided to deny it, instead of explaining. No one else has backed up these claims, that I know of.

So there's a strong counter-accusation, but I suspect, more than likely, these are Russian-Syrian attacks, against either legitimate or illegitimate targets. Probably legitimate, in my view, but the question seems an open one. MSF seems to think it's not. I'm curious why, because the evidence they present isn't adequate to consider the case closed.

Other Clues: The Victims
@1:47 - sounds like there was shift change at the hospital (?) at the time of attack (9 am, almost on the hour, as reported). So they had no current (?) patient count. So the "White Helmets" "civil defense" rescuers didn't know how many hey were digging for.

It's not clear why, but the video takes a moment to explain this. They could just dig for whoever, or use the last known count if they must have a good guess. But maybe they presumed there was no one and didn't dig, and that's why so many died? No, they're seen digging a bit, before they pull back. Did they stop then, since it was thought empty, and the danger was so high? That's Russian danger, terrifying even at 2 kilometers' distance. Who could blame them?

And so, perhaps, the unfortunate, randomly selected victims of Russian bombing mostly just died ... right under that rubble. Right? (recalling the other one was never hit, all fatalities should be here). How did MSF ever know 25 civilians were killed, and 11 wounded? The number is usually just handed in by local, Islamist-affiliated activists, and accepted with no questions. I'm pretty sure they don't know and can't verify who died how. I probably have a much better guess than they do.

Checking the VDC database, as I usually do, the victims are suspiciously similar to the usual for shelling anywhere, but a bit different. The note "Due to Russian air forces shelling of Doctors Without Boarders' hospital" appears with 16 killed on 2-15. Using just "doctors" in the notes, and given five days to find everyone, gives 22 total . All civilian. not a single militant killed, according to this. (in fact, no Idlib rebels killed by bombing at all 2-15,  nor from anywhere else but killed in the whole province.You can hardly hit zero rebels unless you're aiming for zero rebels. This was all about killing civilians! Illogical, sure, but a serious war crime!
- 16 men, 4 women, 1 boy, 1 girl
- named some mix of al-Staif and al-Ghajar = 5: 4 men and the boy (age unknown), from Al-Tih town (likely Al-Tah on Wikimapia)
- named Raheel = 3 men, from unclear, Idlib
- named al-Jadoe = 3 men, from Jarjanaz
- named al-Hallak, al-Nisr, Qeetaz, Azouz, al-Sahawaf, Khateeb = 1 man each (Qeetaz appeared among the earliest chlorine victims, from Maarat al-Numan, but with some confusion - see here - and a wife with husband's name, suggesting Christian, or just modern Muslim)
- named Hasan, Hamra, Dashash, al-Sawas = 1 woman each (poss. wives of other named men)
- unidentified = the girl, but aged 12 (a guess?)
- Mr. Azouz and the girl (likely named Azouz) are from Helbeh village, the others are from Kafrenbil, Khan Sheikhoun, Maarat Numan, others (as listed)

Some family lumping from patients and visiting family is likely enough, but these could also be unrelated hostages that were killed off. Lots of men there to support a male patient with al-Staif al-Ghajar group. What this might suggest is hostages, mostly men, but one complete family, another husband and wife, etc. They would likely of banned minority groups (mostly Alawi, but some Christians), and maybe a Sunni family related to an army officer or high official. Maybe if demands weren't met, they might put the captives in the hospital/militant base they suspected would be bombed, or put them there and bombed it themselves, or killed the people somewhere else and just blamed it on the hospital strike.

Or maybe, as MSF seem to take as the only option, all these people were getting innocent treatment there when the Russians blew the hospital up. I'm not in the same business some are of just ruling things out.