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.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Houla Massacre: Challenges to the Video Findings

Adam Larson (aka Caustic Logic)
May 24, 2017

Here I copy my earlier call to challenge the CIWCL's 2014 report The Battle For The Houla Massacre: The Video Evidence Explained (and the rest reconsidered) (PDF direct download/view link, download page with short summary here) It's 60 pages but digestible, and with lots of pictures and extras. The original challenge space at the Taldou.Truth. site is still open, with no challenges three years on, except a few minor self-corrections. (I'm keeping both spaces open, but this site gets more views, while that remains a less-visible spot to fail in a challenge)

Especially helpful would be anyone from the millions of people preconditioned to discredit the report's findings, but patient enough to actually show why one should dismiss it, rather than just presuming it and screaming it as an obvious fact. It's a sacrifice to look at the upsetting details, and to and get specific and run the risk of being specifically wrong. But if no one is willing to take the challenge, then this report will continue to stand as the best answer yet as to what happened on May 25, 2012 in Taldou, al-Houla, in Homs governorate of the Syrian Arab Republic.

The best comments will directly discuss videos we cited and our analysis of them. Your criticisms will be more powerful and relevant if you at least skim the report, rather than presuming what our arguments are (they aren't the standard ones). A decent idea can be gotten from the photo-essay part of the recent post five years of the Houla Massacre lie.

Proposed Method
I'm open on just how to approach this, but this is my first thought:
1) Readers who read the report and think they have a serious challenge - or even a question - can first do so here, in a comment.
2) If it turns out interesting enough, that and the related discussion could then be copied or even moved (you can run out of space here!) to a new post where it's related, with space below for further discussion on that narrower subject.
3) Anyone who seems to or thinks they have a detailed case with many points could let me know and I could create a special debate post (mostly blank to start but with fresh comment space, and space for distilling any solid points raised into the main post.
4) Each of these would be given a link in this post and brief notes as warranted. Any corrections we consider sufficiently justified will be made, noted, and become their own parts of the investigation thereafter.
5) If you're not sure you have a point but think you might ... it's a question. Go research to find out, or ask me. Ex: "this part ... sounds like it can't be right. What is that based on? You cite "x" but I don't get how..."
6) A better idea on approach would be a better idea. So bring that too if you have one.

7) to help get things moving, you can mention - a typo or suspected error you spot
- statements of agreement or disagreement (specific)
- suggestions (NOT soliciting new source material unless it's a video and you've checked it against all those cited and know it's new - let's not clog the comments with reposts and guesses - I doubt it will be an issue - we've probably covered almost everything available, or at least that was back then)
- questions (like how we decided on a point), etc.

8) I feel confident enough on this subject I can afford to be more than fair to any counter-arguments anyone has the courage to offer. There are no free rides right to a legitimate win, but I'll grant any point in a way that's more than fair.

Special Challenge Spaces
* Eliot Higgins: Brown Moses on the Hook

** Anyone else at Bellingcat willing to step up? Toller? Triebert? Let me know and I'll create a special space.  Tag team is okay. First request should be made in at least one initial comment below.

Challenge Discussion Updates:
May 25: I've now had one anonymous comment that didn't tackle the core issues at all, but at least is/was engaged enough to speak up. For that, kudos. Anyone else? I just tried some riling up on Twitter. A serious response will likely a day or more to materialize (anyone who looks close enough to really try should be a little stumped or even intimidated). I'm watching comments (though I'm away from the screen for many hours at a time due to life). I'm also watching the "spam" folder in case a comment is wrongly routed there.

Collected Updates:

C1 July 21: because I already know it's needed, a space to review Abdulrazaq-Abbara-Clocktower Connection? re: page 34 in the report.
C2 Dec. 12: (minor)page 41, left-hand graphic: the orange arrow should point to the smaller building just south of the one indicated.
Otherwise, none yet as of December 23 (just started really trying about a week ago).
C3 Feb. 12 2015: I challenged my revised time zone decision. It was right to reflect DST here (unlike in the 2013 report), but that was on top of a wrong time zone, an old error that got set in stone. I thought Syria was in UTC+3 with Iraq, but it's in UTC+2 with Lebanon. I'm embarrassed that underpins most of my/our Syria research. In the 2013 report, the two errors cancelled out to a correct time, while in the 2014 report fixing one error but not the other means all (video/sun) times given, from sunset across, should be read as back down one hour. This has minor effects on narrative lineup (in some cases improving it, and in no cases making anything impossible, or causing any other problem).


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Five Years of the Houla Massacre Lie

By Adam Larson (aka Caustic Logic)
May 21, 2017 
(last edits May 25)

some of the horizontal "army shelling" of homes in Taldou
On the afternoon and evening of May 25, 2012, in the village of Taldou, in the Houla region of Homs province, occurred a hideous crime that must never be forgotten. Well over 100 civilians of a few targeted families were slaughtered with guns and bladed weapons, among them over 50 children, some of those just babies.

It was widely denounced as a crime of the Syrian government and its affiliated "Shabiha" militia. It was seen as unprecedented brutality with sectarian motives - the killers were Alawites (the creed of president Assad) and the victims were all randomly-chosen Sunnis. Diplomatic and other sanctions against Syria followed, and military and other aid to the opposition increased in response. The peace plan of UN envoy Kofi Annan was destroyed, leaving only further fighting as an option. (Add 5/24: And it didn't take long to find that out - Annan visited Syria two days later, as planned, and found both sides unwilling to make deals with the murderers behind the Houla Massacre)

murdered child (blurred) used to send the opposition message
But however it was accepted, the Houla Massacre is the gold standard of "massacre marketing" by the Sunni extremist militants in Syria. It was they who wanted escalation, intervention, and regime change, not a Kofi Annan peace plan, and this incident delivered. The best evidence - the video record and reports that agree with it - is clear they were responsible for the act of brutal mass murder. They earned their reward from the "international community" themselves, rather than having the "Assad regime" hand it to them. That their illogical and unsupported narrative is retained to this day by the powers that be in Western and allied government, the mass media, and "human rights" organizations is a sad shame, and an outrage.

I've marked each anniversary in some way.

* Year zero, 2012: upon news of the massacre, I was infuriated and started studying it and other Syria events, soon co-founded A Closer Look On Syria in June with CE and Petri Krohn, focused on a Houla Massacre page and sub-pages. We worked together and got the case pretty well solved by year's end, with research-based articles by me up by early July, 2012 (star witness re-considered).

* Year one, 2013: report: Official Truth, Real Truth, and Impunity in the Syrian Houla Massacre - compiles research-based articles of special value into one informative report (authors: Ronda Hauben, Alfredo Embed, Marinella Corregia, myself). The promotional article was widely-read.

* Year two, 2014: report: The Battle for the Houla Massacre: the video evidence explained, and the rest re-considered - Direct PDF read/download link - central in the visual material below. At the same time, I started the Taldou.Truth. site to issue debate-challenge requests like this to Eliot Higgins. I didn't try as hard as I should have otherwise, and no takers yet. They suspect I'm right, cannot argue the case as well as I can, and can't be seen agreeing with me  either, so they dodge the whole thing, because of supposed time constraints. They'd have plenty to debunk some nonsense blaming the FSA and Al-Qaeda for the Houla Massacre... (the whole site never went far, so I bring this installment over to the main site. Will also re-issue the general debate challenge here where it's more visible.)

* Year three, 2015: Three Years After Houla: Lessons Remembered, Forgotten, and Never Known - a decent review article, but not the best marker, and made available the gruesome 2014 morgue photos of most victims including (alleged) family details (they were posted on Facebook, and stayed up even longer than they should have, given the rules against gory images).

* Year four, 2016: Instead of Houla, I focused on same-day 5-year anniversary of the alleged an famous death of 13-year-old Hamza al-Khatib (at right - remember that kid? article, later report) By the best evidence, he was actually aged 12, about a week shy of turning 13, when he was probably killed and mutilated on April 29, 2011, by terrorists occupying the area around a military housing complex they were trying to break into. After the attackers were chased away, the army found some 29 bodies of men and boys left behind, including Hamza's. Activists would say he and many other were arrested from the peaceful protest, and his brutal treatment clarified a "turning point" where armed resistance could only increase.

It was nearly a month before the government finally found the right family to hand Hamza's body back to on May 24, and the next day, allegations emerged he was just killed on the 25th after a month of torture. But the visuals prove that wrong; his body displays green and black patches to prove weeks of slow, refrigerated decay. Other victims shown off with the same story also have green patches and other signs of the same kind of decay, starting around April 29. But the dimwitted opposition activists had stories anyway: people who saw the impossible torture of the living boy and some of the other victims, long after they were dead. These patently false claims were widely believed at the time, and lacking any apparent care, they just sit there stupidly as accepted truth to this day. So it's a lot like the Houla Massacre, that wound up marking the one-year anniversary of Hamza's alleged death.

* Year five, back to Houla. After two years of little to nothing, I should do something powerful. I don't know what yet, but this atrocity should never be forgotten. Accepting ideas here in comments, or elsewhere. Others could help spread the word - especially the 2014 report. Write an article, submit a comment on the upcoming 5-years-never-forget articles that will still blame Assad. The best-evidence version of May 25, 2012 will have to be crowd-forced into being addressed and finally accepted as the kind of precedent it truly is.

I'll offer two related mini-articles here, starting with a sort of a photo essay. Recall the accepted story: Al-Houla was a "rebel-held village" that suffered "army shelling" May 25 after noon prayers and/or a protest or a small clash rebels gave up on. This shelling battered Taldou especially, forcing FSA defenders to withdraw, leaving the way open for Alawite and Shi'ite "Shabiha" militias to invade the the town and massacre Sunni families.

In reality, the incidents all relate to Taldou, the southernmost town of the 3-town Al-Houla region. Two towns were fully under rebel control by then, but Taldou alone was still half-secured by five army posts, up to the morning of May 25. As of the 26th, Rebels were somehow in control of all Taldou, and international action helped seal that control as permanent, so that ever since then, the whole Houla region has been rebel-held. But when the "army shelling" in Taldou began around 1 pm, it wasn't quite...

I) A summary of the "army shelling" and "Shabiha massacre" in Houla, 
in 12 pictures and some of the consistent reported details

1) Some of the "army shelling" seen on video: These attackers, of the Houla-based Arabad Bin Souriyeh battalion, fire towards the clocktower (aka roundabout) army post and/or Baath Party headquarters in central Taldou (see map below), from the northwest, at about 1:25 pm* by sunlight angles.  The one doing the "army shelling" here takes return fire from the army, hitting him in the belly, and he's carried away.  (see 2014 report, exhibit A.3)
* Note: times given in the 2014 report were calculated wrong, given as one hour ahead, so this is said to be 2:25 pm. Apologies.

A pro-government witness says terrorists fired on those posts from the northwest at around 1 or 2 pm with a mortar and then heavy machine guns, in what seems a distraction to allow "Shabiha" to move down Satto road (see map). This video was posted weeks later, but fits that story perfectly, and is described as from the battalion's "battle to liberate freedom circle" (the roundabout army post), so it's almost certainly May 25, the only known time that was "liberated." (see 2014 report, the June Videos issue.) Rebels claim the Shabiha marched up Satto from the south and maybe from the north, and began their killings around 3 pm.

2) An "army shelling" perpetrator seen close-up with his RPG launcher after launching the clearest "army shelling" of the day. This is hours later than the above scene (about 6:11 PM +/- 5 minutes - report says 7:11), on Satto road, just south of the overrun or bypassed roundabout army post.  He was wearing a white headscarf at first, and doesn't seem to notice it fell off, he's so dazed by the confined recoil that just bowled him over. It's not always clear in the "shelling" videos just who's firing at who and from where, but here we see who fired, if not where to. He walks by the cameraman with his launcher, ambles off-frame to the south, and fires another round, loudly, off frame. It's said this video shows shells "crashing down" on the area, but rather it shows them flying sideways out of it. (video posted on May 25) (see 2014 report, exhibit B.1) See also a great but little-seen video I made for this scene.

3) More of the fierce "army shelling" of Taldou, as caught on video. Around sunset (7:15-7:30 pm, not 8:15-8:30). A group of Arabad Bin Souriyeh battalion fighters, clean-cut and Western-dressed as usual, runs down side streets. One fighters runs out on main street, pointing his RPG launcher south towards a mobile army checkpoint at the arches military intelligence headquarters (I got rusty), and just north of one massacre site.  He fires and seems to cheer a hit as he runs back for cover. (this video has the same later posting issue as image 1. Prhaps they didn't want to confuse the story line early on with much of this footage of their undated "battle to liberate freedom circle." Better to wait until after minds are made up...). (exhibit C.1)

4) The central clocktower/ roundabout army post that was damaged by the "army shelling" and that the UN investigation acknowledges was overrun by opposition fighters that day, during the "Shabiha invasion" following the "retreat" of all rebel forces "from" the area. (or as they called it, the rebel offensive into government-held turf, possibly planned in advance). The damage is light, higher up, and clearer in other views - mostly bullet holes below the rooftop gun nests. This just shows what it was they overpowered; this was no couple of kids with bb guns seizing a post like this. (composite view, from Channel 4 news video, on Alex Thomson's visit a few days later  - shown as part of "rebel-held al-Houla," when it had been government-held on may 24.) (exhibit H.1)

Pro-government witnesses say this post was attacked once around 1 pm, and again more forcefully around 7, when it was overrun. Smoke rises from this area around 7:19 pm (shortly before sunset), on a distance video posted May 25.  (exhibit H.3 in the 2014 report) One of the families massacred that day is said to live in this same overrun block. Named Abbara and perhaps other names, they were apparently intermarried with the core targets, the extended Abdulrazaq family, but a confused record perhaps seems to try and conceal that (as sort-of explained here).

5) A military intelligence center on Main Street damaged by the "army shelling" that UN investigators acknowledge as "likely overrun" by opposition fighters in their offensive of that day. This panorama view is from a later video, but it looked the same on May 26. The graffiti is glimpsed in a UN monitors video (this hasn't been well-read yet - it mentions Bashar Assad and his father Hafez, in an apparently negative way, as well as some "prince"). The armored vehicle's tires are still burning in ANNA news video.  (exhibit H.3) Smoke rises from this area  by sunset on the 25th, as visible in a distance video. (exhibit C.3)

6) Map of all five security posts operating on May 25: This includes two the UN investigators say were overrun by militants in their planned offensive of this day (white) and three others (orange) they decided held out against the "army shelling," leaving the army still in control and hence, responsible for the following "Shabiha" massacres, in the red-pink areas shown (plus some unclear other spots, including some al-Sayeds and Abdulrazaqs in the rebel-held north of town, and Abdulrazaq-related Abbaras near the overrun clocktower/roundabout post). We can see this makes close to zero logical sense. Good thing it's "proven," or accepted by an "impartial United Nations investigation," huh? (yellow-green letters refer to video exhibits in the 2014 report)

7) Some of the many soldiers and a militiaman (aka "Shabiha" - singular "shabih") killed by the "army shelling" and/or "Shabiha invasion" of May 25 (pro-government ANNA News (Abkhazian, Russian-ish) filming in Taldou, May 26).

(Unseen) It's said one soldier had his throat slit and was tossed from a window of the hospital, apparently for changing religions. Another soldier was reportedly burned alive, while (Sunni) others were captured and given a chance to "defect" and join the FSA, or die. A soldier on leave with a broken leg was among the targeted massacre victims. His eyes were gouged out, as he was killed alongside his father and little sister All sides agree this al-Sayed family was pro-government, with much military and police service. They lived across the street from the National Hospital, by the way.

8) Smoke from the National Hospital as it was burned during the "Shabiha invasion." In a sunset battle video on main street, some billowing black smoke can be traced to the hospital, suggesting it was on fire by then. The time is 7:40 +/- 8 minutes, making it the latest video seen, perhaps after full sunset. (exhibit E.3) The hospital was apparently was not burning yet in early videos of "army shelling," which left trails of smoke like RPG exhaust in the hospital's basic area. (exhibits E.1, E.2).

Pro-government witnesses say rebels sacked the hospital, perhaps after circumventing the arches post using a side road instead of overrunning it from the north. What happened is unclear, but it seems they killed a wounded soldier there at least, looted the place, and set it on fire. The UN investigation denies this quite clearly, as they question why the government-run hospital never bothered helping the massacre victims, leaving rebels to do all the body-handling. It doesn't seem they noticed or mapped out this smoke plume, so maybe that decision was premature.

9) Sunni extremist rebels of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) on a ridge above Taldou at sunset, as smoke rises from at least two spots across the town. They shout Allahu Akbar, seeming to cheer the "army shelling" and/or "Shabiha massacre" below. This is the same Arabad Bin Souriyeh Battalion with the other videos linked to May 25 but posted later. This was posted later yet, and not claimed as related to the liberation battle. Instead, this is claimed to follow some victorious battle in Taldou in revenge for the "Tremseh massacre" in rural Hama in mid-July However, no sources that report daily events mentions any kind of battle or any issues, aside from a small shelling incident, in Taldou or Houla at this time. The last big thing to cheer was on May 25, when they "liberated freedom circle," leaving a smoking town at sunset, and lots of dead bodies trucked away to show the world. This is probably just what they're Allahu-akbarking about. (2014 report, exhibit G.1)

10) Totally or mostly unseen "Shabiha": The FSA's infamous Farouk Brigade was reportedly involved but unseen, more camera shy than the guys we keep seeing. Reportedly, since-disgraced commander Abdulrazaq Tlass headed operations, and apparently lost an uncle in this battle for the Houla Massacre an fighting related to earlier Houla Massacre where the boy with pro-government wrsitband was killed, back in early April 4 of 2012 (again, I got rusty). A local criminal named Nidal Bakour led another "FSA" group, while Haitham al-Hallak led another "FSA" group that focused on the al-Sayed family homes. Opposition records say Hallak, a defected policeman from Rastan, was killed in the battle, but some seem to list him as Haitham al-Fuzo (video still).

Also little-seen are the many black-clad foreigners fighting with an unclear force considered to be basically al-Qaeda. Pro-government witnesses describe these among the 6-800 attackers, including Libyans. One unplaced video of "army shelling" of Houla, seemingly early afternoon, may show a black-clad militant in front of the burning house. (2014 report, p. 31) (side-note: I've found just one possible match for this, and while I haven't written on it, it's so interesting, I open this to geolocation folks. Can you find a good spot other than mine? (no leading except to say check both in and near Taldou). If we can get a good match on this, it might tie in to further proving the terrorist nature of this event.)

Already the Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate later called Jabhat al-Nusra (now I like Jabhat al-Namechange) was on the scene (announced in January, 2012, by this source). Then working the shadows and including eventual ISIS types, an August DIA cable seems to mention them as being called Jaish al-Nusra. In this first part of 2012, they were growing in size and capability, as if they had just scored some secret victory and attracted new recruits - hmm.

Jaish al-Nusra likely took part in the Houla Massacre, perhaps after a new batch of its fighters crossed from Turkey, hijacking a bus full of Lebanese Shia pilgrims near the border, famously on May 22. Those were handed to local rebel groups and later released after negotiations, but in the meantime the Nusra force may have used that bus to get themselves to Houla, where the driver and a slain Syrian family (mother and 4 kids) were dumped near Masyaf, not far from Houla, on May 24. (see May 22 bus hijacking - Houla massacre link?) That's a possible wrinkle I stumbled on along the way.

11) Star witness Ali al-Sayed: the 8-11-year-old gave several interviews. He reported no al-Nusra fighters nor any FSA offensive, instead describing the "army shelling" all day. He knows Shabiha when he sees them kill his whole family (he played dead after a hand scratch), and knows what the "international community" should be doing about the massacre. But cannot remember the order of events, the names of his closest family members, or when and how they were killed, how he escaped, etc. He's clearly a poorly-coached hand-puppet of a false witness, yet because he's so cute and blames Assad, everyone scrambled to write credulous news reports copying down one or another version of the malleable story he told. (see here)

12) The Victims gathered: after the "rebels withdrew" from their own beloved Taldou, the "Shabiha" invaded and killed over 100 civilians in their overrun homes. Luckily for the cause of "justice," even as Syria denied the massacre, the "Shabiha" then walked away and left the bodies behind for "rebels" to find when they returned later that night. These were wrapped and brought to their main mosque and buried in a mass grave the next day. The activists found no even extended family contacts to hand the bodies back to, for regular burial in family plots. They had to just do it all themselves, burying what was in fact evidence of their own grave and massive crime against Humanity.

And that's the kind of evidence for crimes against humanity provided by these hate-filled monsters. They keep just 'finding' dead Syrians and all-knowing "survivors," and handing non-stop allegations to the wealthy elites sponsoring them, just to punish and bleed Syria, weaken Iran, ensure a "new American Century" of global leadership, etc. The blood spilled in Houla is just one of those awkward parts of an otherwise profitable or widely-supported program to "stop the killing" and "bring peace to Syria."

II) How We Can Know "Freedom" Isn't Free
Unlike little Ali, the witnesses in the mass grave are the people the international community really let down, failed to protect, and still disgraces by blaming their overrun defenders for their brutal murders. Unlike little Ali and other liars, the massacre victims can't tell her own story, and have the "activists" of "liberated al-Houla" lodging one for them in their absence.

What they suffered is hard to fathom, as a safe late spring Tuesday turned into a living hell, with murderous fanatics kicking their doors in or blowing right through the living room walls. The killers did avoid beheading, and used gouged eyes, burning alive, and throat-slicing (reportedly) only with captured soldiers. Many female victims were likely raped, but this isn't known. But they hacked open several children's skulls, tore their jaws open, shot them in the face, and more. "Since it's going to demonize their hated Alawite regime," they might have reasoned, "why not pull all the stops? Just avoid the most obviously Islamist methods, y'know, for good measure."

Yasmeen, stolen family photo
Consider Yasmeen Adel Abdulrazaq, age 9, constituting about 2% of the children murdered that day.  She was gonna be something, all smiles and faintly wacky styles, seeming to favor summery yellow and peach combinations, which she was wearing again on her last day. Yasmeen's lifeless body was shown by terrorists with her skull deeply sliced open by a sword, and a frozen look of astonished disappointment on her little face. I considered showing that right here, but on the advice of Vanessa Beeley, I decided those poor people have been shown off too much already by their killers, and it's not my readers who need that further shock (nor the depressing description and general subject matter, but ...).

According to terrorist records Yasmeen was killed by "Shabiha" alongside sister Nour (8), brother Yaser (10), baby brother Mohamed, and mother Abeer, and may have seen some of that happen. It's not clear where their father Adel was. The Adel Abdulrazaq family were among some 80+ members of the extended Abdulrazaq clan, the core victims killed (more than the 65 generally acknowledged, including intermarriages, etc. - see here). They mostly lived down Saad road, which the UN investigators acknowledge was open to militants for the whole day (at least, after the roundabout post was bypassed around 1:30).

By the most reliable reports available, it seems the Abdulrazaqs were targeted for supporting the government and rejecting the rebellion, and/or converting from Sunni to Shia Islam. Opposition sources are clear all victims - and every resident of Houla - was a Sunni Muslim. It was a 100% Sunni "town," they said, and if someone else moved in, or someone converted... that's unexplained. Perhaps they wouldn't get to continue living there. And these folks didn't get to live there past May 25. So maybe rebels lie about the non-conversion? (the remaining victims were mainly of two Al-Sayed families, who everyone agrees remained Sunni but supported the government anyway).

saved by the armed groups and speaking freely?
Some survivors were apparently abducted and made to blame Shabiha on video, as their blood was being poured in large jugs, like a grim stopwatch. Maybe it was a donation to help the injured, but... "Rasha Abdulrazaq" and her unnamed mother have almost filled a coffee can each as Rasha rushes through the talking points. At right, she complains about the government lies blaming the armed groups now hosting and caring for her. They ask and she thanks them profusely on the video for saving her after she somehow survived the massacre. Her living baby niece is nearby, also draining blood from her abdomen. The mother blames "Alawite pigs" for killing all the Sunnis.

Incidentally, different rebels to the south launched a raid, later on the night of the 25th, against the Alawite village of al-Shumariyeh, south of Lake Homs. They claimed to launch a few shells, in revenge for the Houla Massacre hours earlier. But Syrian state media says they attacked and looted at least two homes, killing ten civilians, including children, and showed some of the left-behind bodies (ACLOS, Shumariyeh Massacre). (This is almost surely the cause of the mixed-up claim that an Alawite family named Shomaliya was killed in Taldou that night).

This infamous and misunderstood Houla Massacre is how the whole 3-village al-Houla area finally came under complete opposition control, back on May 25, 2012. Rastan terrorists with helpers from all over swarmed over it, killed the defenders, and massacred their local non-supporters by the family. Then, they blamed the government and had that trick work, starting the first demands for the army to leave Houla alone. It may have seemed indefensible anyway, and the state ceded the area for the time being.

That began what's now five years of "liberation" as a purely Sunni, Salafist area of "Free Syria," protected by the Turks and the Saudis and their powerful allies from Tel Aviv to Paris to Canberra. To this day, the Houla-Rastan pocket is one of the protected areas under the new deescalation agreement, immune to attack, and meant as part of a permanent - but so-far discontinuous - non-ISIS opposition state you could call "Free Syria." In all areas, it's almost completely dominated by Jabhat al-Namechange, the good-cop Al-Qaeda spinoff, or someone just about as nasty.

Since then, there have been less government supporters or minorities in the towns of al-Houla to massacre, but often they could be fetched from elsewhere to keep the accusations alive. Just six months after the Houla Massacre, Aqrab's Alawite district just to the north was raided by 'rebels' from Rastan and Houla, in early December, 2012. They massacred many, chased half the people away, and kidnapped those remaining. Of about 1,500 residents, no one remained free and alive, and Aqrab was added to the purified areas under full terrorist control to the present day. Their homes were given to pro-opposition Sunnis.

After the Aqrab raid, about 500 civilians wound up crammed into a house militants had surrounded, suffering a week of harsh treatment, deprived of food and forced to breathe smoke from burning tires. On December 9, about half the hostages were released in exchange for militants held by the government. But then rebels reported the government had blown up the remaining Alawite civilians, as some Shabiha among the captives also killed their own family members with bombs or hand grenades. Of 200+ people, they reported at least 125 were dead. It might take a while to dig through the rubble of a house blown up from the inside, then hit by artillery, then bombed by jets.

Aqrab hostage house, intact but full of smoke (Channel 4)
As it turns out the house was not blown up, according to an on-site report by Channel 4's Alex Thomson, speaking to released hostages a few days afterwards. It was however leaking smoke from some of its blacked-out windows. So how many were killed in the Aqrab Massacre remains unclear now, nearly five years later, with about 230 people publicly unaccounted for. Some smoke-stained survivors were taken to Al-Houla to blame "Shabiha" for the alleged massacre, on video and under clear pressure. A smoke-stained girl, dead with a sword-sliced skull, appeared in Houla as a random Sunni shelling victim there. Human Rights watch's people called the episode "murky," and they apparently never investigated. ACLOS did, and Alex Thomson said our work "seems to bear out what I reported from Aqrab at the time." (Tweet, CIWCL archive)

Whatever happened to each of them - displaced, murdered, bereaved, or even enslaved and sold for a fundraiser - the roughly 1,500 inhabitants of Aqrab's Alawite district were some of the first victims of the "liberation" of Al-Houla. It was imposed on them by a deeply caring "international community," like little Ali had asked, and it cost them dearly. (ACLOS, Aqrab Massacre)

And now, five years after the Houla Massacre, that appalling and obvious lie remains standing as a blood libel against the secular, inclusive, and demonized Syrian government. It's an affront to Humanity. How many more years will the truth of the matter remain swept under the rug? How long will it remain an example to cite when accepting yet more Terrorist accusations oozing out of "Free Syria"? Many believe these lies because various influential and corporate-sponsored voices keep repeating and echoing each other that it's all true. That's just abysmal stenography of Terrorist claims. It needs challenged again by honest and rigorous minds, and seen widely to fail. The Houla Massacre must be understood and never forgotten.  For that matter, the Shumariyeh one too, and Aqrab, and a bunch of others....

Riled up in disagreement? If you can get your thinking cap on straight enough, try to review or work and bring any problems you find to the challenge space. Investigative citizen journalism! It works best when folks from different sides hash out their arguments in the open. 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

4-4-17 Wind Direction Explainer

Idlib CW Massacre 4-4-17:
Wind Direction Explainer
May 14-16, 2017
last edits 5-18

There are many serious problems with the opposition story of an April 4 sarin airstrike in Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib province. While many of these are quite clear and worth pursuing, perhaps the best chance of smoking gun proof is the wind direction problem, as first explained at The When and Where and as I show it again below.

According to the alleged survivors and activist/terrorist sources, the sarin was released from one particular and well-known spot in the town's northeast, and the people affected and killed lived, mainly or largely, to the southwest of that spot. Naturally, released sarin would spread on the prevailing wind, so the opposition/terrorist story line requires a wind blowing to the southwest.

However, in all presented videos of the alleged airstrike, the prevailing wind was clearly to the northeast. So their presented evidence has a serious fatal flaw - all these stories are connected to an alleged wind direction that's not just different from but opposite to the visually evident one.

<add 5-16> The direction has to be changed slightly, a few degrees further to the north. Revised range: 30-45 degrees.  The "opposite" part is slightly less clear now, but otherwise...<end 5-16>

All those presented stories must be false. To me, this seems like the argument to lead with in countering the terrorist narrative. Clearly this matters enough to explain in some detail. That's emphasized by the resistance I've gotten from fellow opposition-story doubters, who try to claim there's no wind, etc. It's become clear to me most people don't understand how to read things like this, even with tips. So for this case, and for future reference, here's how you say what direction the wind is moving in a post-attack blast-plume video, as I did it with input from others, in the Khan Sheikhoun case.

Tips: (to Orbi on Twitter):
* Look for left-right changes, for any sign of movement towards or away (harder to find and be sure of), know basic FOV,* estimate.
* field of view
* Find other views if possible. When we know it's moving, but appears not to from another angle, that's invisible movement, towards or away.
* Crunch all the considerations, like a 3-D puzzle in 2-D, which it is, draw a few lines, measure, consider, check confidence, and set range.
* Precision math is ideal, but I usually skip it. Visual-based accuracy gets you in the right sector at least, and not randomly confused. End.

Main videos:
* North camera, 3 plumes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYOMEDK_uVs
* west camera, plumes 1 and 2: https://www.nytimes.com/video/world/middleeast/100000005063944/syria-chemical-attack-russia.html
* west camera, plume 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTx0kmQnZLw
* North camera, fog: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWvDisOxJi0

* CNN, N cam, 3 plumes and fog scene, better resolution, at start of horrible video report.

The Scene: for reference throughout, the big map of most things ... mapped. The three camera angles shown (roughly) in light blue are especially helpful to refer to in understanding the material below.Note: this is just a basic idea graphic - it's fairly accurate but not precise, so don't cite the exact angles shown here. Better notes are included in the text below.

Same-day note: there's a strong tendency to assume all relevant video must be irrelevant, and actually from various wrong days. That's possible, but for many intensive tries, I've seen some patently bogus arguments and no good ones to prove that contention. Usually, wrong-day videos get exposed and proven within a few days or never, and it;s been over a month.

But luckily for us debunkers, that's not the only debunk available. Even if terrorists faked all their videos on the right day, they're still fake and that can still likely be shown. And even if it's just "according to the opposition's evidence," that clearly matters enough to consider, being so widely accepted and triggering US military strikes, etc.. So far it seems the wrong-dayers are scraping for reasons to not seriously consider it, leaving themselves completely empty-handed, and often with poor understanding and confused logic when it comes to trying to analyze these videos like they deserve. So... I'm doing it largely by myself, but taking scattered input from others.

And here's what we can say about the wind direction in the video presented as showing this alleged sarin attack. Here's the fatal internal contradiction in that evidence package, even if we *accept* or have it proven that it's relevant to April 4 after all...  

The Crater
Note in the map above the dark blue marked crater is not in the northern camera's field of view. Since that video never pans far enough left, we never see if there's a blast plume or anything at that spot at the time of attack. Most likely then, there was no dramatic blast plume, or they'd show it (and it would destroy the alleged sarin, and leave a bigger crater than we see).

Perhaps something else, like the alleged non-explosive sarin release, happened here. But if so, on the northeast edge of town, the wind would blow it further off frame and away from all the alleged victims. It provides no supporting clues about the wind, but all the other points available prove what it would show too. So this allegedly central spot is irrelevant to all the visual wind-based evidence considered, and will be almost totally absent from the analysis, except when it comes time for comparison between the opposition story and what we see.

Plumes 1 and 2, North View
This is the video of the two northern blast plumes, filmed from a distance to the north , facing mostly south, or about 21 degrees east of that. The following comparison of frames is from the better resolution CNN video.

Lined-up like this, it's clear all features of these smoke clouds angle to the left as they rise. The effect is quite minor at the bottom (already some distance above the actual ground), but takes hold around then, so each step up is a half-step to the left. This slant shows a mild but steady wind applied all the way up. There's clearly a higher speed at the upper levels, more to the left, turning the slant into a curve.

The same wind will prevail as it can everywhere, even at the cluttered surface. See too the low white cloud at right that seems to be expanding in all directions, for some reason, but on the left side we see what looks more like thinning drift further to the left. Being so low, it's a mild effect.

That all says this wind is partly at least to the (approximate) east. But this is just one component in the 2-dimensinal mapping. That's the clearer movement you see on the left-right axis, not the less obvious changes along the towards-or-away-from-the-camera axis. There may be a huge amount of relatively unseen movement, defining its actual direction and adding to its actual speed; that's a movement along both axes in real space, NOT left-to-right on your screen. But still, it can be gauged some from there, especially if you get more views... 

This is harder to show, but the smoke in this view seems to be moving slightly to moderately towards the camera, as well as clearly to the left. I'll leave it there for now, as other points below show that was a correct impression.

Field of View notes: relative to the minaret right of center above, the camera is facing app. 21 degrees east of due south, So left = 69 degrees on the compass, not due east, and towards the camera would be about 339 on the compass, not 360/0. The true movement of the wind is some mix of these two directions

Plume 3
More distant blast plume #3 is seen in the northern view, but not in much detail. A nearer camera somewhere in the west or northwest of the city gets some very useful views. The line of view and filming spot aren't certain, but about as mapped at top. This is facing south, or S-SE to see plume 3 in the distance - and the unexplained black smoke cloud further to the southwest.
The shape of plume 3 is interesting. I think that Mushroom cap means it was quite hot and rose fast, and might be a fuel-air or thermobaric explosion (as with the above). Also note the bend of the heat column the particles are rising on - first almost vertical-seeming, but angled barely to the right, when it was a fireball of the projectile's detonation. (slightly right from this point of view means south - possibly fired from the north - but above it's seen from more like due north, and bends more to the right, suggesting a westward ban - so fired from the north and east).

At a certain height, that slant changes. That will be the wind. From there, it all drifts steadily to the left.

In close-up - detail on the churning base suggests movement towards the camera, but that's more likely from blast and fire dynamics. Higher up, its movement on the towards-away axis isn't clear. If the wind were to the northeast, it would move almost totally left from this view, with less movement towards or away.

Field of View notes: filming location and exact line of sight to plume 3 are not set, but seems very close to the angle above - so left = around 70 degrees E-NE, and the towards-away axis is likewise rotated about 20 degrees from north-south.

Plume 1 and 2, Side-View
Videos sent to the New York Times show plumes 1 and 2 from a nearly perpendicular view, from the west-southwest facing east-northeast. Some note here there seems to be almost no wind. It does appear almost motionless, but it's not - it's moving just as fast, and in just the same direction as it was in reality, and as partly seen in the other view.

There's a mild movement to the left visible, but that's too slight to be its true speed. So an unclear but major amount of its movement must be on the axis of towards or away from the camera. Consider with the north views a clear drift to the left, so here it must be x amount away from the camera. I thought there was movement towards the lens as seen from the north, and here we see a consistent, but slight drift to the left. That left aspect - and part of the forward aspect - both equate to "towards" a northern camera, confirming that impression.

Since so much of the movement is away from the camera here, the wind direction is close to its field of view, and seems the best measure to determine the proportion of north and east movements into a defined direction. So I tried to set that.

Note 5/15: But I did it wrong (it happens sometimes), and it slightly affects the map above ...

<Add 5/16>I'll give the whole story, for lessons learned. I first set up proportions of view between minaret, plume 1, and plume 2 (in left-to-right order), using Q's located damage associated with attack, then found an angle that matched those distances they marked, but forgot to remember WHAT each mark meant, and traced a view that would show plume 1-minaret-plume 2. That mistake gave me a heading of 56 degrees. Then I did it more "carefully" but just as wrong to get 57 (bottom image here - marks on gray bar, yellow circle to mimic rotation I can't do in MS paint). 

I noticed the basic error when I tried to correct Michael Kobs, who showed a line of sight from further to the southwest, facing 49 degrees (map on Twitter - camera 3). That may not be exact, but at least he drew his lines in the right order (see top - purple points to minaret, plume 1, plume 2). 

Re-considering now, I did a good proportional set-up or looking again, set the plume originss too far south in the view, affecting lineup, so minaret and plume 1 would roughly line up. At least as I copied them here in purple lines (top image) Kobs' lines for minaret and plume 1 are even further apart. So 49 seems a good angle, but perhaps 50 or 51 is better.  My original 56-57 is out.
Still, as I found before, the wind is blowing mostly away from this camera, so mostly northeast, just 7 or so degrees more to the north than I first thought. The slight left drift relative to that line means the compass heading is some degrees lower/more northerly. By how much is hard to say, but probably 10-15 degrees or so. In that way I earlier estimated 40-50 degrees. As I refine it north, I'll take the chance to loosed it a bit too. Now, I estimate the wind movement we see is in a simplified range of 30-45 degrees, northeast to NNE. <end 5/16>

Field of View notes: app. 50 degrees view would mean away from the camera has the same compass heading, obviously, while left = 320 degrees NW.

Plume bend and northern-firing note: Also note here the same kind of bend between the lower and upper parts of the smoke as seen with plume 3, but even clearer. This is an initial slant to the right, so to the south. In fact the view is rotated a bit (the minaret isn't straight up) so that the south direction is actually more pronounced when looking at it level (it appears more vertical here than it really is).

This slant is perhaps because the rockets responsible were fired from the north, as we saw with plume 3. This bend isn't visible in the north view of the smoke columns because it's roughly along that line of sight. That could mean the rockets were fired form about where this cameraman captures the aftermath, putting the bend in an invisible direction (away from the lens). And of course he would know that, if they had flown right over his head.

We don't discuss the famous crater here, as it has no attack time visuals to consider wind by. But the pavement damage suggests it may have been hit by some rocket that was fired from a bit west of north. This is pretty consistent, and interesting especially if the Syrian jets only passed south of the city, as US radar tracks seem to show. 

This might be me just trying too hard, but fact is, all these possible signs point the same way, and that pops out for me as potentially quite interesting. Maybe I imagined it, but maybe not, and someone else can see it clearer and make a real case out of it. 

Plume Diffusion and Wind Change
The plumes should eventually drift away on the prevailing wind, with the tops going first and getting fuzzier, and finally as the outpouring from the blast site peters off, the last columns will fade and slant away.

This isn't shown much, but among the western views sent to the NYT  is this, with the same basic view, of plume 1 and/or 2 mostly gone, nearing the last moments of visibility. Here we see a heavy slant to the left, so the wind is more to the north than before. (note: rotation of view, as noted above, may apply here and affect the true slant, by a little bit).

The breeze may have sped up in both directions, or just shifted more of its speed onto the north axis. That's not clear. But higher speed would have those plumes drift off-frame faster than you would expect. Also, far below that, we see some kind of dingy white smoke or mist seeming to spread pretty far to the left/north, don't we? Noting this view does look over the area of the famous crater, it's possible we're seeing mist related to that spot, as well as to another we'll discuss next as we consider this stuff.

The White Fog Shows the Wind
This is an area of some difficulty for me. I can't help but connect the attack-time "white cloud" of low vapor to the later-seen "winter fog" blanketing the whole town, but so far no one agrees with me, arguing it's a natural morning mist, or simply trapped smoke from the attack (and I agree it's partly the latter, and maybe a bit of mist too, but... we can skip all that here).

This is the scene at attack time (top, 'white cloud' visible to the left of the tel, or flat hill). Below is the same view after the big plumes blew away and the fog had spread. Higher elevation sunlight says this scene is later, but not my much - it was a rapid change, in perhaps 15-25 minutes. It's hard to be more exact.

The way it's spread shows the same NE wind prevailed in that time. On the the left side (nearer, more northern part) direction is not not very clear - if we take the original 'white cloud' as its center, it's drifted a bit to the right, a lot to the left, and some amount to the north (towards the camera). If this were vapor pushed out by a machine or a very hearty chemical bomb, it might crowd the air with particles, pushing them to expand more than a drifting plume would, including against the wind.  Again, it's hard to show in a still image, but I can see movement in the fog here, and it's to the left and perhaps towards the camera.

But the southwest view always showed the wind more clearly, just by its shape. On a distant slope, we can see this area in more of a foreshorteded overview. The improved version from the CNN video, below, clarifies what I already saw there, and labeled here - a wind to the northeast spread the copious white mist emerging from a small, unknown area SW of Khan Sheikhoun. As it spreads to the left and towards the camera, the massive column is divided by a hill into a more eastern and a more northern stream.  (see topo map here, thanks to a comment - that must be the larger e-w ridge south of a smaller one at the south edge of town.)

The yellow lines somewhat mark an area of thinner vapor spread more to the north, perhaps due to the later north-shift in the wind noted above. If so, it seems the bulk of the flow we see has already spread in a pattern more like what my 40-50 measure would predict. Where things go from this is unseen and uncertain. I have a hunch the "fog machines" were turned off by the time of that video and all wee is the maximum size just drifting. Odd, in fact how little of the actual spread they show, Maybe they filmed it but decided it looked bad and so never released it?

Wind Speed:
I have no experience measuring the speed of winds ...I'd say it's not fast but not that slow either. Remember each visible movement is just part of its true speed along TWO axes, one mostly invisible. If you don't think you can gauge the towards-away direction, try doubling the left-right speed you see. That's likely closer to the true one.

A credible source estimates a 2 or a 3 on the Beaufort scale describes what we see (light breeze/gentle breeze - Wikipedia). That seems right to me. At Beaufort 1, 4-7 mph, leaves rustle, wind vanes move. Beaufort 2, 8-12 mph, leaves "in constant motion; light flags extended." The middle speeds (6-8 mph) seem a good range, for what's at ground level. The upper level winds are clearly faster, but in the same direction, and not as relevant to fog spread. (even at Beaufort 1, "Direction shown by smoke drift but not by wind vane.")

Other Spread Factors:
Topography, fog density, and obstacles (houses, walls, etc.) will all provide their own directives to any spreading fog. They can't ignore and override the wind, but would 'negotiate' with it, and cause some general spreading in non-wind directions, and into lower elevations when different ones are available. So the spread pattern will never be just a straight narrow band right along the wind. 

But most would say, and many have said about this attack, and it's mostly true - the wind is the main difference in who lives and dies. That includes a wind that never appears, dooming anyone who lives near the site in all directions, and especially anyone downhill. As the CBC reported, after hearing from Alaa al-Yousef, he and his family "were lucky, the wind went in the other direction, Alyousef said." 

Summary of Wind Findings: 
* All visual signs says the day's breeze, at the time of attack and much of the fog spread afterwards, was to the north and east. The best measure is the view around 50 degrees, from which the wind was first blowing mostly away (line of sight almost = wind direction). So at a bit less than 50 degrees, the best simple, rounded range is 30-45 degrees. That most likely contains the true, initial direction.

* An initial wind speed of 6-8 mph at ground level seems reasonable. At upper levels, the speed is considerably higher, but in the same basic direction and not very relevant.

* The later fog video (interval unclear - probably 15-25 minutes) shows the same basic direction prevailed during the minutes of fog spread.

* By then, however, it seems the wind had shifted to a more northerly direction- the effect of that on the overall spread is unclear, but likely minimal.

* These findings are the best yet, being based on a direct visual recording of the day's winds, not on any kind of prediction, guess, or erred reading, and using several placed views, all carefully considered together. The broad range (lime green lines) is more than certain to contain the initial breeze, and most likely includes the most north-blowing variation as well.  Any relevant winds outside that range won't be far off. This can be used, with reasonable confidence, to compare other evidence in the opposition's presented case. This is just what I've already done, finding the mapped "downwind" homes where people are said to be affected and to die, were placed just about exactly in the opposite direction for the way they should be.

So ... the Opposition Narrative Got it Backwards
Back to the image we started with comparing green and purple areas - knowing the wind is undeniably to the northeast - the other half of that picture is what opposition acticvists and alleged survivor-witnesses claim to be the affected area, at least via the homes they've shown that we can place on the map.

Here, I'll try to clarify that reading, or see if it's already "too clear" and needs adjustments. The wind direction is never spelled out per se, that I've seen (as in "the wind drifted the sarin cloud to the southwest...") But this is just what they would say, it seems so far.

Alaa al-Yousef: "the strike was really close to my house" (HRW) He also said the blast woke them up, being "only a few hundred metres away." (CBC) That's not close enough to matter, nor specified which way except to say, "They were lucky, the wind went in the other direction, Alyousef said." So they didn't live to the northeast. "The" other way could be any other way, not necessarily the opposite way. (Alaa also says 'There was no bad smell," agreeing with his famous cousin he runs media relations for, and disagreeing with most other witnesses)

Mohamed Nejdat al-Yousef ran into toxic fog that then "was blown downwind toward his farm outside the village," badly affecting his family. (NYT) So by the accepted video record, carefully read, his farm is northeast of town. Could be, since that's farmland, but it's not specified. Furthermore, it's possible some witnesses - maybe him - are telling it like it is, while others (likely a majority of those put forward) are working on a false script.

Ahmad al-Helou "saw the plane drop a bomb and the bomb falling until it hit the ground. The bomb fell in front of the bakery," probably meaning the place south of the grain silos, so the famous crater. It didn't blow up, but "he saw the bomb kick up yellowish smoke that spread in the prevailing wind." (HRW report) So, as the video proves, he should mean to the northeast, but it's not specified.

An Al Jazeera video report (here via Twitter) shows a map, apparently, of where people died, in three adjacent areas all west of the famous crater (This is shown here with my points added). The big label says "While the eastern areas were the least densely populated." (credit: Saleh) So they don't say it's the wind, like it might've spread everywhere, and this is just where the people were, or maybe it was magnetically attracted to the more populated areas, or the wind blew that way. Their reasoning is unclear.

This map adds whole broad areas that make no sense, but apparently they mean some victims in the northern blocks died, probably on the southern edge. Just by geolocation, from video where that's possible, we have six locations, one in the southern NE block, and the rest in the southern block. So perhaps this image we've formed is too clear in its SW orientation. But a spread much wider makes little sense anyway.  So while they seem to say just west, al-Jazeera's people would probably agree with the prevailing picture of a wind to the southwest, which is roughly opposite of correct.

In more detail: The unnamed family said to die in a sparsely-furnished basement apartment furthest north, could almost be gassed no matter the wind, from being so close to impact. Or maybe not almost... anyway, they probably couldn't be, if the wind was blowing away. Everyone else was even further upwind. 'Abu Rabeaa' has the home furthest south. It should be in the plume as well, but he says he was hit while out in the neighborhood. Abdelhamid al-Yousef, the most famous witness, has the home furthest from the crater, furthest upwind, and unlikely to be effected by the WC - Amira Saleh's children (next furthest site) were said to be taken to Yousef's home before they died there with his family (ACLOS). So that site really matters. Where did that alleged sarin blow in from?

With a northern shift, wind could blow from the "white cloud" spot directly over the easternmost of these homes - but maybe only after most of it already spread a different way - and it would spread wider than directly over on the wind, as it hit and wrapped around buildings, etc. and especially if the fog was dense, as if pressurized (particle crowding), as it seems it was to start with (see the white cloud). I may try a graphic for it, but for now I'll just note either way and from whatever spot, the white fog covers probably this whole area to differing degrees. So these homes being filled with that white mist could make sense. Just what that was remains unclear - from the massive volume, at least we can say it's unlikely to be pure sarin.

But as presented, with this one NE crater specified as the release point, it falls apart quite nicely. It's not just wrong, but 180 degrees opposite of true. And so, as I've already noted, it seems quite likely the opposition/terrorist planners of this operation got it exactly backwards; an accurate measure of the wind was verbally reported as a southwest wind (the proper terminology, meaning FROM the southwest), and mapped their fake story based on a northeast wind (blowing TO the southwest). Because somehow, elaborate victim stories pop up like well-fertilized mushrooms along a strip exactly UPWIND from the highlighted crater.

This would be the same error we were just familiarized with in Dr. Ted Postol's work on this very case. First, he found an inaccurate prediction of a wind to the NW at attack time, and mapped it as to the southeast (then later corrected it to the second wrong direction he's used as the basis for important arguments). Here, the opposition's dimwitted activists may have pulled a collective Postol, or the guy with too much centralized authority made the error everyone else just didn't know to catch.

It's quite possible this is some other kind of error that coincidentally comes out opposite of true, or that it's even a deliberate mistake, as a sort of trap (it occurs to me, but I'm "too paranoid" like that). But I like this basic error explanation. It is an uncanny fit and, as we just learned, an easy enough mistake to make.

A ridiculous allegation like this, with obvious and sloppy lies at its core, was the basis for president Trump's much-hailed humanitarian airstrikes. These killed and wounded some civilians and some soldiers/airmen, and destroyed some homes and some materiel used in Syria's fight against the false-flagging Islamist terrorists the US and its allies have enabled now for years. The strikes and the possibility of more favor the same kidnapping, child-killing, dunder-headed salafist mercenaries, who don't even notice when they've got their fancy wind-based evidence all set up backwards. And make no mistake, the people concocting false cover stories are the ones truly responsible for massacring a reported 100+ civilians, including "beautiful babies."

Apparent Efforts to Address this Problem
<Add 5-16>Bellingcat member Timmi Allen on Twitter has a nicely stabilized video showing the steady leftward movement of everything, except for the 'white cloud,' which he catches expanding mostly to the right for a few seconds (usually it expands in all directions). This was presented as "Different wind directions in #KhanSheikhoun chemical attack footage on ground and in height. @bellingcat @DanKaszeta." But as I and others noted there, it also seems to change directions ON the ground, at the minaret, or anyway right around this swelling cloud of vapor. The wind only blows on it, for a few seconds, while touching nothing else, as that upper wind strangely descends and blows most things, including, as we can see above on this page, this same white cloud, smearing its left side into that damn, problematic upper level wind. Right there at ground level. Weird stuff, this reality seeping back into the void created by another terrorist lie in Syria.

Why discuss wind direction now? It was never an issue for the first weeks. Is it now, that I'm raising it over the last week or so? Is someone of more influence raising the issue as well? Or is it just a coincidence Allen happened to notice a possible wind to the right ... where there isn't even one ... and decided to publish that as important just now?<end 5/16>

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Idlib Chemical Massacre: The When and Where

Idlib CW Massacre 4-4-17:
The When and Where
May 6, 2017
last edits May 20

Besides an obvious lack of rational motive, .there's no proof Syria did this and much contrary evidence, about the alleged sarin and its relevance, the possibility the victims were hostages killed by their Islamist captors, prior precedent for false-flag chemical attacks, etc. While this is my overall line of argument (see first post), in this post I'm focused on more narrow technical questions people from all sides of the debate may find of use: Video analysis, geolocation, reading solar angles for a visual-based time for key images, and establishing the most relevant estimate yet of the wind direction - this lets us place things in time and on the map, and expand what we know, narrowing focus for further research.

Flaws in the Tracks
In my opinion, most circulated arguments against government guilt are deeply flawed, easing the job of those sent to debunk such claims and reassure the public that what the "activists said" is true after all.

For example, I've felt sarin secondary exposure dangers are overrated. I hear it tends to evaporate within a few hours, washes off with hosing, doesn't easily re-float off people - it could be most of the reckless behavior supposedly disproving sarin might make sense after all. There still may be none, but it's not so easily proven by pointing to rescue workers with no gloves handling hosed-off people at the White Helmets cave hospital. Seeing unprotected people carrying the victims out of their gas-filled homes with no problems would be a different story. But they haven't shown any of these first-recovery scenes, which is interesting (see way below, near the end).

Many point to a "Russian explanation," at least as read and reported, where a Syrian airstrike hit an unknown terrorist CW cache and accidentally caused the mass gassing incident. But Syria denies any strikes in the area prior to about 11:30 am, and the attack in question happened around 7 am by all available evidence (exact time is allegedly 6:46). The 11:30 attack is irrelevant: either Syria lied about the morning raid, as that theory and other theories presume, or the opposition lied.

My experience has been it's worth giving Syria the benefit of the doubt, and they have zero motive or less to launch a random deadly sarin attack against strictly civilian targets at this or any time. And while they might deny a conventional strike at 6:46 that accidentally released chemicals, I kind of doubt that's what happened. Some of the objections raised are valid - like that a conventional blast would tend to destroy any sarin nearby, not spread it in a deadly mist (it behaves like water, and needs a low-heat aerosol dispersal to do much damage).

And finally, more to the point of this post, many have excitedly pointed to the work of MIT professor Ted Postol, who has written a string of technical critiques of this incident. Along with fellow MIT scientist Richard Lloyd, Postol is renowned for helping disprove claims regarding government guilt for the 2013 Ghouta chemical attack. That work seemingly stands and is credited as such. But here Postol makes unfortunate errors, at least in establishing the wind direction, on which he based many of his arguments. I'll explain this below as I relate the much different best reading we have to offer. In the end, knee-jerk Assad-blamer Clay Claiborne was able to raise some (seemingly) good points in slamming Postol's work, while George Monibot posed hard but fails to do the same.

Finally, on April 26, Dr. Postol revived the perhaps-discared "Russian explanation" as possibly true. In all this, sadly, he has sown confusion, which I hope to counter here. 

The work here, if not that "attack" on Postol, was done only partly by me, and largely by and in consultation with ACLOS (A Closer Look On Syria) members Petri Krohn, Charles Wood, Pmr9, Q, and others. For future reference, to separate the known physical-visual facts from the unknowns, my best understanding from our collective work so far. This isn't a perfect summation, but I took extra care to iron out these details the best I could in a semi-timely manner.

When Was The Attack?
The White House explanation for its strikes on Syria cites radar tracks of two Syrian SU-22 jets overhead at 6:37 and 6:46 at the latest (graphic at right). Some early reports saidthe attack was at 6:30, while others have said 6:45, 6:55, and the like. Perhaps the reported first pass confused some distance witnesses, who took the later reports as stemming from then. Otherwise, these could line up well enough: blast timed with jet's pass at 6:46, reports of casualties and toxic gas 4-7 minutes later, group getting reports notes it 2-3 minutes later as "6:55." (for example).

The NYT video cites Facebook messages about an airstrike, if not chemicals, as early as 6:55 and 6:57. That would about nine minutes after the alleged strikes, which is a bit slower than one would expect. One of those cites 6:50 as a time, and an activist told them four bomb were dropped at 6:43.None of these seems exact, but not far from a decent center time that's just about when those jets were tracked passing.

Further, the post-attack video of smoke plumes (discussed next) seem to be filmed at around this time by sunlight angles (it's some minutes after sunrise at 6:16 as the sun was still low and from the east). In fact all detailed considerations suggest a time very close to 6:46, possibly late but not by much. The fist Twitter message I could find mentioning a chemical aspect was at 7:22, which is a bit slow. As explained below, we can see alleged sarin victims already at the cave hospital run by the White Helmets by 7:10 at the latest.  So there seem to be some possible delays in reporting, but no real discrepancies on the actual timeline of events.

What Was the Attack?
All evidence indicates there were at least three powerful explosions, consistent with conventional high explosives, at an early time that seems to be just about 6:46. Below, the three large plumes of smoke rise above the city, as seen from the north (in a panoramic view from this video).

As that starts,a tearing sound like a fighter jet is heard, trailing off as if leaving the area. That's not certain and could be edited in, but it might line up with what would be valid radar evidence. All considered, I tentatively conclude that's the real 6:46 jet, and this video is filmed about 6:47 and forward. That could be wrong, but it's worth floating at least. But we do not have proof that any passing jet actually caused these plumes.

Add 5-7, Side-note: is this all or partly a different day? As I'll explain, these scenes are timed to about 6:46 am, with a jet heard (FWIW), with recent damage in spots plumes rise from, and a strange white fog as described - it's a perfect set-up for the day's allegations, all set up ... when, other than the day it was clearly tailored for?<end add 5-7>

The other possibility to consider is a false-flag incident, and as the jets passed would be the best time to do that (previously explained at the Shayrat airfield link). If they had the plan and the victims and the story ready in advance, they could get early warning of incoming jets via the opposition's "observatory" system, to make the final preparations to launch their own rockets, release their own gas cloud, or whatever at just the right time. It would take powerful rockets, but rebels have these, and they could be aimed to land anywhere, roughly, to create any pattern, on demand. Maybe that's why no videos show the jet's missiles coming in - because they sounded like incoming rockets, that were maybe too big even to be from a jet.

So if we accept - at least on a trial basis - Syria's stance that they dropped nothing, I propose this version where much else of what's cited against them is true.
* One or both of those jets passed near the city at 6:46
* There were no airstrikes; the jets were probably on a recon mission in advance of the planned strikes at noon
* Someone on the ground with a nasty plan made some explosions happen just then, to provide the explanation for a lot of dead people, including an especially big number of children ...
* Perhaps a toxic gas was also released by those same plotters in the open. That's not necessary when, for all we can see and know, these victims could have all been hostages gassed in some basement gas chamber overnight. But some visual release, perhaps filmed on video, would obviously be helpful to their story (see below).

So ... It isn't completely unreasonable to conclude those jets launched the attack. In fact, it would seem obvious to someone who's accepted opposition claims in the past. No feat of depravity or senseless stupidity would seem past "Assad." But here, we're leaving this central question properly open. There's no proof this was a jet attack, and ample reason to seriously consider the alternate explanation.

When was the Hospital Attack?
Some reports and officials insist there was a follow-up strike on the White Helmets cave hospital where patients were "treated" (hosed off in the mud), perhaps to kill the survivors or cover up evidence. Russian drones were said to survey the area before, implicating Russia in a crime that Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman described so: "The cruelest thing...is that those who were evacuated from the area of the bombing to the hospital were attacked a second time with chemical weapons as Syrian army planes bombed the hospital." Both attacks were "by direct and premeditated order of Syrian President Bashar Assad, with Syrian planes. I say this with 100 percent certainty." He sounds well-informed. He also rejects direct Israeli punishment, saying "I'm not ready for Israel to be the dick that the whole world pisses through." He urged "the international community" to take direct action over this clear double-tap gas attack. (YNetNews)

However reports and visuals are clear the hospital attack was with conventional weapons, with no gas reports suggested anywhere I've seen. There was no damage to the hospital at 7, 8, 9, 11 am, while fresh damage to the larger external building appears around noon. A video of the attack is filmed around noon (inside, there's a blast, they run out and see smoke and noontime sun). Most patients had been gone for hours by then, and few if any would remain quite this late. One dead girl has a reunion with her grieving father shortly before, but the place is mostly deserted. Petri Krohn times this (maybe roughly) at 11:55, and the attack at 12:30.

There are some serious questions about the videos of this event, and it's not certain it was even attacked then, or if some planned fake attack was again tacked onto a real Syrian air raid. This time the Syrians acknowledge attacking something, but not that it was the hospital. But if so, they probably thought it doubled as a militant base of the Al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front, and it quite likely did. I believe Syria says their first attack was around 11:30, not 12:30, so this wouldn't be the first strike, anyway.

But this is all a side-issue. Let's get back to the events of the real and singular alleged chemical attack at 6:46 am.

Mapping the Attack
The famous crater where everyone says the sarin was released is well-placed on the map, but the rest of the attack not so much. Again, refer as needed to the 3 plumes video (with the panorama view above, inset small below, and then shown again below). For consideration, here's what it shows: Left to right: (off-frame, unseen) the space above the famous crater - smoke plume from a high explosives blast southwest of that (plume #1) - another the same way (plume #2) - a strange white cloud, apparently originating just northeast of the tel (big flat hill) - the tel, continuing, with a blurry minaret in the middle - another standard explosives blast from a bomb or rocket, roughly geolocated to the southwest of the tel (plume #3) - (not visible here) a smaller black plume rising from a located spot in the town's southwest.

The opposition-supporting Bellingcat investigative group did a good line-of-sight analysis for this scene, which I copied (roughly) to make a rough map (ACLOS, just improved to the below) of where these 3 plumes were rising from (dark red circles, locations narrowed down at ACLOS with a lot of help from Q). This also shows where the white cloud might be, plus the black plume to the south, and other features indicated, including alleged places where people died from the gas (little red squares - see explanations at ACLOS here and here, again mostly by Q).

The famous crater is marked with a blue circle on the map above. At right: activist reporter Hadi Abdullah standing by it, around 1:00 pm on the day of the attack. That's  long enough I think most sarin would have evaporated, and it would be fairly safe to stand there - but you wouldn't want to shove your hand into and shaded soil under the surface).

There are some valid questions about when and how this crater was created, with its bent metal tube jammed in. Dr. Ted Postol proposes a sarin-filled pipe underneath a ground-based bomb. I suspect it was a rocket fired in; bent tubes like that are common - when the front of the rocket tube becomes buried, the remaining part bends forward with its remaining momentum. Postol will have seen this with the rockets linked to the Ghouta attack. Most clues of the damage and that bend suggest if it was fired, it came from the north, or a bit west of that. (note, the Syrian jets also circle around the city, including to the north, so it's possible they fired from there).

The crater munition does not look like an air-dropped bomb, as alleged by Human Rights Watch. Further, as I explained at the Shayrat airfield link, the U.S. provided flight-track of the jets shows they never got closer than about 2-3 km south of this crater, when they would have to be right above it to drop that bomb there. That mapping could be wrong, but it seems accurate, and raises problems for this allegation; if the debris is conclusively linked to the alleged soviet-made KhAB-250 sarin bomb, we'll need to know how it got there. I'll suggest the distinctive fill cap was planted, or perhaps an old KhAB was re-jiggered to be fired as a rocket.

In the distance views, the area above the crater is simply not shown. Bellingcat's analysis shows this, as does my panorama, both trying to show the furthest views each way. On the big map above, the light blue cut-off line is for a field of view that just never pans that far left. Perhaps nothing was happening there at this time, or it just wasn't obvious enough to see from a distance. Still, it's quite possibly something did hit here and released something here that tested for positive for the kind of impure sarin used in prior CW attack.

The other blasts were located with great work by Q, noting in various videos and other sources where damaged house were located, that, with a side-view of plumes 1 and 2 from the southwest, puts those homes in the cross-hairs of two perpendicular fields-of-view (NYT video). Hence the nice, accurate markers on the map for those plumes. Note in the side-view the plumes both "bend," with the lower part rising first on a rightward angle, likely from blast dynamics, while the actual wind takes over at a certain height, as the smoke cools. That initial angle is to the south (roughly), suggesting these munitions might have fired from a somewhat northerly direction.

The "white cloud" to the right of these  is simply along that line of sight in that zone near the tel, hence the big rectangle for possible area. But it may cast a shadow on the tel, allowing for a more exact placement (it would have to be almost due east of the tel, so in the southern end of the identified zone). This is one of a few things still not done.

Plume 3 is far to the south, but placed with less certainty than 1 and 2, and there's even less precision for the faint black smoke cloud further southwest. This seems to be attack related but different - perhaps a munition that didn't detonate, or something with just a weak starter charge; black smoke suggests gunpowder, I think, and not high explosives.

Most analyses, like Dr. Postol's, seem unaware of the black and white clouds, just considering the big and explosive blasts and/or that crater as possible origins for sarin gas/vapor - even though, as I understand it, such a blast would destroy the stuff. In that light, the nonviolently expanding  low white cloud everyone seems to ignore, between plume 2 and the tel, looks interesting.

The White Fog
Below are two panoramic composite views from two videos associated with the attack, taken from north of the city. They both seem to share the same exact point of view (features line up the same in both, except the lower view was taken maybe on the roof). Therefore, we can make a direct reading between them, as I lined everything up - if this is all the same day.  I'm presuming so, but noting it might not be. And I have pretty good reason.
Already in the top view is that white cloud at the left shoulder of the tel. As a possible sarin source, it's been ignored, but it has the advantage of not being a hot, violent, explosion.  Below, from another video, we see something like a white fog, with no inherent color I can identify. What it is, we don't know. There's a hell of a lot of it, and it seems to be densest in, and maybe spreading from, at least these two locations:
* roughly the location of that white cloud, spreading north (towards us), maybe a bit to the right, and mainly off to the left (east).
* another spot southwest of town in the fields (far right distance), seeming to spread both east (left) and northeast from there, perhaps divided by some hill in between. (this is further southwest than anything mapped above)

It's not clear this fog is sarin, or whatever people described as doing the sarin-like killing. Witnesses describe a "yellow dust" with a "foul," or "really disgusting odor" that's like "rotten food" but also strange and hard to place. This was even smelled from far away. It caused burning eyes and chest tightness (lung damage), they say. A 14-year-old girl "described an explosion like a yellow mushroom cloud that stung her eyes," and something “like a winter fog.” (New York Times) A farmer mildly poisoned  also described “a winter fog — not quite yellow and not quite white.” that stung his eyes, and caused supposed sarin symptoms (also New York Times, different report). That might be the same thing we're seeing - "not-quite-yellow" close up, basically white at a distance, in sunlight's glare.

So this white fog probably is, or is supposed to be, the sarin people describe, also causing people to pass out and die, convulse, and foam at the mouth. Those aren't quite the right symptoms anyway, and really I suspect they had some white effects fog from giant fog machines, perhaps filled with a nasty chemical that was "sarin or a sarin-like substance." Seeing just two extra dense spots means maybe just two locales have coated this whole area, and are still pouring out more. Eventually, they would turn the machines off and "Assad's sarin attack" could end. But that's probably too copious to make much sense as pure sarin - it would be a huge amount of a hard-to-make substance, and there might be 2,000 dead, not 100, if they had done that.
* Perhaps it's a concoction including trace amounts of the their nasty variety of sarin, to tigger the tests
* a simple stand-in visual effect of their allegation, with any sarin worked into the evidence some other way
* or that plus something actually caustic and similar to the impure sarin they decided to go ahead and blame the Syrian government for, as they already did back in 2013 anyway.

While witness accounts are never to be taken as obvious truth, it's likely that a noxious gas like they describe was released in Khan Sheikhoun that day. It's not only plausible but seemingly supported by visual evidence. And it's entirely possible the same was released at the crate location, and it's just not visible on these videos.

they say it was corrosive, stinging the eyes and lungs - evidence of caustic exposure was found in lung tissue in autopsies done in Turkey, alongside positive sarin results - how that all adds up, not clear. They seem to be saying this "Assad's" other sarin ... "let's get it out in the open: yes, it's Assad using that nasty improvised "kitchen sarin," maybe to make us look bad..."(see the Sarin Evidence)

What was the Prevailing Wind Direction?
May 20 note: the following is now more fully explained and revised at the wind direction explainer post. The core point is the same, but the exact direction is estimated a bit differently now, as insert-noted below.
Dr. Theodore Postol - using a weather prediction of questionable value - first read the wind direction backwards, confusing to and from (April 11 report). Winds are given properly by their direction of origin, and the direction it pushes things to is opposite. To me, Dr. Postol, and others, it's counter-intuitive, but a SE wind blows to the NW. The top view below shows the erred reading for 6 am, with a wrong 3 am reading to the south as well. After a tip-off from one of my research associates, Postol then corrected that to show a breeze to the west-northwest at 6 and 7 am, using that to make an argument about expected death toll (bottom image,  April 21 at TruthDig).
Take 1, top: wind to the southeast at 6 am. Take 2, bottom: to the northwest at 6 and 7 am.

However, a better way to say what the wind would do at 6:46-7:00 might be ... what the wind was actually doing then. If they disagree, video of the real wind would trump that prediction. Such video evidence has been available the whole time, and it disagrees.

In all distance views from the north (three), over a short but very relevant span of time, smoke or gas clouds seem to be blowing to the left and towards the camera, so north and east, in a ratio that's hard to be sure of (see video, and just the shape of the plumes, slanting mainly left). This video filmed from the west part of town facing south shows plume 3 in some detail (and the black smoke, briefly, at the very start). Zooming in on its base, the apparent direction here is clear: it rolls towards the camra, and to the left - to the north and east.

Properly, this would be a southwest wind, and the direction it moves might be around due northeast (45 degrees on the compass), or closer to east, or north-northeast. The wind will shift a bit over time. But from what we see, it's very unlikely a wind to the w-nw as predicted for 6-7am ever prevailed enough to matte at the time of the attack. An almost opposite direction probably did.

As discussed here at ACLOS, there was a later find of a view from the west-southwest, with the first of three views already shown above. I estimate the line of sight of this as about 56 50 degrees on the compass. The most useful view, shown above, has plumes 1 and 2, drifting little that we can see. We know they were moving at a moderate speed, so most of the movement (aside from up, ignore that) is invisible here: That means it's moving towards or away from the camera (must be away, as the northern view's left movement clarifies) and a bit to the left. It's a very short clip, but it seems mostly to move away from the camera, and less to the north. So most likely it's blowing at an angle less than (about) 56°.

I'll estimate the wind was blowing to a most likely range of 40-50 30-45 degrees on the compass, due northeast (add: to NNE), with a wider range also feasible. It's not close to 0° due north, or fully east at 90°, but safely between them. A broad range from 20-70° is certain to include the dominant average. That's narrowed down to the correct sector of the compass at least. In the big graphic a little ways down the page, I mapped the direction range before this final decision, using a more easterly central range of 45-55 and a bottom of 30°. The difference is not big, and the graphic is quite useful 9will be updated).

First, I'll note Russian news site Rusvesna got it right in an analytical piece (apparently by an unnamed external expert in some areas), along with other interesting points, some of which I disagree with. (English, Russian original). Their graphic (right) shows a nice, cautious range centered a bit east of northeast. This might be just it, or it might be more northerly as I think. A

And we have to note the fog spread - that video seems to show the same - east and north drift has prevailed long enough to blanket this wide area. Further, the light seems more diffuse or overcast in that view, as the big smoke plumes have disappeared. Where did they go? On the wind, largely in the direction of the sun, clouding the light here (sun was almost due east, about 87, at the time). Noting how winds can change, this would suggests the same basic wind directions we saw earlier prevailed in between, and would be the clear direction to consider in evaluating the other evidence. 

Here ... early views are clear the wind is in the northern part of this range (45-55), but shifts after that could fall anywhere in (or near) the range marked in lime green, and momentarily perhaps further out of this range. Note: this isn't exactly "affected area." There will be additional dispersion, especially with that massive white fog we see, to fill space well left and right of the initial cloud as it drifts further out. If the direction is in that green core, the lime lines might mark a potentially affected area. 

May 10, new version:

So ... as the Rusvessna piece already showed and as I show again here - if anything was released at the crater everyone cites, it would probably blow over the grain silos and the fields north of them, dispersing where no one lives, and not towards the identified homes where people died from the stuff.

In fact, the wind blows almost exactly away from these homes. I measure a line between them as 225-229° on the compass, making that the best wind direction in purple above (range in lighter purple). This is directly opposite of 45-49° on the compass, the southern half of of my estimated central range (or northern half as shown, whatever). It's as if the people deciding where to say the victims died had someone send them the correct wind reading, and then read it backward like Dr. Postol did, and picked houses in the opposite direction of expected drift from the crater. That's so uncanny, it might be just what happened. While Postol's personal flub might be embarrassing, this would be a case of several stories and actors all working on a wrong script, with no one noticing (early enough anyway) to halt or change the elaborate set-up.

I'm not certain on deadly range: Postol shows a span of about 500 meters long as the expected "area of very high casualties." The Rusvessna analysis is based on a 55-meter circle of deadly effect, and a secondary range to 220 meters out on the wind where lesser effects are to be expected. In my graphic above, I mark with pink arcs the ranges of (approximately) 200 and 400  220 and 440 meters on the actual wind direction, and 200 and 300 meters in the (alleged?) direction. (I made the map too small to show 400, but this isn't the real direction anyway, so who cares?) Between them is a smaller core of 55 meters radius in red. Rusvessna's expert had it 55m in diameter, but I felt expansive here - anyone in that whole intersection or those first couple houses on the left might well die. This too would stretch a bit in the real wind direction, but still be more of a circle right around the site than the drawn-out plume running out to the pink lines and past.

Considering the wider scene, the reports of something dispersed over the this area, and the fog video that might show that, let's consider the other impacts. Maybe "Assad" had worked some unknown indestructible sarin into the conventional bombs of plumes 1, 2, and 3? Plume 2 came from a killed family's home (whether the blast or sarin is blamed, unclear), and another 2 homes clearly said to be gassed could be downwind of that, besides downwind of plume 1. But that's probably not possible, and 3 other located homes are upwind of both plumes and of that crater.

Further, it's not likely any of the located homes is downwind from the white cloud either. Thus, every story attached to gas poisoning and deaths in that area is questionable.

There's plume 3 to consider, the black smoke area, and the apparent fog origin point further to the southwest. All of these are possibly upwind of the stricken homes, but at a much grater distance. Any noxious gas they encountered from those locales would be quite dilute. It would not likely to re-pool in homes,  even in a basement,in the concentrations needed to kill dozens of people.

So ... there is evidence, if still debatable, for some kind of gas release that mattered, that had a white fog in perhaps the right parts of town to fit  that story. But for what it's worth, the wind says that didn't come from the famously fingered sarin release point, that crater at the edge of irrelevance with wind drifting even further off-frame. The crater with the red poison sign is a red herring. No one has identified the real chemical release point. But I may have some leads above.

When and Where did People Die?
Allegedly, the victims mainly died in their homes, still sleeping or just waking. Some alleged homes are shown on video, six of which are placeable in town, all in small area in the town's north (map above, the red squares).

But those homes are well upwind from the alleged sarin release point (though the noxious stuff might have come from somewhere else). No victims are shown at their homes, and they tend to appear fully dressed in street clothes, not any kind of sleeping garments. All this raises question marks over those stories, and leaves open that some victims we see are actors who dressed before work, and others are perhaps hostages, who usually don't get pajamas, who were gassed - somewhere, with something. 

First Appearances: We can't say just when the earliest view of the victims was. Petri Krohn found the earliest indentified video (dead children in a truck, the famous scene) was uploaded by Assi Press Center only at 9:33, nearly three hours after the alleged attack. That first-seen scene could be timed by sunlight, but not easily; it's got low light, probably no more than 20-25 degrees (?), so not long after 7 am, or 'about the right time.' There's an apparent delay there.

Around this same time, lots of dead people had appeared at various collection points, with the noted ambiguity as to how and from where. Any link between these bulk corpses and the passing jet is at least as unproven as with the attack plumes. In fact it's possible they were simply collected and gassed at one of these sites (most notably the cave hospital) and then dragged outside for "treatment" and display.

timed at about 7:20-7:25 am
The first time-able visual of victims is at the White Helmets cave hospital, in scenes I time visually by sunlight angles as starting around 7:09 or 7:10 am, through 7:20 and continuing to 8:30 and beyond. I only looked at the longest-shadow scenes - I'm not sure how long it runs, but from no earlier than 7:10 that we see.

Method: NOAA solar calculator (pin set to Khan Sheikhoun, time set to GMT +2, DST on, correct date (4 April, 2017) - enter times to see az/el (azimuth, compass direction to the sun, elevation of the sun above the horizon).

This seems fairly plausible - perhaps a bit swift to have victims gathered, but presenting no obvious timeline issues - people could be found and trucked there by 7:10 if the bombs fell at 6:46 as alleged. This doesn't mean the whole story is true, just tht it could be, or could be a reasonably well-crafted false narrative that lines up better than many of them do.

Later Movements: Dr. Shajul Islam in Binnish, an hour's drive north, was taking in patients at 9:43 by clocks there, with later scenes included at 2:00 pm and past, treating alleged victim nearly eight hours after the attack (Jesuraja on Twitter). This was an all-day event, it seems with new victims cycling through, for fresh photo ops for media coverage running in shifts. That's abnormal or, in rebel turf in Syria, fairly standard.

One time-able video of dead bodies in a truck (screen grab at ACLOS with notes) has a solar elevation around 36-38° = time range app. 9:20-9:30 am. The corresponding azimuth would make this a roughly E-W street, tending a bit NW-SE, so perhps (from other details) here on Wikimapia, almost next to a mosque.

A later video claims to show a scene in Maarat al-Numan, well to the north of the attack, with gas attack victims unloaded from an ambulance and rushed into some hospital. Sun elevation (via ambulance shadow) seemed around 65°. It never got that high, so I must be off, and it's solar noon. The NOAA solar calculator says solar noon was 12:36 pm, with 160.4 degrees elevation. So nearly 6 hours after the alleged attack, people are still rushing around with dead-ish people and trying hard to save them.

As for why ... we can only speculate. Shajul Islam, aknown accomplice to terrorist kidnappings, by the way, took some patients up in Binnish, while more were recieved by Dr. Tennari in Sarmin (not quite as far), besides Maarat al-Numan as seen, Khan Sheikhoun's main hospital, and the White Helmets cave hospital, at least, each had a hand in handling the alleged sarin victims. And so, many opposition activist "doctors" were brought in for second opinions and wider coverage of this incident. That might be part of the reasoning.

Other Points and Conclusion
In summary:
* There was a likely jet pass south of Khan Sheikhoun at 6:46.
* At the same time, at least 3 powerful conventional explosions across the city, likely by terrorist rockets, with some indications that some were fired from the north.
* A mysterious white cloud appears on the surface in the north of town at the same time, and a puff of black smoke appears far to the south.
* A massive amount of a possibly caustic and perhaps sarin-like vapor appears from at least two spots, one being where that cloud was, and settled over the town. This might also come from the crater area. It's not clear to what degree witness descriptions of this can be trusted, but it's made to sound highly toxic and deadly, with effects very much like a poor understanding of what sarin does.
*  The prevailing wind would blow this all northeast, so any "sarin or sarin-like substance" from the famous crater would dissipate over the fields, and actually blow almost exactly away from the located victims' homes. Anything that did permeate the alleged affected area must have come from another, unexplored, location to the southwest of there.
* Victims appear at roughly the right time, but it's not clear where they came from, and (as explained here) generally they don't appear to be suffering form real or serious sarin exposure. These were then heavily shown off and shuffled around over the day for unclear reasons.

What happened is Still uncertain, but there's still no proof for government guilt, and no motive for government, to ample incentives for opposition forces. I still feel my hunch of a terrorist massacre with a false-flag chemical aspect is quite strong. But then, I'm pretty sure I've seen just this same thing, over and over now. To me, it's not even surprising; this is the grim reality of the world today, and it just keeps stomping horribly forward through more and more of Syria's poor "liberated" people. - it's worth more careful consideration than it's received - by both sides - so far. I hope that these findings are of some help.

Add 5-7: Some people are stumbling over this, and I think a problem is the degree of planning and sophistication required for terrorists and their helpers to pull all this off so well. In my assessment after looking at hundreds of such cases over the years, this is an exceptionally ambitious and well-planned flase-flag event. Proof man Abdelhamid Al-Yousef seems like a leading actor for a leading story of great importance. If there were any case they want to plan out well, it would be Ghouta 2.0, which this apparently is.

In fact, I can see them deciding to say the victims they had listed and laundered lived here, here, here, all downwind of the well-chosen sarin release crater, asexperts could point out. But no experts have (that I've noticed). If there was such a plan, and why not, for Ghouta 2.0... everyone from the people firing the rocket at a chosen spot to the people practicing their lines about how their families died here, here and here... all of them must have been laboring on an erred wind reading, planning this part backwards, and setting the sarin up to blow AWAY from their victims ... Monty Python grade absurdity, that would be. It seems kind of likely to me, either way. If "Assad" chose to drop his sarin bomb here, hoping to kill, the whole chain of command read the wind backwards. Otherwise, it was the rebel propagandists who pulled a collective Postol here. (Or, maybe, that's a total coincidence, but that option is, at the very least, the boring one).<end add 5-7>