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.

Monday, September 18, 2017

CoI Report Dismantling at the Indicter

September 18, 2017

This post is to announce my second article at Professor Marcello Ferrada de Noli's The Indicter and to comment, invite comments, etc. 
Syria Sarin Allegation: How An UN-Panel Report Twists and Omits Evidence
This stuff sort-of writes itself, but it does take some careful reading, transcribing, and then formatting, collecting sources, etc. There were still a few typos when I got this in behind the hoped schedule, but it's damn close to a perfect piece - basically an improved re-write of my recent review here of the CoI's"meaningless" report. That was good, but I'm calling this, sure to be more widely seen, the Khan Sheikhoun debunk we need, after months of futile confusion.

I assembled this piece at the invitation of professor De Noli, and have the honor of sharing the September Issue with his firsthand account of the U.S.-backed September 11, 1973 coup d'etat in Chile and following repression. De Noli was photographed in detention near martyred regional governor Fernando Alvarez, but was far luckier, released easily to become an important witness and lifetime activist. He now runs the Indicter, and invited me back for a second article on Syria chemical weapons allegations. 

Points worth adding:
We were lucky this time: This Khan Sheikhoun sarin attack case was exceptionally sloppy. Most allegations of massacres and so on that I've investigated fall apart to some degree, but few of them as badly as this important event. But then, it was the same with Ghouta - maybe it's the extra attention that turns up the best debunks. And the abundance of material to find clues in...

Anyway, still, we got a lucky break as investigators with their backwards wind reading, with their inability to get the jets above the spots they blew up, etc. In the future they could learn and improve, map the gas spread accurately, etc. and still they could be and probably would be re-packaging one of their sectarian massacres. If we can't even spot it when they fail this badly, what hope is there for securing any semblance of truth-based justice. Collectively, despite all the deliberate impediments to it, we need to get smarter than this.

More Fudging by OPCW: a problem I noticed too late to include - as the OPCW used this topographic map to show why sarin would flow SW from the origin spot, they did two serious things
1) as noted, exaggerate the relief to make slopes look steeper and more relevant. than they were
2) just now noticed: they misplaced the release point, if that's what the blue area is supposed to be. Rather it seems this is the bakery, a bit south of release point, which is right where that curving street meets the straight one.

The difference matters (or it would IF THERE WAS NO WIND, but there was...): From this wrong spot, it would flow sw like rebels need, IF the air was still as the OPCW wrongly decided. From the correct spot, more than likely it would all roll NW, especially if the OPCW's wind direction guess (mild to the NW) was right (it wasn't). Rather, it blew uphill, not as steep as it looks here, northeast (here: to the right and away), until it got too steep, and then I guess it would bend more north along the highway and into that (not so) dramatic gorge there.

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Mystery of the W77 Trucks

The Mystery of the W77 Trucks
September 10, 2017 
(rough, incomplete) 
last updates Sept. 17

The "W77 trucks" is a mystery I've been meaning to do a post on. There's some speculation on what this occasional making means - the most straightforward guess is it's to allow some people to pass a certain way through Islamist-held areas and maybe across the Turkish border. This was first investigated in late April, 2016 2017, as one of these vehicles was used as the suicide bombing that killed around 100 Shia evacuees from Kafraya and Foua, on April 15, in Rashidin, Aleppo. The other places they turn up have a way of being interesting as well.

That early work was largely by (among whoever else) a few Twitter users, including Alex Ocana and John Delacour. The latter has blocked me from seeing his tweets, so I'll just cite Alex's here, and maybe miss a few points. All sightings I know of in approximate chronological order. Info and details may be added...
Note 9/11: I was unaware of a useful Bellingcat investigation published by Christiaan Triebert  August 2, that collects several other instances of blue Porters or W77 vehicles. This didn't seeming to make much of it, but noted "Bellingcat thinks the colour scheme as well as the W77/77W signature may be unresolved clues in this investigation," and invited collaboration. I'll be adding at least the relevant entries above.

* 07.04.2016, Handarat, Aleppo: AO tweet: "W77 again. Complete picture from Russian Agency 07.04.2016 - 19:57 Nusra at #Aleppo ’s Handarat." 

As noted, the W is slanted different than usual (or as would be usual later...). There must be separate W stencil done backwards here. Armed black pickup with Nusra flag is different in all those ways from what we'll see later, after an apparent pause of about a year (or so it seems at this early point).
They emerge more heavily in the period after interest peaked in 2017, and people started looking for them in current material. There may be many missed passing by in videos from this span and before.

* March 16(?), 2017: (added 9-13, from Bellingcat) 2 seen at Jinah Mosque, Aleepo/Idlib border: W77 blue Porter, very muddly, sharinf colors and decoration details with the Rashidin suicide truck. Nearby in the same video a cleaner 77W blue porter - window designs include Hyundai logo - tailgate says Daio? Mark of the custom paintjob people? May be what's under the W77 in many cases.

Two Porters appear in post-attack imagery released by the US after it bombed the meeting hall half of the mosque complex on March 16. (one a different model, the other may be one of these) What's interesting here: the US claims it targeted a militant meeting after the mosque services let out and the civilian cars left. But rebel sources were insistent that dozens of civilians were killed, despite that we only see militant-looking vehicles. But these Porter trucks, one with high-sided cage walls, are capable of trucking in dozens of civilians to use as human shields. It's worth considering.

* March, 2017, near Khattab, Hama: (add 9-13, from Bellingcat) Triebert: "A blue Hyundai Porter without cage but with window decoration, driving reportedly near the town of Khattab in the Hama governorate, as shown in Qasioun News Agency video published in March 2017." Back end clearly has a white patch for W77/77W, but it's unclear which. The white floral design on the front and apparently windows marks it as part of the system. Along with Majdal, Khattab is of course one of the two named villages occupied by al-Nusra-led Islamists in late March, from which a reported 250 civilians were abducted, probably put into trucks, and driven to Khan Sheikhoun when the Islamists retreated on March 31. This one is still in the area but empty. It might be filled with something before it left with the Islamists. I may look into this more, try and set a date, etc.
March 22 upload, maybe the 23rd in Syria. "Ensure the exit of civilians from the town of Khattab north of Hama after the opposition control." A horse, some tractors, lots of bedding, two portable generators? and several civilians moving one way on this road while the blue truck alone comes the other way along the shoulder. It gets a bit closer than the above still, but the video cuts before it gets clearer than this closer view.
Qasioun news reports: March 22 rebels take over. March 31 they flee. So maybe people were taken anywhere in this span, and not just at the end.

* April 4, 2017, Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib: During the Khan Sheikhoun chemical massacre, just five days after Islamists pulled out of Khatab and perhaps trucked up hundreds of hostages ... one of these trucks (apparently the blue Porter variety?) delivered some of the bodies of alleged sarin victims from who knows where to be hosed off at the White Helmets Al-Rahma cave hospital (which victims?) By sunlight, it's pretty early, but no estimate yet. W77 variety: white or silver with black outline? Small underwriting between the 7s.

Video by Ibaa Agency, basically the official media wing of HTS/Al-Namechange Front. WH-Nusra link widely suspected - Nusra W77 link illustrated - Nusra video gets best view of (came in with?) this W77 truck. But others got the even earlier and more interesting appearance of these trucks, in the next entry.

* April 4, 2017, Khan Sheikhoun, same place: (add 9/12, thanks to Qoppa999 tweet) A Porter but perhaps nicer - it's an H-100 - white,  marked 77W, but in RED or maybe reflective GOLD rimmed with red, Allah on the windshield, mirror dots up the side, and most likely another W77/77W truck, but likely marked different, seeming more mundane. Between them, a bizarre and troubling scene - these seem to be about the first rescue vehicles to arrive at al-Rahma, prior to the earliest image, at ~7:10 am. In some images at the ACLOS timeline page, and the video one of them is taken from, we can say a batch of possibly dead civilians was unloaded before that first image, continue being sprayed, and in a later image (timed at 8:00 but I might need to review that), the same people are put back on the tuck to go somewhere else, and get sprayed again. This is what W77 trucks and White Helmets do when they hang out together.
This gold-red on white effect seems special, esteemed, like the W77 king's own truck. The apparent small underwriting seems to be done the same way. What an odd choice to be the first rescue vehicle out there picking people up in the first minutes, and to then hang around like this and haul the same people again...  Anyway, I now think the order is significant: W77 means one thing and 77W means a different but related thing: another level in the system, that's higher (closer to Al-Nusra?). 77W's may appear more around this incident closer to the victims, their furniture, etc, while . W77s seem to do more menial hauling.

At least four sightings at least in the following days, same area:

* April 5? 6? Khan Sheikhoun: Driving past the alleged sarin crater as men gather samples - hauling unclear materials in bags with "production date" readable in English, perhaps unclear, 2006? No back license plate. None needed, because of the W77?

* April 5, 2017, Khan Sheikhoun area: Al-Jazeera Arabic video, apparently in KS, but   unclear - in a report about the incident. I think I first found this one, just now.

Windshield writing - hard to make out. side window patterning, white flames stenciled low on the side - winged logo on the front - W77 with small writing underneath (should say Hyundai...)

Another possible W77 truck passes just after this - an older truck with red paint, but the markings are much less clear if so. But tying it in, the noted "Lithuanian" color scheme appears on its railings, and it comes shortly behind this other, like they're on a joint adventure.

* Another crater pass: (add 9/12, from Bellingcat) - "A blue Hyundai Porter without cage but with the W77 sign in Khan Sheikhoun in the Idlib governorate. The video was uploaded by Ùmaya Press in April 2017 and is about the chemical attack in the city." Again, it's just caught as it passes the alleged sarin crater, while a boy is filmed. Seems about April 5/6, when the red signs was out and the crater still not filled in. Regular lowly W77 with no visible cargo.

* Hauling away homes? (add 9/12, from Bellingcat): "A blue Hyundai Porter without cage in Khan Sheikhoun in the Idlib governorate. Published by TRT World. The Khan Sheikhoun Porter was spotted by Jesse Sandberg." I got a better still from the video cited - it's a 77W variety, window decor. It's perhaps hauling away furnishings and bedding after the people using them were killed in the chemical attack. This is KS, and just after - prob. April 5. They're still holding up dead birds.

There's a photo of this scene and the truck in this report from Yenisafak with the caption "Chemical gas attack survivor residents load their goods on a pick-up truck before leaving the town after yesterday's suspected chlorine gas attack in the town of Khan Shaykun, Idlib province, Syria on April 05, 2017." Okay, so they help people with moving? 

* April 15, 2017, Rashidin, Aleppo - Rashidin suicide bomb massacre: It was a blue W77 Hyundai Porter with no license plate and an apparent false bottom that killed about 100 evacuating civilians, mostly children, after they were lured into one place with food, after rebels held them there for a day... medical help was delayed, the victims harangued, and one usload of the was just stolen, its 15 occupants taken as bargaining chips. Somehow, a blue Porter W77 truck played the central role, bringing all this attention. 

Apr 16: AlexOcana posts this composite image from a video of the suicide truck, asks for a make-model ID.
Soon, a Hyundai Porter is decided: it's a standard color, tending to come with the strange angled square on the door standard. This applies to many or most other W77s - they're Hyundai Porters, by and large.  Alex Ocana notes it seems to have a false bottom, as for smuggling, in which the explosives are hidden.  And it doesn't have a rear license plate.

flag ID - Lithuanian? Apr 16
Just to remind: The Rashadeen suicide truck had a false bottom full of explosives and a Lithuanian flag.

@LinkeviciusL Can you explain how the blue suicide bomb truck with Lithuanian flag at #Rashadin got into hands of the suicide bomber?
#NATO #Lithuania #Syria How the blue truck IDed by Lithuania flag as #Rashidin suicide truck end up there? LITCOM? UNSMIS?

Bellingcat's Cristiaan Triebert admits the color scheme points to Lithuania, but also is a scrambled version of a local Kurdish flag, etc., seems randomly hand-painted, and just not clear. For now, I have no opinion. Next I'll have to find out what  LITCOM is, etc.

* May 10, 2017, Bab, Aleppo: @JohnDelacour #Rashadin Latest W77 this time from the clashes in Turkish occupied N. Aleppo https://twitter.com/DominicaCanaPt/status/874413093157302272 - http://syriadirect.org/news/dozens-of-casualties-after-latest-row-between-turkish-backed-rebels/ -  Sellers showcase their produce in al-Bab on May 10. Photo courtesy of Zein Al-Rifai/AFP. I don't think that's a license plate, but ground visible through the frame. Again, W77 seems to suffice.

Andrew added some finds in some comments here, for lack of a better place:

* Unclear, Idlib: Nissan Caravan in Quniya (or perhaps Yacoubia? in "liberated" Idlib) where Nusra had just opened a mosque, perhaps at this closed-down church. The lettering is not the clearest here, but seems to be the same W77 - and no need for a rear license plate. A white porter sits nearby, but unmarked on this side, plates unclear. Date unclear, but well before May, 2017 documentary release
Documentary (2017) - Undercover in the 'rebel' held Idlib (Youtube) at 12:45

* May 25, Maarat Numan: an urban cleanup video  shows a blue Porter truck marked 77W with underwriting at 1:37, parked at an apparent grocery store (?) A white truck seen earlier may be W77 too, but unclear (0:37)

* June 5, Maarat al-Numan (added 9/17, from Bellingcat) June 5 tweet using photos stamped by HTS-linked Ibaa News Agency: "An IED exploded this morning near a car in Maarat al-Numan, driver injured." White H-100, W77 in silver outlined in black. Here the smaller underwriting appears as outlined over-writing, but unclear what it says (same Daio or similar as on others?). Only other place we've seen outlined W77, in red and black, was two cases hauling victims of the KS chemical massacre. Hm. Different door design than usual, marked Porter, super. Limited custom decorations, but front wings, side flames like April 5 KS sighting, and same windshield writing, which we can see says Hyun(crown)dai.

* June 2017? Ain Issa
Another "W77" truck in Ain Issa (still no idea if significant) In the makeshift camp at Ain Issa, 50 km north of the Raqqa in Syria, a boy carries a jerrycan filled with water. Photo: UNICEF/Souleiman (on or before June 9)  
But this says N7, right? Nope. seems painted, so it's not likely part of the black paint fell off - was it deliberately re-painted? To be less obvious from a distance, after Rashidin?Note: this is an unusual area - not Al-Nusra/HTS-dominated but rather Kurdish/SDF-controlled.

* June 25, 2017, Hish, Idlib: WH video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDnDurGaRXI - cargo: one well-dressed young girl. Story unclear. No rear license plate.

* July 21, Tabqa, Raqah: One seen in July (from Bellingcat), photo taken by by Dutch journalist Harald Doornbos of a damaged street in Tabqa, Raqqah - recent ISIS turf, taken by SDF? seen from a distance at a bad angle, so details unclear, No license plate. Apparent light patch for W77, not the clearest, may be partly obscured. Unusual cage/rack, custom decorations unclear, yellow-blue door pattern.

Parked in front of it, a white truck, seems to be a similar model Porter, with a possible black spot for W77 markings, and apparently no license plate. It has a full-topped tiger cage on the back, probably used for transporting prisoners.

* September 6, Al-Ra'i: from Triebert tweet - https://archive.is/MtaE0 - https://www.facebook.com/AlfuratNewsAgency/photos/pcb.1944613382219256/1944613298885931/?type=3&theater
September 6, by Fırat Haber Ajansı, Istanbul
"The Free Police performs its duties in inspecting vehicles in the town of Al-Ra'i ( الراعي ) in order to protect the lives of citizens from any terrorist threat." 77W with extra clear (DAIO?) (overwriting?) Unusually, a rear license plate. Similar colors pattern to Rashidin truck, but different (less Lithuanian) colors. Location: Al-Ra'i sounds familiar, but I can't find it at the moment. Turkish border? Ah! FriedmanWo helps: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Rai%2C_Syria - Turkish border, north of Bab, Aleppo - usual ISIS stronghold, repeatedly taken and re-taken, here a week into Turkish-backed "FSA" control. Right on the border: here on Wikimapia, 2.7km from "Turkish train station" and closer to the border in other spots. If this is a midday photo, the truck is currently set to drive north or northwest, so coming from within Syria rather than from Turkey. Probably coming from Tal Atiya to the SSE. Helpfully marked Danger! on the tailgate. What does that mean?
The Decorations:
Blue Hyundai Porters compared: I don't think we've seen the same one twice yet. The April 5 Al Jazeera and April 15 (Rashidin) ones have their W77 painted at different levels relative to the underlying small name (which says Hyundai?) Two from above and another from (?), flipped horizontally by Alex Ocana - floral patterns stenciled in window, but different other features: dots, flames along the bottom, all in white. 

The one passing the sarin crater seems to have window florals as well, but the angle is too oblique to bother comparing. However its rear window may have an identifiable part of some logo. The April 5 one also has writing across the top of the windshield I'm not sure is ever readable. (from another instance, it says HYUN(crown)DAI)

Under-writing/over-writing: DAIO? Seems to be done in the same colors as the added W77, and apparently added on top of it. ??

W77 = Allah?
As a comment at the Bellingcat post suggests: #77 of the traditional 99 names of God (Allah) is Al-Wali ( الوالي ), "the patron." Interesting. And  FWIW, the main name of Allah in Arabic contains two W shapes. That could be a roman-letter way of saying "serious Islamists with solid patronage on board."

W77 appears in a few things one can search for, and could have many possible meanings (some fumbling through possibilities in comments by Andrew and I here)

But the most promising seems to be an e-mail address: hsm.w77 @gmail.com  is attached to this Youtube account.  This channel promoted some Saudi-Turkish backed humanitarian truck delivery activity to deliver things that will help the Syrian people. The top video is still this from mid-2013 (still at right).

AO tweet: "facebook.com/DyrAlzwrDeerAlzor … seems to be the renamed FB acct from hsm.w77 and has this logo." (right: seems Saudi-inspired: seems to say "tell people the good news" or spread the Wahhabi creed?)

I perused this site and shared some highlights here - it espouses solidarity with the Sunni "revolution of Aleppo and Damascus," with a lot of ugly sectarian propaganda, like promotion of (and maybe fundraising for) the 2013 Latakia offensive that wound up a genocidal massacre and mass-abduction of Alawite civilians - and a sudden stop in October, 2014, as if the page's proprietor had run off to Turkey to join ISIS or al-Nusra...
This my be unrelated, but it could be just a long pause before the same still-mysterious W77 appears by April, 2016 on trucks driving around the Turkey-Syria border.

Rashidin - persons of interest
(mostly Alex Ocana tweets - may not directly relate)

1. @ShehabiFares reported Samer Kharita as Rashadeen bomber with no supporting evidence. Here is maybe same person. Feb. 1 '16 Anadan Aleppo

I think I may have spotted Samer in the back of the W77 truck. Widow peak there but faint.

14. Wanted for questioning. Armed goon at candy distribution point, JAS personage, photographer for Syria Charity & Catman of Aleppo.

April 24
16. Another shot of the JAS personage handing out sweets. Wanted for questioning.

Person of interest from the video with the truck.

Catman of Aleppo plus two Syria Charity (one a photog, plus one Jaysh Tahrir al-Sharqiyah and armed AQ type distributed candies.

Probably Jaysh Tahrir al-Sharqiyah logo?? We have: Syria Charity, ONGLive (Bilal)  and Cat Hospital on the scene.

#Syria #SAA We find blue W77 trucks at both Rashadin and Khan S. sarin attack, and the same person handing out sweets & catching bodies.

compares KS-Rashidin

Thursday, September 7, 2017

On the UN CoI's Meaningless Report

Idlib Chemical Massacre:
On the UN CoI's Meaningless Report
September 7-8, 2017
last edits 9/10

I have to repeat my Khan Sheikhoun "sarin attack" findings yet again with the public release of this UN report:

Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic
A/HRC/36/55 - General Assembly - Distr.: General -  8 August 2017 (but made public just now, a month later)
Note: the link worked once, but now refuses? Another link with the PDF available for download:

News reports herald this as a solid, if not surprising, report by informed experts, to be taken as factual. Its findings of clear government guilt are portrayed as adding a meaningful turn in the endless reinforcement of that same basic picture. But little surprise to many of us, this appears more like a sloppy exercise in data-mining to justify a preconceived position. 

The "Independent Commission of Inquiry" behind this (hereafter CoI) is a three-member panel where one member, the frequent dissenter and occasional champion of the targeted governments, Carla Del Ponte, resigned in early August - at just about the time this report came out. (Her public statements suggest she endorses the report, but that's the public face - as one example of her track record, see Jutin Raimando approving of some of her work that broke the Western script and had to be undone, or  Louis Proyect painting her as a useful idiot for Putin and Assad and promoter of their conspiracy theories).

I don't know much about Paulo Pinheiro, but the other remaining member, Karen Koning-Abuzayd, is a Washington insider, a director of the Middle East Policy Council. The MEPC is one of the many think tanks that hatches strategies to further U.S. interests in the area, overthrow certain governments, peddle lies if needed, etc. So her "independent" commission winds up blaming the Syrian government. Huh.

Do they have good evidence in this case? If they did, it should be in this report. Upon review of what's in there, it seems they don't have any good evidence. But they push ahead with so much confidence, authority, and credulity, no wonder people assume they must have ample proof.

The report focuses on many incidents in Syria, chemical and otherwise, over the reporting period (1 March to 7 July), but news reports emphasize the Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack findings. To display supposed balance, the report passes on some of the most undeniable crimes by opposition terrorists (not limited to Daesh/ISIS) against Syria's religious minorities, including cases of hostage-taking.

But one event they fail to mention, either to support or dismiss, was the claim that some 250 civilians were kidnapped from villages near Hama during the Islamist occupation in late March. These were said to be taken to Khan Sheikhoun when the abductors fled on March 31. This was just 5 days before the incident under study where the same guys and their allies showed us dozens of civilians dying in still-unclear circumstances in Khan Sheikhoun. Maybe these reports are inaccurate propaganda. But the CoI didn't do anything to help illustrate that, simply ignoring the claims as they do note how the Islamists "successfully attacked Government positions in Hama" in late-March, sparking reprisals thought to include this sarin attack. 

The Commission says it asked for input from the Syrian government and got no response. I wonder if there was something their tone or delivery that made this inevitable. As it is, the report cites mostly alleged witness accounts, selectively citing the video evidence those same provided and, as I'll show, ignoring important but inconvenient evidence that undermines the claims they chose to accept.

Why Syria is to Blame: The Short Version
The CoI make note in the report how people said they saw a SU-22 jet carry out the attack, and they note how it's a distinct and easy to recognize craft. It's just as easy to make up, but they're sure it was really seen, and seen in the act of bombing the town.
"The  Russian Federation and the international coalition do not operate this type of aircraft. It is therefore concluded that the Syrian air force carried out airstrikes on Khan Shaykhun at around 6.45 a.m. on 4 April" 
This is their central point that took a while to settle: for some reason it's now certain that jet conducted the sarin strike, and only Syria has those jets. They go into some details that are supposed to support that. So let's see how well that works out.

The Claimed Bombs Vs. The Radar Track
Interviewees  and  early  warning  reports  indicate  that  a  Sukhoi  22  (Su-22)  aircraft conducted four air strikes in Khan Shaykhun at around 6.45 a.m.
People said so, including in "early reports." Do they have any more solid information there was such a flight, out here in 3D reality? Like, for example, a radar track? One is available, but like the Organization  for  the  Prohibition  of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the CoI chose to ignore it and let people just tell them there was a jet, and where it was and what it did.

From the report's more detailed Annex II: there was a report of two SU-22 jets taking off from Shayrat airfield near Homs at  6.26  am, "at least one of which was heading in the direction of Khan Shaykhun." Then...
"At  around  6.45  a.m.,  interviewees  recalled  seeing  an  aircraft  flying  low  over  Khan Shaykhun, which is consistent with the airspeed of the aircraft and the distance that needed to be covered." 
This was surely "recalled," not just reported, huh? Good thing these eyewitnesses are more reliably honest than usual. They help verify how long the jets took to get there, for one thing. Radar records could also bear that out, and a supposed track of TWO jets from Shayrat airfield, both flying north to Khan Sheikhoun at the given time is available. A rough rendition was shown in the White House report they issued after the attack on Shayrat, by way of justification. 

But the CoI's esteemed investigators decided not to cite this, or perhaps to avoid even looking at it. Why?
"In the span of a few minutes, the aircraft, identified by interviewees as a Su-22,  made  two  passes  over  the  town  and  dropped  four  bombs. "
And this is why they wouldn't like that radar track. They wanted to report, as the "witnesses" said, that the jet(s) were OVER the town and then DROPPED bombs, including the sarin one. But the flight paths they report, at least to Human Rights Watch, make no sense, as mapped here by Michael Kobs on Twitter, and see at right. There are a couple of other conflicting directions reported around. It's all pretty confusing (I should have done more analysis on this...).

The lines suggested in the radar track make a lot more sense, but they never pass over the city. Here's the shown track correlated to the map: no distortion or error is evident. The jets are tracked arcing around Khan Sheikhoun at a distance. Most likely, they were on a simple reconnaissance mission.

Here's how that distance (closest pass, red line) maps out. They were never caught anywhere near directly above any of the alleged bomb sites. The pivotal bakery sarin impact is particularly impossible - no gravity bomb will slant 3 km north as it falls. Either the U.S. flight track is wrong, or these "bombs" cannot have been dropped from either of those jets as alleged.

The CoI could have asked the United States for the raw data to get a clearer picture, but it seems they chose to just ignore this evidence instead.

The OPCW were more measured, as they also ignored the radar track in their report. They didn't specify the munition used; by their report, it could have been missiles fired. ("Although,  some  witnesses  advised  that  the  release  was  due  to  a  munition  dropped  from an aircraft, the FFM was unable to retrieve any items from the site ... the FFM could not establish with a great degree of confidence the means of deployment and dispersal of the chemical.") But the CoI chose to be more specific and say, as most activists have from the start, that bombs were dropped. 

Specifically, the CoI think the three conventional blasts were done with OFAB fuel-air high-explosive fragmentation bombs, in the 100-120 range (small, gravity driven, with no propulsion or guidance). In my reading, that could be right for the damage, if the bombs were actually FAE (fuel-air explosive, small in power) and could fly in from a northerly position - that is, if they were on rockets or missiles fired from a jet or a ground launcher that was north of the impacts. (see here) The jets tracked did fly north of the city as well, for what it's worth. But they aren't accused of firing missiles from there, or anywhere.

And this remnant from impact site #1 should be matched to such a bomb. I don't think it can be. Michael Kobs notes it could be from a rebel "Hell Cannon" shell.I agree it looks quite similar, but could be from any number of weapons that are rough-welded, improvised types. I don't see how it could be part of a factory-assembled military bomb. But then, I'm no expert.

The Sarin Bomb
The CoI is unclear on the order of attack, but makes it sound like all four drops were done in two passes of the same jet, in unstated order but almost at once - "in the span of a few minutes" at about 6:45. (HRW and others say the chemical bomb was dropped first, at 6:37, and the other three at 6:46) Besides the three OFABs, the other bomb dropped was "a  chemical  bomb" that "landed  in  the  middle  of  a  street" near the central bakery and grain silos, as they found to no surprise. 
"Photographs of the impact site show a  hole, too small to be  considered a  crater, and the  remnants of  what  appears  to have  been  a  Soviet-era  chemical  bomb. ... Although  the  Commission  is  unable  to  determine  the  exact  type  of chemical  bomb  used,  the  parts  are  consistent  with  sarin  bombs  produced  by  the  former Soviet Union in the 250kg-class of bombs, which would have approximately 40kg of sarin, depending on the munition used."
Here the Commission revives the debunked Eliot Higgins-HRW claim that a Soviet-made ODAB-250 KhAB-250 or similar was used,causing this reaction on my part. Human Rights Watch found this to be the likely weapon, based mainly on the presence of some sort of filler cap on the scrap, and a green band taken as a painted stripe (that runs the wrong way on the wrong part of the bomb?).
Note how HRW matches the filler hole cap. Critics rightly noted that match was based on looking at the scrap inside-out. Michael Kobs explains this in a tweet responding to Timi Allen, a Bellingcat member (associate of Eliot Higgins). Allen had no response, by the way.
Here are some other tweets I dug up just now contributing to a debunk of this ID, finding a larger standard explosive weapon is a much better fit for the exact type and size of cap, which seems to be be a "charge well plug," not a filler hole cap at all.
Models OFAB-500 and ODAB-500 were floated along the way, and finally OFZAB-500 (standard HE-frag bomb) seems to have won the contest with Michael Kobs' analysis. But even if this isn't it and no one has a positive ID, it's clear that HRW's call was bogus, and it was apparently repeated by the CoI without double-checking. 

Of course if one of these had gone off, there would be far more damage and a large crater, so either it was a dud bomb, or the scrap was planted (maybe in hopes it would be found consistent with some sarin bomb, as happened). That would suggest the fakers didn't have any KhAB-250 bomb fragments to use. It seems few people besides museums have these things anymore.

But the CoI are confident Syria had such a thing and decided to fill it with "sarin or a sarin-like substance" (of an impure and caustic variety like terrorists have), took this bomb only they could maybe have, and dropped it from a jet only they have, on Khan Sheikhoun, to be photographed. Because ... why?

Oh, and they apparently had it done by jets that spoofed U.S. radar with false tracks as they flew directly above each bomb site, invisibly.

The Answer Blowing in the Wind: They Didn't Want it? 
"The Commission  also  took  into  account  the  findings  of  the  Organisation  for  the  Prohibition  of Chemical Weapons report on  the  results of its fact-finding  mission."
This I partially reviewed in July, here. They too ignored the US radar track that's quite available, and other important points including the best evidence for the prevailing wind. As the main driver of any spread of the sarin cloud, the wind is important to understand, and was the focus of my critique. 

The OPCW chose to rely on weather records for other cities some distance away, which only might indirectly show what it was in Khan Sheikhoun. They did this despite there being ample video evidence for just what the wind was doing in the relevant time and place. There are several videos that can be analyzed to get a best direction, as I did. As an expert in meteorological issues, Charles Wood, tells me in comments below, observation from on-site, or by video if necessary, is the only sure way to get a proper reading of the wind. As I read it, with Charles' input, the wind was blowing (at ground level and at upper levels) from the southwest to the northeast, at a speed probably in excess of 6mph (at upper levels), or 9.7 kilometers per hour. The exact direction and speed are debatable, but not the basic direction (it is debated sporadically, but not very well, and mainly it's just ignored).

This best method, however, puts any sarin from the bakery crater exactly in the opposite direction to have killed people in the area that activists and their supporters have always claimed. Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Jazeera, the OPCW, and now the CoI all agreed on deaths to the southwest. We see winds that would push the sarin fog northeast, into a less populated area where no one was reported as dying or being affected at all.


The OPCW did not find the wind was blowing southwest, as activists implied. Rather, they settled on a slight wind to - probably - the northwest. Then, in a separate questionable decision, the OPCW decided this unclear wind was super-slow ("no discernible wind"). "Witnesses" reported this to them. And so, coincidentally or otherwise, it was a slight down-slope that caused the sarin to roll into the yellow area shown here, that's the same as the purple area above."Witnesses" also told them about this slope (they mention "witness  testimony in  relation  to  the weather and topography").

In the absence of wind, a sarin plume would roll downhill. But this wouldn't be neatly to the southwest; as I read the topographic maps, it would roll - slowly - to the west, perhaps dividing NW and SW at a small hill, and re-merging around it. Any wind from the southeast, as they all decided on, would all but ensure the fog would spread northwest just as much as southwest, if not more so. And so the affected area plus other areas no reported as affected would be filled.

And anyway, there was no absence of wind. The OPCW made that up, perhaps on negligent accident, but in violation of the best evidence. 

With the OPCW's example considered, the CoI explain "The  weather conditions at 6.45 a.m. of 4 April were ideal for delivering a chemical weapon." They were not really ideal to get it spread southwest as needed! But they get to that. "Data  based  on  historical  weather  forecasts" is their basis to decide the following conditions were "indicated" by these almost meaningless averages:
"the  wind  speed  was  just over three kilometres per hour from the southeast, that there was no rain and practically no cloud cover, and that the temperature was around 13 degree Celsius."
They get less than 1/3 the speed Charles and I estimate. And their temperature guess is clearly wrong: you can see peoples' breath on video, which of course they used only selectively. They didn't bother testing this against what we see, any more than they did the wind direction or speed. Visible breath usually happens fairly near to freezing; maybe up to around 40-45 degrees Fahrenheit at the warmest (in my experience). That would be ~4-7 degrees Celsius. Charles Wood ran calculations suggesting it should be 7.6 degrees at the time. I can't verify that. But I don't think it can be anywhere close to 13 in the place and time where all those people died. In the made-up paper place where Syria's guilt is obvious, winds to the northwest move smoke and fog exclusively to the northeast, and I guess breath is seen at 13 degrees. Sure, why not?

As the CoI relates it, the OPCW found "the wind speed  was  low  with uncertain  direction,  most  likely  coming  from  somewhere  between  the south   and   east," but with "calm and stable atmospheric conditions" (that is, basically no wind). They feel their 3kph made-up estimate is slow enough to go ahead and agree with the OPCW's implications. "Under  such  conditions," which didn't actually exist...
"...  the  agent  cloud  would  have  drifted  slowly downhill  following  the  terrain  features  at  the  location  (roads  and  open  spaces),  in  a southerly and westerly direction. This is consistent with the observed locational pattern of individuals becoming affected by the agent cloud."
Yes, it matches their story, which is described as "observed" to suggest the story was true. Well, more or less (again, I call west or, if anything narrower, northwest is more likely than southwest). And that's probably just why the slope theory was decided on. It's probably why some activists mentioned the lack of wind to the OPCW, and told them about a downslope to the southwest. It's probably why the OPCW chose to accept that. But it is NOT consistent with the actual, seen spread of the alleged sarin fog. Their guess clashes with the video record, and the latter obviously wins.

The white fog everyone says is sarin from the bakery can be seen drifting north and east from two different spots well to the southwest of there. This is strange but true. Here's the spread of the clearer fog field originating at the southwest edge of town, as seen from far to the north. Looking south, the fog spreads left and towards the camera, so clearly north and east into the city, with a low hill splitting it. And damn, there is a lot of this fog. No bomb was ever reported this way. (See here for this and the northern unexplained fog area, explained as best I can.) 
Furthermore, according to the available topographic maps, this movement is all slightly uphill, on about the same grade of slope the OPCW decided such fog should roll down. Hence, any sarin plume at the bakery area (it's still not clear to me if there was or wasn't one) would tend to roll uphill as it followed the wind in just the same way.

Two esteemed groups of investigators CHOSE to rely on observed winds in other places, or on some guessed data based on historical trends, acting like this was the best they could do. Both groups CHOSE not to establish the wind clearly, from the actual video of events, as would be proper and reasonable. Both groups thus avoided seeing this fatal contradiction in the opposition's narrative, and were able to confidently blame Syria for an attack that defied the laws of physics.

It doesn't sound so good this way, but this is how it is: unprofessional and biased UN panel decides Syrian jet evaded US radar, as it dropped a special Soviet sarin bomb filled with terrorist-grade sarin, that has magical properties like spreading almost exactly against the wind. "Accountability" is demanded over this absurd and impossible crime.

Other Questions
(To be added to past the above initial article) 

Bakery/Silos Unused? 
(added 9/7 - thanks to Andrew for the tip) The report mentions the sarin was released near "a bakery and a  grain silo,  which interviewees explained  was not operational and  unused  for  any  purpose  after  having  been  hit  by  an  airstrike  in  2016." In comments (at another post) Andrew notes it's apparently used for something - a white van drives into the compound at 0:05 in this video. Why would they deny that? Is it used for something shady?

No Injuries?
(added 9/9 - thanks to Adrian Kent on Twitter for the tip)
28. The Commission has independently gathered extensive information which, in the aggregate, strongly supports the claim that the victims were exposed to sarin or a sarin-like substance. Apart from the fact that none of the victims was observed to have wounds or visible injuries, the symptoms reported are consistent with those suffered by persons exposed to an organophosphorus chemical such as sarin...
First, the symptoms are somewhat consistent/debatable. Next, no visible injuries is consistent with some chemical poisoning, but not exclusive. Third, an unusual number of alleged sarin victims DO show serious and possibly fatal wounds to the face, head, and neck (and nowhere else we see). Here are the 8 cases I know of: one woman, and seven children. Two or three of these seem  to have marks added after they were seen "rescued" on video (another may have lesser wounds added after a first and minor wound, and another boy apparently has his neck wound bandaged as if to be invisible and suggest he never was wounded.)

Many others, including several men and at least one baby, also suffered strange but less serious scrapes on the face. But just these 8, of a reported 80-100 victims is at or close to 10% of the total. The other 90% as far as I've seen do fit the description of unmarked.

So it's wrong to say none showed wounds, but still, most of them don't. This other 90% apparently died without such intervention, which was probably the plan, as they were gassed in basement gas chambers. Children were shown alive and gasping before they died; this was probably also planned for emotional effect, and could lead to some non-fatal underdoses. That maybe led to these finishing wounds, and maybe extra marks added to make that a bit less obvious (so shelling or accident could be blamed if it ever became an issue. But thanks to the CoI and others, the issue has remained quiet and so they haven't even had to try and explain it.)

Russian-Syrian Timeline Deception? 
(added 9/9-9/10)
72) Russian and Syrian officials denied that Syrian forces had used chemical weapons, explaining that air strikes conducted by Syrian forces at 11.30 a.m. that day had struck a terrorist chemical weapons depot.
Implied: this is the explanation for the CW attack claims in question, as it came from Russia and Syria - some accidental release around noon, triggered by a Syrian airstrike, explains the events ... that clearly unfolded around 7am. That's the best these villains could come up with. Well the CoI didn't buy it! Point 76 relates several reasons to reject this "explanation," capped with: 
"Third, the scenario suggested by Russian and Syrian officials does not explain the timing of the appearance of victims — hours before the time Russian and Syrian officials gave for the strike."
So guess what? It may not be their real explanation.

Russian officials did make declarations along these lines, and I don't think they've clearly retracted them. That's unfortunate and adds to the confusion the CoI is furthering. To me it seems like the Russians were guessing this, not being certain when the CW incident really was, but knowing Syria hit there at 11:30. If they were pushed to say what Syria did at the attack time, they'd probably say something like "nothing we know of."

Syria being blamed, their take matters more. Their explanation was that they conducted no air strikes before that 11:30 one. They deny they used any weapons of any kind on Khan Shaykhun at dawn, and they reminded us that they still maintain that they've never used chemical weapons. They do not, however, deny that they had any flights in the area at the time, just that if there were, they didn't attack anything. Being the first daylight available to see what's new in rebel turf, a simple recon mission is, in fact, pretty likely to happen, and to appear on various radar screens.

The CoI can doubt the claim of no dawn attack all they want, but instead they obscure it beneath the flawed Russian claim, and then suggest the Syrians admit to a strike linked to the gassing, but claim it was accidental and also fudged the time, perhaps to be deceptive. To claim that was their explanation suggests our enemies just aren't thinking straight as they mass murder with impunity, just because they can and they're evil, besides stupid and smelly. It's good propaganda but not realistic. The claim the CoI portrays is a straw-man argument they waste some time on anyway, giving reasons against this, which are worth sharing and commenting on. Aside from the #3 reason we agree on:

* "Interviewees denied the presence of a weapons depot near the impact point of the chemical bomb." We're almost surely talking about two different places, since we're talking about two different times. Let's keep this clear, okay? I agree the Rahma cave hospital appears to be bombed around noon, and I have a possible lead on another strike area likely bombed that day but apparently not at dawn - not quite the bakery-area sarin release point people refer to, but very interesting... "app. fog origin sw of town" as shown above. It billows (toxic?) fog all over town with no explanation, and might have gotten bombed later on, along with the al-Nusra-connected cave hospital hosting the victims of this murky event... 

* "The Commission notes that it is extremely unlikely that an air strike would release sarin potentially stored inside such a structure in amounts sufficient to explain the number of casualties recorded. " Yeah, you know what else is unlikely? All the crap these guys chose to lend credence to. (I won't say "chose to believe" - if they really believe this stuff, it means they haven't really studied anything and their gullible belief in handed-in stories is so pointless as to not matter at all).  Like, if the Syrians had bomed the bakery area, the sarin would drift away from all those people they're talking about... But they don't mention this problem with the "Russian-Syrian explanation" as it reflects even worse on the one they chose to lend credence to.

* "First, if such a depot had been destroyed by an air strike, the explosion would have burnt off most of the agent inside the building or forced it into the rubble where it would have been absorbed, rather than released in significant amounts into the atmosphere." Yes. Anyone trying to adopt the supposed Russian "explanation," as many unfortunately have, should note this as well.  Hot blasts and deadly sarin plumes don't work well as a team.What might work is a large low-heat fog machine, with some sarin-ish liquid poured in it. Say, SW of town, and then another just NW of the tel, and maybe at the bakery too? 

* "Second, the facility would still be heavily contaminated today, for which there is no evidence." Maybe.

* Another point I'll add: there's no evidence of the bakery or silos being bombed that day. Presuming the dent in the road is from that day, it seems non-explosive and too far from any warehouse to connect like that anyway.

It was always a straw-man argument, but passed off widely, not just by the CoI, as the best explanation Syria and Russia can come up with between them. As Robert Parry noted in his worthwhile (but slightly flawed) review of the CoI's report:
U.S. mainstream media accounts and the new U.N. report cited the time discrepancy – between the dawn attack and the noontime raid – as proof of Russian and Syrian deception. Yet, it made no sense for the Russians and Syrians to lie about the time element since they were admitting to an airstrike and, indeed, matching up the timing would have added to the credibility of their hypothesis.

In other words, if the airstrike had occurred at dawn, there was no motive for the Russians and Syrians not to say so. Instead, the Russian and Syrian response seems to suggest genuine confusion, not a cover-up.

For the U.N. commission to join in this attack line on the timeline further suggests a lack of objectivity ...

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Abdelhamid al-Yousef: A Speedy Recovery?

Idlib Chemical Massacre 4-4-17
Abdelhamid al-Yousef: A Speedy Recovery?
September 6, 2017

A Faker Caught in the Act?
In this SMART News video, at about 1:20 is the following sequence: a man on his side, initially motionless with his head resting on another man's leg. Then he's hit with a spray of the fire hose. He rolls over a bit, as if to complain, and get a spray right in the face. He reacts swiftly, his hand spreading out defensively, but then the White Helmets guy sprays him in the face again, almost as if to say "roll back over and play dead, dummy." The man rolls back into his prior position, perhaps just to protect his face, maybe to resume his performance. 
Moments later, after an edit of unclear length, he's seen again from a different angle (last two frames, bottom right). Here he has rolled over or been rolled over. I thought his pants were being pulled down, - it would be strange to let someone else do that unless one was incapable, or acting that way. But that's mud on his legs, and his pants are fully on. Also he flexes his left hand as if it's cramped. (note: he might have an unusually red wrist on the left, a possible clue. But it could be an illusion, and so far other images don't clarify the point.)

The same man is seen in two SMART News photos found by Qoppa999 (here and here). It seems to be just moments later from context. The man is feeling better, but possibly weak (or acting that way). His pants are still on, and he's rising. A worker lifts his arm as if to help him stand, while he grabs the worker's leg for support. So if he was acting unconscious, as I first thought and still wonder, he didn't maintain the charade for very long. 

Consider the man whose legs he's laying on. He apparently bent his body at the waist when he noticed a wounded boy's blood pouring on his left arm (as explored here), but then remains still after this, acting like he can't move when he apparently can. Perhaps this other guy was doing the same until he realized he blew the act, and wasn't enjoying it either, and may as well act like he's getting better now.

All around, we see people in varied states, some seeming genuinely distressed, dying, or dead. Some are apparently faking. People lay still, foam at the mouth, gasp and gulp for air, sit up, convulse or wiggle, depending - one state each. He does a strange mix: lays still, then jolts awake in a strangely annoyed manner, then recovers. That proves he's conscious and alert, with quick responses. He's not paralyzed or unconscious. But he might have been acting that way at first. As the MD put it on Twitter "from passed out to pissed off in a heartbeat - "Hey! I'm acting here! I'm acting here!" (punches hose)" He doesn't confirm that hunch by playing dead afterwards that we see. But still it's my hunch that's what he was doing to start with.

He's well-clothed, seems to be wearing 2 shirts and a jacket. It was a chilly morning, so cold you can see peoples' breath, so maybe that's all it is. But he gets to keep his clothes on as far as we see, aside from footwear. The other possible faker gets to keep his clothe on as well, and stays comfy - possible perks for the volunteers on the set. Such people couldn't know the kind of torment of the naked, paralyzed, gasping children sprayed over and over in that chill, but genuinely unable to move. They aren't part of that group,  and in fact - if they're deliberately acting (lying) - they would be endeavoring to cover-up the truth about the suffering and death of those others.

Is That Our Star Witness?
The possibility of deception here is interesting because this recovering guy is likely star witness and "proof man" Abdelhamid Al-Yousef, the famous bereaved father of dead twins who lost some 23 or more extended family members in the attack. He's also a secret militant and apparently a propagandist, whose whole family story and narrative of events is fraught with inconsistencies and question marks. Some of these we'll re-consider here.

Here's the sprayed man vs. Abdelhamid Al-Yousef telling his story on April 6.

This alone can't be a certain call, but this could well be him, and I suspect it is. He has the same shape of nose, same lean build, hairline, facial hair pattern, consistent fashion sense from what we see. Qoppa 999 on Twitter adds possible matches via ears, fingers (lacking a wedding ring I can see). But some of these features will be shared with his similar-looking brothers (notably Abdulkareem), besides others who could look this similar (unlikely).

Qoppa999 has made some convincing matches with other members of the Al-Yousef family in this immediate area (overview, as shown). Imadeeddin is a good match, especially with his son Mohamed being nearby (a pretty sure match, as explored here - age 12, apparently considered a man). "Molham?" here is someone else - revised on a tip from Andrew via me to a better match (tweets 1, 2, 3). This better match, with closer hair color and matching scratch on the nose, isn't in this frame, but nearby.
Not-Molham in the black shirt has Abdelhamid's head resting on his legs. As noted, he may be a faker, scooting away from Mohamed's blood (a point Qoppa999 disagrees with me on, FWIW). I doubt this warm-dressed and responsive guy died. The guy with supposed foam out his nose in the background I'm not sure about. But those two others and Molham at least apparently died as seen later, and here they appear possibly dead already.

So if this were Abdulkarim who died, he would likely do as the others did and lay immobile. This victim's display of starting to recover - after possibly screwing up the act anyway - sets him apart, and suggests this is our star witness who famously lived.

How Does This Fit With His Story?
1) Timeline
It's generally accepted that the first impact in the air attack was silent, releasing the sarin vapor near the central bakery at 6:37 am, with 3 loud bombs all at once following in a second pass 9 minutes later at 6:46. But Abdelhamid's initial times are screwy and backwards from this.

He says the first hit was near his house (specified: 20m) at "exactly" 6:40, and woke them up with its loud explosion. It would take a couple minutes to get dressed and out the door, maybe around 6:43. Abdelhamid seems to have layered up nicely. They went outside by around 6:45 when ("five minutes later") a second strike happened near his parents' house (specified: ~100m), and at 6:50 (another 5 minutes later), another strike near his uncle's home (specified: "nearby"). He says these follow-on blasts were quiet and not explosive, and apparently caused the bad smell and ill effects. 

This complex clash frustrates the task of comparing. (We could adjust it so he means 6:46 for both second attacks and he didn't notice the explosive blasts and huge smoke plumes, so he means 6:46 when he says 6:40 and there were no later attacks, just the gas starting to get to them.) But either way, it should probably be around 6:50-7:00 that all this was done or realized in his story, and he would spring into action.

He explains how he started by leaving his wife and kids, and some neighbor kids, in a basement shelter, or on their way to one, or with paramedics, realizing something had made them ill but thinking they were "okay." ""They were conscious at first, but 10 minutes later we could smell the odour." The twins and his wife, Dalal Ahmed, fell sick. He brought them to paramedics and, thinking they would be OK, went to look for the rest of his family." (Deeb, AP). Otherwise, he left them looking for a basement, thinking theu=y were okay, despite maybe falling ill suddenly in what he soon learned was a sarin attack.

It makes little sense, but his #1 most consistent set of points is: he was certain they were okay, but they all died. 

Abdelhamid says he then implausibly ran to both his uncle's house and his parents' house (apparently in that order, with the first stop not mentioned in some versions), where at each spot he says he handled exposed people who all died, aside from a cousin's wife. He also "tried to help the neighbors" at one site, "but found them all dead." So his visits were almost totally fruitless except to help verify as many deaths as possible.

But there was a downside; all the secondary exposure to deadly sarin nerve agent. Abdelhamid claims he finally "fainted" while carrying his dying niece at the second site.

The full story is impossible to time in detail. Total time including running and helping could be 15-20 minutes up to an hour or more, depending. If it was all close and quick, and he did it all in 15 minutes, that could be at earliest 7:05-7:10 before the rescue adventure ended. More likely we're looking at 30 minutes or maybe 45, so he'd faint between 7:20 and 7:45, broadly.

I've said he claimed unconsciousness for four hours, but really he's not consistent about blacking out, and he only says he returned home to find his family dead 4 hours after leaving them. He says "I fainted" (edit) "I returned after four hours to ask where my kids were." (video via BBC). An ABC report says "when Abdel Hameed al-Youssef regained consciousness" everyone was dead. He's quoted: ""I was conscious for only a few seconds and then I fainted." "When I came to, I asked for them." ... "all dead." (implied: this is a first question with a quick answer known and provided)

But to Hadi Abdullah (Facebook video) he said he collapsed but remained conscious and called for help. "they took me to the hospital," where he says "all I saw was people falling to the ground." If he blacked out at all, it's not mentioned here. He's "not sure how long" he was there, but he says he asked after his family, and "they told me they were okay." That was just his hunch, and here someone else confirms it, falsely. Strange. But "When I went back," of course they were dead. He doesn't explain why that was four hours later, or how much of that time he spent blacked out, paralyzed, or otherwise stuck at the hospital. Or was it just because he was so sure they must be "okay," like people even told him?

So, back to the timeline...  he's down somewhere between 7:05 and 7:45. Someone would then drive him to the hospital, perhaps the Flintstones-looking one we're looking at they call al-Rahma, where the White Helmets have their base, and all these people in the mud. It should be a short to moderate drive from wherever he allegedly fainted. Loading, driving, and unloading would probably add at least 4-5 more minutes, but probably no more than ten, before he could be seen laid in the mud there, for example. Hypothetically, 7:10-7:15 could fit. More realistically and broadly: 7:25 to 7:55, depending on complications.

Next we assess the imagery to set the time he's likely seen there, and see how it fits. I can gauge solar elevation using an almost complete, very long shadow that runs nicely left-to-right with almost no depth foreshortening. But the upper half of the man's body off-frame, so estimated. His hand shadow is marked in orange, and his body stretched along the bottom so its hand roughly lines up. The dark blue line I drew is about 12.5 degrees. 12-13 deg = 7:19-7:24 am.

That's sound but inexact; it should probably stretch a bit further for the orange areas to line up, but the man's full height isn't seen at this slightly down angle, so the line should start higher. Those somewhat cancel each other out, but shift my estimate a bit steeper, closer to the light blue line. It could be as early as 7:15-7:20, or maybe as late as 7:30-7:35.

In the photos where he's rising, which seem to be a minute to a few minutes later, the metadata says 7:31:32 and 7:31:41 (under EXIF). 7:31 am is a good match with the visual reading. 

So he's at the "hospital" by about 7:25-7:30. That's within the hypothetical range, and at the low end of the realistic range. His pants are on and he's new to the fire hose, so he would seem a recent arrival at this time. And it's early; the earliest timed scene here with victims is about 7:10 am, 33 minutes after the alleged sarin drop (at 6:37).  He's new here by about 10 minutes later.

So the video appearance could fit with his story as far as time goes, but it's a stretch. That doesn't change that it's a stupid story to fit with, nor does it prove he isn't just pretending when he acts like a sarin victim. We can see that if he ever lost consciousness, it wasn't for very long - about 15 minutes at the very most.

I started wanting to say he was seen acting and too early for his story, but in the end neither of those is certain. There are, however, a few more points I'll make about the implications of this early sighting. I or others may think of more in time.

Best Case for Sarin Exposure: Badly Failed
Considering his story, Abdelhamid should be seriously contaminated here; his wife and kids next to him were exposed within minutes, so he would be too, if lightly. He says he ran to two effected sites and touched and carried numerous sarin victims with no protection, their skin and clothes allegedly rubbing right against his, just minutes after they were exposed to fatal levels, all with little or no protection or decontamination.

This would be consistent with him passing out, but also probably with him dying, and at the beginning, after he touched the first or maybe second victim.

If his exposure was serious enough to cause loss of consciousness, it would almost surely show its other signs, including uncontrolled diarrhea and vomiting, and the rest of the SLUDGE syndrome, paralysis, pinpoint pupils, labored or non-functional breathing, and likely a blue color (cyanosis).  But these things are not evident with him at all.

The lack of these signs of primary exposure suggest he was not exposed to sarin, at least to any serious degree. That would also mean there's little or no danger of secondary exposure for anyone touching him. But supposedly, there should have been a great danger. It should be expected that whoever picked him up from the sarin site, likely with no protection or decontamination, would fall seriously ill, and whoever loaded him off the truck as well. But somehow I doubt this happened (besides doubting the whole story up to and past this point).  

Now he's been hosed off a bit, which helps the problem some. But he retains all his clothes with their particle-entrapping folds. Then we see this Islamist guy just grabbing his sleeve with both hands, wearing no gloves or any protective gear, in fact wearing sandals as he wades in the rinse that should be deadly. Again, this is at 7:25-7:30,  at most 35 minutes after Abdelhamid's last alleged exposure and blackout, maybe less than 10 minutes after. 

I'm no expert, and I know sarin persistence is overplayed by many, as Higgins at Bellingcat noted. That article cites some research giving sarin evaporation times ranging from 2.5 to 24 hours, depending, and others saying it will evaporate from the air and from solid surfaces faster: in winter (-10 degrees Celsius) it's pretty safe after 8 hours, and in the summer (15 Celsius) in just 30 minutes. A cold morning in early spring like this will be between the two but closer to summer: maybe an hour, probably more like 2-3 hours or even longer, by the quicker estimates.

So this 10-35 minutes will not be safe by any measure, when it comes to more absorbents surfaces like skin and clothes or soil.

Little children (who also tend to lack signs of sarin exposure, though many seem poisoned with something) are stripped naked or to their underwear or diapers, and hosed over and over. They should have each been at one attack site only, and still they never seem clean enough. But this alleged walking mop for sarin who says he ran through three different plumes of the stuff and embraced contact with victims in each is fine to touch almost just how he came in. 

Not to the Rescue: Why?
If that's star witness Abdelhamid Al-Yousef seen recovering, he must be freshly brought in after fainting just minutes earlier, at almost the earliest plausible time. By the vague details, he could be unconscious, or perhaps recovering; maybe mobile but tired, or maybe paralyzed, depending. But we see he's rising around 7:30.

And yet Abdelhamid claims he didn't go to check on his family at this time, or for over three hours afterward. Why? You would think it's because he was blacked out, but he's inconsistent on that point, and we can see its duration is irrelevant.

So we have this:
* He claims to be poisoned between 6:50-7:20, fainting at the end
* He says he asks after his family first thing after he "comes to."
* He's likely seen recovering and trying to stand (or acting like has to try) between 7:25 and 7:30.
* Did he black out again? Because he then spends at least 3 and maybe 4 hours failing to save his closest family, aside from being told they were dead or okay. Is that adequate reason to just stay lounging around? Why is he so vague about this time frame?
* He claims to finally return after 4 hours, rounded off, from either ~6:50 (parting), or from his arrival at the hospital, so his first rescue attempt for his most beloved would be around 10:50-11:20 am. By then, of course, it was far too late.

He seems to blame that loss of faculties, and/or a prolonged paralysis, for his fatal delay. But we can see how unlikely that is. Did he remain just a bit too weak for that long? Was he not allowed to go? (in the lower right frames shown at top, is his left wrist handcuff red?) Or did he really have nowhere to go and no one to save? Was he just appearing there in the first place to help explain why he couldn't save his alleged family with the carefully staged photo record?

"I left them ok," he says, and some 4 hours later, for no evident reason, "I found them all dead." Indeed, infant Mohamed has a splotchy red face of someone left face-down for a few hours after death (livor mortis), besides an unexplained irritated facial scrape - something many victims have, and it's an open question.

In one version (ABC), Abdelhamid was passively told that his wife (Dalal, but given differently here) was alive when rescuers found her in the shelter, but unable to walk and fading. She was supposedly still holding the twins, who were dead. But would she hold Ahmed face-down? She and the rest should have been rescued from the shelter at this time, whenever it was. But to Hadi Abdullah, Abdelhamid says "when I came back I was told they were at the shelter," as in still sitting there around 11 am. He adds "We went to bring them out but found that they were all dead."

So was she not found alive? Could he have saved her himself if he'd left the hospital? It's unclear, and it's all still just part of a story that's probably fictitious from top to bottom. As usual, all he has to remain consistent about is he thought it was "okay" to leave them, he couldn't come back for unexplained reasons, and in the end they all died.

To ABC he said, "between tears," how he greeted his stiffening twins around 11 am: "I told them, 'Hello darlings. I took too long. I rescued everyone else but I couldn't rescue you ... I was expecting them to hug me back." He still seems shocked that his special people could die in a basement, after being left alone for four hours after falling ill at the outset of a sarin attack.

But that was probably him seen recovering, or acting like it, some 3-4 hours before before he finally learned they were dead. He should know by then it was pretty deadly, and had reason to suspect maybe they weren't okay. Why didn't the urgency to find out, or to see if he could save them, spur him to action? This is a puzzling question for those who buy his story.

He has no good explanation for wasting this time. He and his rescuers show no sign of exposure to sarin. He may have been acting. His story is stupid and full of inconsistencies, clashing even with the accepted rebel version that itself clashes with the best evidence and with common sense on every front. The attack he has so much detail about appears to be a much different event - an Islamist massacre he's helping to cover up. He's an undeclared militant in an area run by genocidal Islamists who had just, by reports, kidnapped some 200 civilians whom they dragged to Khan Sheikhoun, just five days before they showed us truckloads of people there, poisoned under still-unexplained circumstances.

Abdelhamid is one of the big reasons we still don't know the truth. But one way or another, he's just a cog in a larger machine that requires this sustained high level of deception.