Open Source Survey of Alleged Chemical Attacks in Douma on 7th April 2018

On April 7th 2018 reports began emerging of alleged chemical attacks on the city of Douma, in the rebel held pocket of Eastern Ghouta, Syria. Reports indicated that a significant number of people, including children, had been killed by these attacks. This report will assess and verify the open source information regarding these attacks, and draw conclusions from the available evidence.

All times are local.

Summary

  1. A large compressed gas cylinder of a type used in previous aerial chlorine attacks was filmed on top of the building where a large number of fatalities were documented.
  2. The number of dead bodies that can be established through open source data is 34+.
  3. Aircraft spotters reported two Mi-8 Hip helicopters heading southwest from Dumayr Airbase, in the direction of Douma, 30 minutes before the chemical attack in Douma, and two Hip helicopters were observed above Douma shortly before the attack.
  4. The Syrian Government has previously been identified as using Mi-8 Hip helicopters to drop chlorine cylinders on opposition held areas.

Reports of a Chemical Attack

Reports from the documentation group the Syrian Network for Human Rights indicated that there were at least two separate attacks involving chemical agents on the 7th April: one at 4pm near Sa’da bakery in Omar ben al Khattab St, which injured 15 people, and a second attack at around 1930 near al-Shuhada Square in Nu’man that killed 55 people and injured 860.

The Violations Documentation Center also reported two chemical attacks took place on April 7th 2018. As with the Syrian Network for Human Rights reports, the first attack was reported at 4pm near Sa’da bakery, with the VDC reporting claims from witnesses that chlorine was used. The VDC also reported the second attack at 1930 near al-Shuhada Square, and reported witness statements on the symptoms:

Dr. Jamal Rafie (pseudonym), told the VDC that the symptoms that he saw on patients “do not resemble chlorine attack symptoms. Chlorine alone cannot induce such symptoms because while it does cause suffocation, it does not affect the nerves. There were symptoms indicative of organic phosphorus compounds in the sarin gas category. But the smell of chlorine was also present in the place.”

Dr. Mohammed Kuttoub from the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) told the VDC that his colleagues in Eastern Ghouta saw symptoms on people that include: “pinpoint pupils, slow heartbeat, slow breathing, heavy foaming from the mouth and nose, and the burning of the cornea in some cases.”

The VDC also published the following graphic showing the locations of the attacks:

VDC map of attacks in Douma on April 7th 2018 (source)

Syrian Civil Defence, also known as the White Helmets, reported that a chemical attack at 1945 on the 7th April killed more than 43 people and injured over 500. They reported the dead victims displayed signs of cyanosis (a bluish discolouration of the skin), excessive oral foaming and corneal burns. Six living casualties were reported to have pinpoint pupils and convulsions. The report concluded the casualties had been exposed to “toxic chemicals; most likely an organophosphate element”.

Footage and Images


Footage and images posted on social media after the 1930 attack appear to depict a significant number of casualties, with many dead bodies located in a single building. Many of these bodies displayed symptoms consistent with the claims made in the Syrian Civil Defence statement and the VDC report.

Video 1, which is extremely graphic, was posted at 0020 on 8th April titled “#2018-4-7 Al Assad is shelling Duma with Chemicals. Horrifying massacre against civilians in Duma”. It depicts a large number of dead bodies spread across several rooms in what appears to be the ground (first) floor of a residential building.

Video 2, which is extremely graphic, was posted at 0346 on 8th April titled “2018-4-7 Witness the foaming from the mouth of the injured due to the exposure of civilians to sarin gas”. It documents more dead bodies spread across the second floor and stairwell of the same building as Video 1, as well as what appears to be a hole in the roof of the third floor.

Certain distinctive commonalities can be seen between Video 1 and Video 2, indicating they are filmed in the same building.

A bicycle with a white pannier – Top: Video 1, bottom: Video 2

A old woman with a single sock pulled down, sprawled near the entrance to the building – Top: Video 1, bottom: Video 2

A doorway and the body of a child wearing a distinctive red and white striped top. Faces obscured – Left: Video 2, right: Video 1

Multiple other videos and images posted on social media appear to show the same building and the same casualties.

In total, at least 34 unique bodies appear across the two videos: 23 on the ground floor, 10 on the second floor and one on the landing of the stairs between the second and third floors.

Geolocation

Video 3, which is extremely graphic, was posted at 1748 on 8th April by the SMART new agency, an opposition media network. It shows bodies being removed from the same building that Videos 1 & 2 were filmed in, and taken out into the street during daytime.

The same doorway seen in Video 1 & 2 can also be seen in Video 3. Faces obscured. – Left: Video 3, Right: Video 1

A window cage next to the doorway can be seen in both Video 1 and Video 3 – Left: Video 1, right: Video 3

A doorway with the same design can also be seen in both Video 1 and Video 3 – Left: Video 1, Right: Video 3

Video 4, filmed by a local activist and posted on Youtube by Aljazeera at 2044 on 9th April, depicts what seems to be Russian military personnel visiting and entering this building. This event appears to be corroborated by a statement from the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) which claimed “representatives of the Russian Reconciliation Centre have explored areas of Douma… Results of inspection refuted all reports of chemical weapons use in the city” (archived)

The same doorway the Russian personnel enter can be seen in both Video 3 and Video 4 – Top: Video 4, Bottom: Video 3

By analysing Video 4 and Video 5, which both depict Russian personnel entering the same block, we can geolocate this building to 33.573878, 36.404793. This location is immediately South West of al-Shuhada Square, which matches with the reports from the Syrian Network for Human Rights and VDC.

Geolocation of video 4 and video 5

Video 6, posted by Syrian Civil Defence at 2106 on 10th April, claims to show a “chemical gas canister… Same location as video of casualties”.

Important: video from 9 April, 7:02pm showing presence of chemical gas canister in Douma. Same location as video of casualties. Also same location that Russia visited reporting ‘no sign of chemical weapons’. pic.twitter.com/Sbz64cPi4w

— The White Helmets (@SyriaCivilDef) April 10, 2018

Taken from the top of a building, it shows a hole in the roof with a yellow compressed gas cylinder. The cameraman then swings the camera around, allowing the position to be geolocated, identifying it as the roof of the building at 33.573878, 36.404793.

A still from video 6 (bottom) compared to satellite imagery of the location, demonstrating the viewpoint is from the roof of the building at 33.573878, 36.404793

A distinctive building can also be identified in both Video 6 and Video 5

We can therefore conclude that Videos 1-6 were all filmed in the same area. All videos featured the same building which contained the large group of bodies depicted in Videos 1-2. Video 6 shows that this same building appears to have been hit by a compressed gas cylinder which broke through the roof.

Examination of munition

Following the attack, the remains of two yellow compressed gas cylinders were filmed and photographed. As described above, one gas cylinder was filmed on the roof of the building where a large number of fatalities were documented. A second gas cylinder was also filmed at a yet unidentified location:

The external modifications on the above cylinder are particularly interesting as they are consistent with modifications seen on other gas cylinders used in other reported aerial chlorine attacks. Very similar modifications can been seen in the following video from August 2017 in Khan al-Assal:

Yellow gas cylinders of the same type, with and without external structures, have been documented at the site of alleged aerial chlorine attacks since 2014, and were used on multiple occasions during the siege of Aleppo:

Human Rights Watch graphic showing yellow gas cylinders used in multiple attacks in Aleppo in late 2016 (source)

The most recent attack where yellow gas cylinders were documented following a reported aerial chlorine gas attack was the February 4th 2018 Saraqib attack, where two cylinders were photographed after being recovered from the attack site:

The two gas cylinders used in the Saraqib attack. Source SN4HR

The OPCW has also investigated some of the attacks where yellow gas cylinders were used in aerial chlorine attacks, confirming they were dropped from helicopters. Aircraft observers that are part of the Sentry Syria network observed two Hip helicopters heading southwest from Dumayr Airbase, northeast of Damascus, in the direction of Douma, 30 minutes before the chemical attack in Douma, and two Hip helicopters were observed above Douma shortly before the attack. Hip transport helicopters have also been linked to previous aerial chlorine attacks.

With allegations of Sarin use, it is important to note that these yellow gas cylinders are not associated with the use of Sarin, and as Sarin is a liquid a compressed gas cylinder seems an unlikely method of delivery for Sarin. Possible explanations for the allegations of Sarin use may be a result of the severity of the symptoms presented, of an undocumented munition being used, or another chemical agent being used that presents symptoms that could be confused with Sarin use.

Conclusion

Based on the available evidence, it is highly likely the 34+ victims killed in the 1930 attack on the apartment building near al-Shuhada Square were killed as a result of a gas cylinder filled with what is most likely chlorine gas being dropped from a Hip helicopter originating from Dumayr Airbase.

The post Open Source Survey of Alleged Chemical Attacks in Douma on 7th April 2018 appeared first on bellingcat.

Dolores Huerta Sigue Abogando e Inspirando

Por Andrea López-Villafaña

La legendaria activista Dolores Huerta a sus 88 años no solo sigue abogando por las comunidades marginadas, sino que también está creando una nueva generación de activistas.

El jueves 5 de abril, Huerta se presentó en la Universidad de California, San Diego y frente a cientos de estudiantes, profesores, y exalumnos ella resaltó la importancia de estar involucrados en sus comunidades y de participar más en la política.

“Lo principal que pedimos es que la gente regale su tiempo”, dijo Huerta a La Prensa San Diego.

Huerta compartió que el modo de llamarles la atención a congresistas es a través de que la gente se tome el tiempo de hacer activismo, hacer llamadas telefónicas a sus oficinas, y mandarles correos electrónicos.

“Se trata de pensar en maneras de presionar a los políticos a que le pongan atención a las necesidades de las comunidades, pero si la comunidad no usa sus voces entonces los políticos no se enteran de las necesidades”, dijo Huerta.

Después de años de abogar por los derechos de los trabajadores de campo y sus familias al lado de otro legendario activista, César Chávez, Huerta sigue dedicando su tiempo a abogar por los derechos de las mujeres, el medio ambiente, y los trabajadores a través de su organización la Dolores Huerta Foundation.

La fundación se enfoca en ayudar a las comunidades a aprender cómo organizarse para abogar por sus necesidades.

Huerta compartió con los cientos de personas en asistencia que los problemas sociales más grandes que están enfrentando las comunidades son la falta de hogares y las personas sin hogares que no tienen acceso a recursos, y las injusticias al medio ambiente.

Pero según Huerta, la solución a esos problemas es simple.

“La estrategia más importante que necesitamos usar, y se que parece simple, es votar”, Huerta dijo.

Huerta también habló de sus experiencias durante el tiempo que se dedicó a abogar por los derechos de los trabajadores de campo.

Por mucho tiempo, la mayoría de gente vio a Huerta como la asistente de Chávez, aunque en realidad eran socios, pero ahora ella está compartiendo su labor en la lucha por los derechos civiles de los trabajadores de campo.

En un documental titulado “Dolores”, que se estrenó el martes 27 de marzo en PBS se enfoca en el labor de Huerta y los sacrificios personales que tuvo que hacer para abogar por los derechos de los trabajadore de campo.

Huerta decidió dejar su vida “normal” y mudarse a los campos para poder tener acceso a los trabajadores y para poder ayudarles a crear una unión.

Ella sacrifico tiempo con sus hijos, sus pasiones personales como su amor por la música y el baile pero después de enterarse de las condiciones en las que muchos trabajaban se le hizo imposible no ser parte del movimiento por sus derechos.

El documental se puede ver en pbs.org hasta el 24 de abril.

Jenny and the Mexicats: 10 Years of Music Without Borders

By Mario A. Cortez

The story of Jenny and the Mexicats is one that could have only happened the way it did, with a diverse group of musicians coming together on the road through music.

The band, made up of English lead singer and trumpetist Jenny Ball, Mexican buddies Luis “Icho” Dias and Alfonso “Pantera” Acosta, on bass and guitar respectively, and Spanish percussionist David Gonzalez, fuses the worlds of blues, Mexican zapateado, cumbia, jazz, pop, and flamenco to create a sound that reflects the multicultural background and influences of its members.

Looking at this eclectic ensemble’s story, it would appear as if its members came together as an act of destiny.

In 2008, Ball was touring through Spain as part of a travelling orchestra. During a stop in Madrid, she met “Icho” and “Pantera” at a flamenco bar and instantly connected with their way of thinking about music. The newly-formed bond was so strong that Ball moved to Madrid shortly after her orchestra’s return to England, despite her not speaking any Spanish at the time.

With Gonzalez’s arrival to the group, the four-piece was complete and ready to embark on a project which to this day has yielded inventive studio productions and much acclaim from fans and critics.

Their self-titled first production debuted in 2011 and introduced the world to their world-influenced, bilingual stylings through songs like “Verde Mas Alla,” “Anthem Song,” “Flor,” and “Me Voy a Ir.” In the process, their debut record earned a certified Gold Record award and international recognition.

2014 would bring “Ome,” their second album and a relocation from the Spanish capital to Mexico CIty. As a result of the move, this new record displays more prevalent influences from Mexican music which could be felt through new hits such as “Boulevard,” and “Frenetico Ritmo.” The album’s lead single, titled “Labios,” was used in the soundtrack to Mexican romance flick “Amor de Mis Amores,” released that same year.

2017’s “Mar Abierto,” their latest studio feature, brings a mature sensibility without abandoning the group’s unique and infectious sound. Songs such as “Why Why” and “Born in the City” capture the sonic mashup of cultures Jenny and the Mexicats is known for, but brings a poignant undertone through the lyrical work of Ball.

Today, 10 years after coming together and completing numerous studio projects, Jenny and the Mexicats is celebrating a decade of making music with a tour that will span both sides of the Atlantic and the U.S.-Mexico border.

As part of this tour, Jenny and the Mexicats will play at The Casbah in Little Italy on July 25, in what will surely bring fans from both Tijuana and San Diego to experience the band’s unique and diverse style.

The celebration doesn’t stop there, however, the band has also released a nostalgic video which calls back to the early days of this project, revealing the experiences which have lead this group to become a favorite among many.

The story of Jenny and the Mexicats is one that could have only happened the way it did and today, 10 years later, it is a story that continues to show that for music there is no nationality of borders.

Turkey’s ever-closer ties with Russia leave US lacking key ally on Syria

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Limiting US influence in the Middle East is not the only shared interest of Russia and Turkey’s autocratic leaders

As the prospect grows of military confrontation with Russia in the skies over Syria, the US is counting on support from European partners such as France and the UK. But help from a key regional ally – Turkey – is less certain, despite its position on Syria’s northern border and opposition to Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

There are echoes of 2003, when Turkey refused to back the US-led invasion of Iraq. Whose side Turkey is on is a question increasingly exercising Washington policymakers as Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s president, builds closer ties with Russia.

Continue reading…

‘It’s a turning point’: Oklahoma teachers buoyed by success of 110-mile march

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Marchers mobbed at state capitol after concluding their historic march to call for greater funds and increased wages

“Uh-oh, Trojans coming through! Uh-oh, Trojans coming through!” shouted the three dozen members of the Douglas high school marching band as black and Latino teenagers banged on drums and set the beat.

Oklahoma’s teachers may not have won their call for increased wages and funding for education – yet. But after completing a 110-mile march from Tulsa to Oklahoma City to highlight the parlous state of their school system there was an air of expectation and excitement as they and their supporters reached the state capital.

Continue reading…

Maps show spring arriving earlier

From Joshua Stevens at the NASA Earth Observatory:

But over the longer term, climate change is causing spring to begin earlier and earlier across the United States. These maps reveal just how much earlier spring is arriving in National Parks across the country. The data were published in 2016 by ecologists from the National Park Service, working in collaboration with colleagues at other agencies and institutions.

Griddy.

Limited to only national parks, the view still provides a good idea. For a model-based view at higher granularity, check out the USA National Phenology Network.

Tags: first leaf, global warming, NASA