Warning

Warning: This site contains images and graphic descriptions of extreme violence and/or its effects. It's not as bad as it could be, but is meant to be shocking. Readers should be 18+ or a mature 17 or so. There is also some foul language occasionally, and potential for general upsetting of comforting conventional wisdom. Please view with discretion.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Ma'an Massacre, 2012: Did the Rebel Offensive Falter?

August 4, 2015
(incomplete, impatient
work-in-progress draft)

Maan (Arabic: معان - translates "glitter" or "gloss") is the name of a Syrian village located here on Google maps, and on Wikimapia, 22 km north of Hama, and near strategic Morek. Maan is an Alawi-majority (Alawite) village, with a smaller number of Sunni Muslim families. It was the site of a semi-famous alleged massacre by anti-government Islmaist forces (not ISIS) in February 2014 (coverage on A Closer Look On Syria - ACLOS)

This post deals with the less-famous December 2012 massacre in Ma'an, as covered on the ACLOS page Maan Massacre and its discussion page. So yes, this small town has reportedly suffered two massacres so far, at least. The best English source besides ACLOS is SyriaNews.cc, Feb. 14: What Happened in Maan, the Two Massacres.

By some infomred sources, in the 2012 massacre, 23 victims, mainly men but including women and children were killed, some victims were beheaded, and bodies were burned. This happened during a three-day rebel occupation of the town, from Dec. 24-26 as reported by the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), who draw on anti-government sources and others as well. Rebels didn't directly (or widely?) acknowledge their occupation, but did report a massacre there at that time (SOHR did not hear about that). The VDC, Local Coordinating Committees, and others (hardcore rebel sources) say it was Shabiha who came in on the 25th, Christmas (which the Alawi have celebrated in the past), and killed the few Sunnis in town - though it took rebels a week to find out and tell the world, quietly and with no video.

The question here is do the hardcore sources claim or deny that rebels were in Ma'an?  taken up by following, to some extent, what they have said about that area in the surrounding days.

Intentions
In late 2012, Rebels were clear in their intent to conquer (or "liberate") Ma'an. A Dec 20 Reuters report says rebels began to push into (Morek) on Thursday, besides on other fronts in Hama province. Morek is north of Hama, an important town on the highway to rebel-heavy Idlib province. Another front was just to the east; the report says rebels had already "laid siege to ... the Alawite town of al-Tleisia, and "they were also planning to take the town of Maan," arguing that, as an anonymous rebel captain in Hama said, "the rockets are being fired from there, they are being fired from Maan and al-Tleisia," an so to control Morek "we need to take Maan."

Below, then, the target area: Crucial Morek on the far left, three towns to the east highlighted. Ma'an and Tulaysiyah are explained. Later reports say three Alawite villages, including Ma'an, were conquered by rebels but re-taken by the 27th. By deduction, the third town is probably Zughba  on Wikimapia labeled "al-Zoghba - Alawite village." Violence and deaths on the both sides are recorded here in the opposition record.

Hama rebels had recent experience attacking Alawites and denying it on a massive scale. This announcement came ten days after rebels first announced the massacre in the Aalwi half of Aqrab, southern Hama, - up to 200 civilians killed by fellow Alawi of the "Shabiha" militias, they said. There was a quick refutation of their story, and of a (clear) massacre at all, by Alex Thomson of Channel 4 News. His report was clear that anything bad that did happen was on the rebels who had kidnapped 500 Aalawi, killed some perhaps, and threatened and lied about the rest. But the lack of anyone else seeming to care - with some days to feel that out - may have helped the Islamist rebels decide they could do it in Ma'an as well.

And just then a new coalition of them was forming, officially on December 22; the Syrian Islamic Front comprised 11 salafist rebel groups, with Ahrar al-Sham (free men of Syria) being the most prominent of these. (Wikipedia) The Syrian Islamic Front did not formally include the al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra (Victory Front). But they openly worked with JaN from this inaugural offensive and onward - as well as earlier, in battles like the one for Aqrab.

Dec. 24th: Fighting to Get In
The Ma'an offensive was just one part of a province-wide campaign that saw fighting and often victories in several areas at once. Only having placed most locales, it's a bit confusing and hard to be sure I'm considering all relevant areas. It's a good climate for massacre shell games, or for someone like me to imagine them anyway.

The opposition's definitive Local Coordination Committees (LCC) issue daily reports with reported events and videos compiled by area. These will be the central source for the rest of this article (mostly via Uruknet, sometimes from the LCC's own site). The LCC report for December 22 (LCC) shares nothing clearly relevant to this area, but says the Morek (Mawrek) offensive was well underway and yielding victories. It's the same for December 23. No siege is mentioned on Ma'an, Tuylaysiyah, nor Zughba.

But December 24's report mentions "clashes with regime forces in Maan Village" (perhaps meaning the whole area shown above, the "Ma'an front"). LCC reports 19 martyrs in Hama this day, with the most intense shelling in Hama countryside. "Maan: Severe clashes around the village between the Free Syrian Army and regime forces." Two rebels that get named were killed during the battle of Maan:

- Mohammed Bassam Jenani, 27, FSA fighter
- Faisal Hawedi "from Aleppo way" 
The affiliated Violations Documentation Center (VDC) has matching entries for both: Mohammad Basam Genane  from Hama:  Hamideih neighborhood, killed  2012-12-24  by Shooting and Fiesal Hwede Hama  Aleppo Road Neighborhood  2012-12-24  Shooting)

Another took some work I'll show. LCC Dec 24 video: Martyr Ahmed Yakflouni Al-Maarawi in Maan, Hama (rotated still at right). That's an unusual name I've never seen. I found no clear VDC match. The video says his name is  ابو محمد بتفلوني (Abu Mohammed something -  Gtrans gives "Ptvlona" - letter by letter says b-t-f-l-ou-n-ya) with Maarawi written out in 3 words as sons city Maara. Description says he was martyred with his brothers in Hama, near the village of Kawkab (south of Ma'an, labeled on map at the top of the article). LCC mentions this day "Kawkab: Fierce clashes between the Free Syrian Army and regime forces were reported on the outskirts of the village." Family might fight together, or try fleeing Ma'an together, to the south ...

But this is another killed rebel, a senior one. The Arabic name بتفلوني yields zero hits for the whole war. But cutting the first couple letters helps find in the VDC database 3 people I'd call B(a?)kflounia - t for k typo. The very guy on VDC, English: Ahmad Bakflone, non-civilian, FSA, from Maaret al-Nouman, Idlib (son of Maara). He was shot dead Dec. 24. Martyrdom location - Hama Suburbs: Maan town. Notes - Leader of Islam Battalion was martyred during the clashes with the regime forces in Maan town. No brothers are listed by the VDC this day, with that name. Brothers in Islam/fellow sons of Maara?

Who Slaughtered this Family?
Possibly related directly, informative for context either way: LCC mentions for the 24th Hama: Morek: A family of a mother, father, and two children were field-executed at the main road in the city. They are from Yabroud, Damascus Suburbs. - a very graphic video (saved here, like most) says "Damascus Yabrud family out of the house Moas have been targeted in the city of Mork" - (VDC will list them from Yabroud, will look) Note: these people will be totally identifiable to their families, etc. 
(I checked VDC for Hama civilians and Damascus, died in Hama, and they don't appear. Day before and after also blank. 

The LCC lists that video and another as showing "Regime indiscriminate shelling leaves many people dead and wounded, including women and children." We see between the videos a deliberately massacred family, as their text report noted. Young girl, skull split open and brain missing, look of shock. Mother, head split open/face distorted. Father, hand injury, pained face with blood on it. A fourth adult-sized body, bleeding from many spots, totally wrapped in white shroud. In the bed of a rebel pickup truck, still bleeding. The next video, girl's brain on the ground at the tailgate of this truck, just enough seen to say it's the same family. And there's a shot up family car next to it, license plate shown, armed rebels all over.

So ... Regime forces shot them as they fled ... the rebel advance? then left the bodies for the rebel advance to find and secure? Sounds typical. Were they actually fleeing Ma'an or the other villages? The scenery is unclear (on a dirt road or lot, grass on the edge...). These head wounds ... they often seem to be an ailment of the Alawi, who might glee rebel-held areas to their old village or town in Hama...

No word of taking Ma'an, nor of causing people to flee there, nor of stopping them from doing so.

One report from the day hears of a fighter jet rebels shot down: "Activist Sami al-Hamawi said opposition fighters used anti-aircraft machineguns to bring down the plane outside the Alawite village of Maan, which opposition forces have been trying to lay siege to for several days. He said the plane was flying low over an area opposition fighters had seized." Trying to siege suggests not succeeding yet - over an area they did hold, outside Ma'an suggests the areas they gold are outside.

Signs they Got In
A useful, if poor-quality video (stabilized, so not the original...)Free Sham address Shabih of Alawite village (trans) Ma'an Hama - Part of the battle and the Al Ahrar al-Sham Martyrs Brigades and the Al-Hamza against shabiha Ma'an Alawite village in the northern Hama 24 \ 12 \ 2012 has been killing some thugs and led to some (martyred?) Mujahideen mercy of God

Fighters are seem firing from the orchards, around small stone-and-clay structures (right, some in a small pit). There are buildings nearby ahead (to the right from top view), as well as behind - this is pretty much inside whatever town. Possible mosque minaret seen at 3:16. The twin structures the scene at right is filmed at - old, indistinct, on a line pointing towards the minaret - the best thing to look for is a water tower we see the base of, in the near distance. It's hard to make out Ma'an with the two images Google Earth has. No spot match identified yet, and it might be one of the other towns, for that matter. (Awaiting a breakthrough.)

Wherever it is, they're taking return fire. The video ends on a panicked note of retreat. Is this done so clearly to help show how they never did get into Ma'an? Was it completely staged, or just a useful edit from the real footage? I haven't noticed any other clearly labeled Ma'an fighting footage. So this is the furthest we see them get. Note the weather: cloudy, breezy, recent rains (ground is green and seems damp).

Dec 24, Syria Politic (site closed over threats) reported at the time on the "Killing and wounding of dozens in Ma'an, Hama countryside after Islamists attacked "in revenge for the Halfaya"" (alleged bakery bombing from the day before). Islamist fighters attacked residents "on the outskirts of the village. ... some of them were killed in his house, such as Yacoub Salema." LCC doesn't mention that, and VDC has no entry.

(will add SyriaNews account and streamline all)

Some opposition sources reported a rebel attack and partial conquest on the 24th. Naharnet reported  how "Jihadists overran large parts of an Alawite village in the central Syrian province of Hama on Monday," referring to Ma'an, and citing the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. They added the SOHR heard "at least 11 rebel fighters and 20 regime troops were killed." The VDC disagrees - it was 17, at village alzoghba  with no regime losses specified in Ma'an. No one mentions a massacre of civilians at this point.

The VDC list two civilians from Ma'an who were shot dead the 24th -  Unidentified 1 and Unidentified 2 - both with notes "His body was found murdered and thrown in the village." Which village isn't specified, actually. But wherever, rebels then arrived and took photographs (at right) soon after. Or maybe the VDC just obtained these somewhere.

The green ground, signs of mud, and indistinct light look pretty consistent with the rebel video filmed nearby this day. But implicitly they were not killed by the rebels, but by someone else. Note also the blankets - both guys were killed somewhere, carried to this patch of ground, and then laid there - they were "tossed" in to this spot, not found shot right there. It was smart to not claim that.  Now it's whoever - corpses were being tossed around just before their arrival, maybe all the time, just for fun. Those Alawi are sick people ...

Silent Occupation?

Dec 25 LCC: more rebels dying in the battle for Ma'an.
- Yasser Mohammad Tinaoy, 33 years old and a member in the FSA ... from Andalous neighborhood. (VDC has Yaser Mohammad Tinawi)
- Hassan Mashaan (VDC has Hasan Masha'an , Tariq Halab neighborhood  2012-12-24  Shooting)
- LCC misses but VDC lists also Abd al-Raheem Mobarak    Non-Civilian  Adult - Male  Hama  Arbe'in Neighborhood  2012-12-25  Shooting

There's still no word about taking or occupying Ma'an. Still taking losses means still trying to get in, or facing resistance anyway. And there's still no word on the 25th, by anyone, of a massacre in Ma'an, which the VDC records later claimed happened on this day. Nor are any killings noted in Tuylaysiyah or Zughba - continuing into the 26th, with another "warplane shot down in Morek , Hama."Two jets they claim they shot down. That could be. I didnt notice a video to prove either one, however.

The 25th is the last day the LCC shows any signs of a fight for Ma'an, with no mention of a victory. Air attacks were kept at bay, even though someone thought they were neeedded (if that's true) But something on the ground was slowing them own, it sounds like. Did they fail in their mission, and just give up after so many died? Only 6 or so killed rebels are listed to the SOHR's at least 11, but the LCC wouldn't list or mention Saudis, Tunisians, etc. fighting with them.

By other sources, it seems rebels enjoyed a partial - or maybe total - conquest on the 24th or 25th, and apparently held whatever part for two days, or parts of three days. Ma'an was reportedly re-taken by government forces on the 26th (or maybe 27th), as part of their announced and successful offensive in the region. ABC, Australia, reported Dec. 27: "the army took control of three Alawite villages in the central province of Hama, among them Maan, large swathes of which were overrun by jihadists two days earlier, the watchdog (SOHR) said." This could be that day or the day before, as it seemed ... I searched for primary news source, didn't find it,

On both the 26th and 27th (Uruknet - LCC) the LCC has no mention of Ma'an or anything nearby, nor of massacres - they deny taking or losing the town. But  bad stuff was happening and being filmed and they got video, or copies.

Two 'leaked' videos from the other side are shared up top for the 27th, not under the usual province headings. One is unplaced, one in Hasraya. The latter, will come back to. The former: Asad's Shabiha Mutilate and Burn the Corpse of a Citizen. My notes: men in irregular military gear, unafraid to show their faces, the one anyway (see right) stab a dead man in the belly very hard, then in the neck, insulting him for being an armed rebel. Then they douse him with gasoline, and light him up,swearing "we will burn the country for the sake of al-Assad."

They clearly made this video message for someone to see, but didn't get to release it before rebels killed them, took it, and published it for them. Or maybe it was leaked, as described. Point being, Assad bad. The walls have bullet-holes, rubble - these "Shabiha" took over at this site, some hours before this video (rigor mortis) but no later than Dec. 25. And from the likely fakeness of this video (high propaganda-to-plausibility ratio), I'd say these are rebel "defectors" with their old gear. By clothing, I wondered if this was the unidentified Ma'an resident on the right in the image above. But build and all other clues suggest not, although the resolution is too bad to even be clear on this.I think this is likely a third possibly armed citizen of Ma'an whom the rebels "liberated." The hate in the stabbing, the hesitation at the neck, and the burning suggest maybe a lightly-filtered sectarian psychology like these defectors have.

Slow News About the Ma'an Massacre of Sunnis, by Alawis
Syrian Map Center post from December 31 (Arabic) gives a map of Ma'an, with some areas just outside town to the north and south circled in blue and labeled 325 and 350. (They describe the village as "a base to direct the mortar fire," or had it directed against - might connect to these areas.) Translated, it says they were publishing details "a week after the end of the process," by Ahrar al-Sham Brigades and Jabhat al-Nusra - "aimed at a large gathering of Shabiha in the village." The operation was a "a big success" and "resulted in the killing of more than 200 Shabiha." This isn't reflected anywhere else - only the 20 or so. Did they just add a zero, or get the alleged death toll from Aqrab two weeks earlier mixed in?
Th news broke on January 1 that there had been an invasion of and a masacre in Ma'an. This was from opposition activists, widely reported in the Arab world, hardply anywhere in the West and nowhere in English. Germany's Der Spiegel reported on the 1st this basic story (translated):
"...members of the militia had Schabiha in the village ... of Maan beheaded 23 people. Those killed included ... the few Sunni families who lived in the village. Also seven children were reportedly killed. The corpses were set on fire, so that some of them could not be identified."

"The massacre is said to have begun after rebels attacked checkpoints in the region on Monday (the 24th or 31st, not made clear here). These were then called the militia fighters."

Shaam News (Arabic)
(Shabiha) committed horrible massacres against our brothers the Sunnis, who make up a small percentage of the village ...  homes on their heads and then burned all the bodies .., has been reached twenty-three a martyr and the number is rising .. In addition to a number of martyrs under the rubble of demolished houses.

LCC Dec 25:
more unplaced video: "Leaked : In this horrific leaked footage filmed by a regime shabiha, Assad's troops take great delight in terrorizing a group of helpless and bound prisoners before isolating two of them, who are stabbed to death before having concrete slabs dropped on their bodies" (video removed)

44 died in Hama, "including 23 martyrs from the village of Maan and 16 from Hasraya," both sets in massacres that happened not then but earlier ... the latter, in a bit.
"Hama: Maa'an: 23 people were field-executed by regime forces in the village. It should be noted that they were executed a week ago (24th/25th) and their bodies were found today. The martyrs are:Khaled Al-Khalaf Fawzy Al-Arer, Mohannad Al-Toqany and his son Khaled Al-Satof, Ali Al-Rady and his son, Turkia Ahmad Al-Mohammad and her son, Abdullah Khodair Al-Mohammad and his brother Ahmad, 5 people from Al-Awad family, and 7 unidentified children. It should be noted that there are bodies still under the rubble of burned homes."
It's not clarified how and by whom they were just then found, in their homes in the town, and why those people couldn't find them sooner.

Tulaysiyah and Zughba
no word of massacre in these other two apparently overrun Alawi villages east of Ma'an, just the killing of 17 fighters ... (VDC lists 17, at village alzoghba - one supposed rebel (defected, maybe as sometimes happens, after death - possible relative then killed) - one Tulaysiyah man is listed dead - implicit Alawi resident,  died in Zughba as well. No regime forces from Ma'an are listed. The Zughba victims, it says, died only on the 27th - implicitly, by the time gov re-claimed it, so... another regime crime? Maybe not. VDC notes on one says "Date of death is unknown exactly Worked at the Military Security Division." 

The only LCC mention of Zughba was to note an earlier death, a rebel killed fighting there. Dec 25 "Hama: Jaber Muhammad Ibrahim was martyred during clashes with regime forces in Zughba Village." VDC lists him, FSA. "Martyred by regime forces sniper gunfire in the battle to liberate Zughbeh." (note: LCC same day also notes "Idlib: Defected soldier Muhammed Mustafa Ibrahim was martyred, he is from Houla, Homs").

Possibly related, LCC Dec. 24: Hama: More than 15 regime forces' personnel have defected on the road to Salamiya, east of Hama." This doesn't sound like exactly the right area - Salamiya is well S-SE of Zughba - but 'road to Salamiya' is sort of relative. But "More than 15" is pretty close to 17. Did they defect after death, or on video shortly before? 

As with Ma'an, there was no video of the bodies, the direct evience with clues of who they were and how they died - but it happened after their withdrawal, right?

Unrelated? Hasraya
There is a parallel story well worth considering here, regarding the village of Hasraya, 24 km west of Ma'an between Kafr Zita and Jalama, where rebels took over and found a mass grave just as the Ma'an massacre is alleged. The implication is two same-day rebel offensives, in Maan and this way, with bodies found this way. Interestingly, it's about the same story in 2014 - rebels discovered a massacre in Jalama on the same day they denied one during their second conquest of Ma'an. That seemed to me like a possible means of Laundering the Ma'an Massacre

LCC Jan. 1:
"Hama: Hasraya: A mass grave containing the bodies of 16 people including women, they were all killed during the period of time when officer captain Ahed Abbas "Abu Jaafar" was in charge of the checkpoint that was located in the town before it was liberated by the Free Syrian Army. Some of the bodies were discarded in drilled sanitation canals, most of the bodies have not been identified yet."

Back on December 25, as the Ma'an Massacre was perhaps wrapping up, Hassariya yielded this news:
Hasra'a, Hama: FSA forces found a mass grave containing the remains of many martyrs killed by regime forces; many of the bodies had turned to skeletons. The victims are believed to have been killed at the checkpoint before their bodies were thrown into the mass grave."

The "skeletons" part makes it clear the people died long ago, decayed away before rebels even got there. But it's possible they were freshly killed but burned down to the bones. Rebels would claim the Ma'an victims were burned to the point of being unrecognizable, if not to the point of being skeletal.

How do we know crazy killers ran that place before?  LCC Dec. 25: "This video of regime troops beating, kicking and stamping on a defenseless young teenager at the Abu Hafar checkpoint in the village of Hasra'a, Hama was found on the mobile phone of an Assad soldier killed in fighting between regime soldiers and FSA troops who liberated the village." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mW6k9CU4VUs. The same was video run again on Dec 26 as "Leaked:Regime Forces Torture Civilians at Hasraya Barrier" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pOhR4_8c4Ck&feature=youtu.be

A young guy in soldiers' clothes lightly beats up a young teenage boy, throws him around a bit, in moves reminiscent of an old WWF wrestling match. This seems most likely a total fake video - the kid seems overwhelmed that the method acting got so intense (it is pretty strong stuff). Another supposed soldier slaps the other on his thigh when he decides his little brother has had enough? He stops for a moment right after, but then comes back with more possibly fake hits and stomps.

This is the abuse video about the checkpoint they found to explain why bodies would be found there - maybe twice. Alleged timeline - abuses happened before liberation - mass grave found once by FSA upon conquest, and as Maan massacre happens, upon conquest - grave found again, or new one with old bodies - by locals 6 days later, as Maan massacre victims are acknowledged. Does that mean anything?

As with Ma'an, and unusually, they provide no video evidence for this Assad crime - they don't let us see under either of the two shells in this likely shell game. The checkpoint is distinct and well-framed in the video - in fact that seems to be the whole idea: here's this checkpoint, right? Here's abuses happening right in it. I imagine it could be geo-located to the place they claim. But the mass graves video, again, wasn't even shared, if it was even made.




Saturday, August 1, 2015

Laundering the Ma'an Massacre?

August 1, 2015
(incomplete)
updates August 2 
(LCC Feb. 8 report)


This post is to sort out the details of three reported Hama province massacres of Febraury, 2014. These are:
- Maan Massacre, Feb. 9
- Jalama Massacre, Feb. 9
- Souran Massacre, Feb. 8-9

All towns are near Morek at the border with Idlib province, well north of Hama city (map at right, app. 30 km wide, border in green).

No one reports all three incident. Some sources heard about the killings in Ma'an but not the others, while others denied Ma'an and pointed to one or both of the other two instead. For that and other reasons, it seems likely these three massacres are actually one-and-the-same, with some reporting the basic truth (Ma'an) and others a laundered version that shifts and scatters the blame.

Let's consider the reports and records for each one.

Maan
(note: most of this section will be moved in time to clear space here)

Maan (Arabic: معان) is located here on Google maps, and on Wikimapia, 22 km north of Hama, and near strategic Morek. Maan is an Alawi-majority (Alawite) village, with a smaller number of Sunni Muslim families. And this was the second massacre there, the first (ACLOS page) having occurred on Christmas, 2012. Women and children were killed, some victims were beheaded, bodies were burned. This happened during a three-day rebel occupation of the town, from Dec. 24-26 as reported by the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), who draw on anti-government sources and others as well. Rebels didn't directly (or widely?) acknowledge their occupation, but did report a massacre there at that time (SOHR did not hear about that). The VDC, Local Coordinating Committees, and others (hardcore rebel sources) say it was Shabiha who came in on the 25th, and killed the few Sunnis in town - though it took rebels a week to find out and tell the world, quietly (see here, ACLOS section).

In the case of this invasion 13 months later (ACLOS page), both sides acknowledge rebel forces of the Islamic Front and perhaps Jabhat al-Nuara, conquered this Alawi town on the 9th. They boasted of taking a pro-regime village, and took videos to prove it (right, one verified against Google Earth imagery). The rebels in the area said they did so to stop artillery fire from there and to protect the locals. They say they killed no one but fighters. (see ACLOS: Rebel Denials)

 Government and supportive sources say Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Qaeda in Syria) was involved, and approximately 40-45 civilians were killed, including women, children, the elderly, and the disabled. They also claim 17-20 defenders were killed, and about 80 citizens are missing, likely taken hostage. That's about 140 lives taken, threatened, or ruined. Details aren't fully clear. (best English source besides ACLOS: see SyriaNews.cc, Feb. 14: What Happened in Maan, the Two Massacres)

The fatal victims in Ma'an have been partially named by these sources; a total of 21 names have been released, mostly adult males, some females, and most of them named Qaddour.  (list maybe in time)

Considerations for Below
Consider in the 2012 case how SOHR reported the conquest but not a massacre, and hardcore sources had it the other way around. In this case, rebels were quite open about their conquest, but it was the SOHR who reported a massacre - if smaller in proportion than that cited by government-allied sources. First they said only 25 Alawi, mainly fighters, were killed. Then they heard “more than two dozen civilians” also executed by “Al-Qaeda-inspired rebels” - including one entire family - in addition to “around 20 locals” or “village fighters defending their homes.” (see ACLOS section


Note for below how there are three tiers of knowledge here: it's no secret about 20-25 pro-government fighters were killed – some like the SOHR later head about a batch of 25-ish civilians on top of that - and others hear about an additional batch of dead civilians for about 40 total. This 3-part division of the death toll may be a clue to how it was laundered in rebel records, allowing them to count real corpses, but blame them on the government.

SOHR's overall non-rebel death toll: 45+, and possibly a big plus. One specific-sounding count was 62 people total killed by rebels. The most specific number of killed fighters – including some women, rebels say - is 17 – that would leave 45 civilians. Syria's government claimed in protests at the U.N. That 42 civilians were killed by the foreign-backed terrorists (see LA Times).  

Note: this is jointly reported by the Syrian government, informed locals, and the opposition SOHR's network, reported by the group, or director anyway, as true. That's a powerful package.

Other, more hardcore opposition sources don't reflect this at all – at least, not directly. No civilians from Ma'an are mentioned as killed, in any way, even in crossfire. The records might even show no pro-regime fighters were killed in the offensive, somehow. They do have a similar number of civilian victims of deliberate massacre, but in two different towns far enough away to call unrelated – if that's true. And these contain enough adult male entries to conceal a majority of the local fighters allegedly killed. Seems worth considering.


Jalama
LCC daily report, February 9 (via Uruknet), with 18 dead in Hama, and several already claimed elsewhere, has this first:
Hama: Jmleh: More than 10 martyrs were reported due to storming the town by regime forces. 

Then the immediate next entry (above) gives details: 
Hama: Jmleh: Mouhamad Ahmad Al-Muhsen, Mra'i Al-Saed, Ahmad Mouhamad Al-Muhsen, Subhyeh Ahmad Al-Muhsen, Child Mouhamad Al-Mura'i, Mura'i Al-Saed daughter, Mhmoud Al-Mura'i wife's and childern and displaced unidentified family were martyred due to storming the town by regime forces.

Shahd Mahmoud Merie al-Mohsen, age 4
The VDC, intricately linked to the LCC but with a little wider source collection, lists this event, and has it in Jalama (Arabic: الجلمة = al-jlma - LCC goofed it) Their martyrs database lists 17 field executed victims, mainly from a Moshen family, also including a few al-Saieds as mentioned by LCC. The notes say "several civilians martyred in a massacre during the storming of the town by regime's forces." The 17 clear matches are these 15 executed civilians from Jalama (6 men, 5 women, 3 boys, one 4-year-old girl with a photo, alive), plus these 2 women from other towns but who died in Jalama. Or, these full 17 with that note. Location: north of Tremseh.

The al-Saied / al-Sayed name appears again quickly - LCC Feb.10, 2 dead in Hama One is in Morek: Ammad Aboud Al-Sayed was martyred and 20 wounded were reported due to warplanes shelling on the city." It is, however, a common name. 

We have joint reports from linked groups, no video, no SOHR report, fairly little really to say this actually happened. The logic of the army or Shabiha assaulting one town and massacring people just as their allies needed help in Maan a few kilometers away is puzzling. There's also little good reason rebels would massacre anyone in in Jalama on the same day they did the same in Ma'an, even if it was by two different groups and then report one and cover up the other. In short, there's reason to doubt anyone stormed Jalama, although it can't at all be ruled out. This might be a fake shelf set up to hold the denied victims of the Islamists' Ma'an offensive.

Update: The LCC's Feb 8 report does give some reason: rebels claiming they blew up a checkpoint at Jalama on the 8th. Smoke is shown rising from a distance, in the evening or morning, of the day before they found freshly killed bodies there. Implied chronology: rebels destroy check point, army storms un-gaurded town, massacres locals, then rebels ... well, they don't show videos here that I've seen. But they were able to document it. 

So maybe this is a separate event from their overrunning of Ma'an. Or maybe that video is actually from Ma'an. It seems hard to be sure with so little scenery available and directions unclear. We'll have to leave it at not so certain.

Souran 
(Also Soran, but Souran is closer - Arabic: صوران - a mid-sized town on the highway north of Hama) 
This is a massacre of larger size than Jalama, running for two days, closer to the Maan front, and not reported by the LCC in any of their daily reports for Feb. 8, 9, or 10. 

Note: The days surrounding the Maan Massacre seem to have witnessed a surge of violence in rural Hama province, starting on the 7th and peaking the 9th to 11th, then falling off again - with no civilians from Ma'an listed as killed. Note: rebels claimed to be on the attack against Ma'an from at least Feb. 8, in the surrounding areas, taking bases ... losing fighters on the 5th and 7th of February, on whichever front, besides on the 8th, 9th, and after.

Soran, feb. 8 and 9 VDC lists 36 martyrs from Soran, Feb. 8 and 9 (it was 35 at the time, in 2014). The bulk of these are on the 8th. That's too early, one might think, to be Ma'an victims. But even without date fudging, the above can make you wonder. 

On the 8th, it says, 26 civilians were field executed, one teenage boy and the rest adult males, with the note "The execution of several people on the ground when the storming of the city." 10 died the next day, 4 of them clear massacre victims: two half-executed men who died later, two who were captured and then executed next day. Especially repeated family names: Qtait, Ibrahim, Ismael, Nabhan, Omer, Hussein.  

3 others at least the LCC also reports: 2 rebel brothers killed fighting in Ma'an on the 9th, so they don't count - and Ziad Ismael Husain al-Nabhan Adult male, age 40, killed by "regime`s army forces sniper`s gunfire" on the 9th - LCC has for that day "Souran: Zyad Al-Nbhan was martyred by regime's snipers gunfire in the city." But they never mentioned the storming of the city the day before, when dozens of civilians were massacred. Two were named Nabhan...


LCC: Feb 8 (via Uruknet) has 3 dead in Hama province, but the most demonstrations for the day. They have no martyr or 'regime crime' – or any - videos from Hama (except on the separate protests page) : "FSA Targets Regime Forces in Ma'an, Hama ... in Kafr Zeta in Hama the FSA repelled the attempts of the regime's army to shell the village ... Clashes between FSA and regime forces at regim's [sic] loyal village Maan's checkpoints." In Souran itself (as they spell, it, not goofed), nothing at all is mentioned.

Lack of "coordination?" 

Update: LCC Coverage
Well, as cool as that seemed, I goofed it up - Too many different years by now; that was 2013. Checking again, Feb. 8, 2014 - they do list it and were coordinated. In fact the top image is from this. Video of 5 executed men/boy (composite still at right)  Title:
ريف - حماة - صوران شهداء مجزرة ارتكبتها عصابة الأسد وشبيحته أثناء اقتحامها المدينة 8 - 2 2014
(Soran martyrs of the massacre committed by Assad and (Shabih) gang as they entered the city 8 - 2-2014) The scenery is just dirt, with no clues to help clarify if this is in Souran or maybe in Ma'an. And if it is Souran, it's also possible they were killed in Ma'an and just trucked here for effect. Note they're all on wrapping/carrying blankets already - at the lest we can say they weren't killed right here but moved a bit.

LCC reports for this day 32 martyrs in Hama. Relevant videos: "Soran,Hama: Assad's forces stormed the village and committed a massacre" (the one linked above) and  "Destruction in Souran, Hama" (rebels are in control now and filming in affected area). Text entries, in reverse chronological order: 

- Souran: Nidal Ahmad Ismael, Mouhamad Ahmad Ismael, Mhmoud Ahmad Ismael, Jumah Ismael Ismael, Usamah Ismael Ismael, Bsher Ismael Ismael, Yasir Mouhamad Mouhamad Ali, Ahmad awad Sloum, Mouhamad Yasen Al-Whbi, Abd Al-Qadr Ahmad Al-Nbhan, Mhmoud Abd Al-Hadi, Mouhamad Hsein Al-Ibrahem, Hsein Mouhamad Al-Mouhamad, Mutaz Hafith Ibrahem, Khalid Ahmad Al-Qtait, Mouhamad Muafq Al-Qtait, Ahmad Husam Al-Qtait, Mulham Jumah Al-Draj, Hsein Mouhamad Al-Khlou and Mohmoud Abd Al-Azezz Al-Nbhan were were executed on the ground by regime forces in the city.
- Souran: Number of martyrs who were executed on the ground by regime forces has risen to 20 martyrs.
- Souran: Regime forces executed six people on the ground during storming the neighborhood next to the detachment of military security in the city. (question: is this the 5+ we see above? Were they found and filmed, on those blankets, next to the security building?)
- Souran: Two FSA members were martyred due to clashes with regime forces in the city. (gaining access to the security building?)

As with the city destruction, the massacre victims are freely filmed by rebels who seem relaxed and in control of ... the military security buidling? This all sounds shady enough it's tempting to decide rebels did overrun Souran that day - besides Jalama - and Ma'an. But that really is a bit much for one day, especially when each one is accompanied by a reported massacre.

So in 2012, rebels were attacking Ma'an (update, LCC acknowledges fighting to control it at least), then they occupied it less openly, then later learned of a massacre there - that it turns out happened during their reported occupation. In 2014, rebels attack Ma'an, openly occupy it, and right away. learn of massacres - that happened in other towns. Still the lack of any enemy-side deaths, military or civilian, stands out as shady. Some people must have died, and they're either left out, or laundered. But so far, the seams of that aren't as clear as I first thought.

Al-Tamanaah Bus Victims
The other three Feb. 9 Souran deaths the VDC lists stand out as the spookiest link to the Ma'an Massacre, threatening to drag all these Souran martyrs that way. Above, the government is cited claiming 42 civilian victims … That may or may not include the three women presented as unidentified regime shelling victims (one of them a man), from Souran but killed near al-Tamanaah to the north, as they fled the south, and the violence no one else noticed ... probably passing through Ma'an ... or actually originating there. Rebels boasted how they left an axis open for civilians to escape.  It must be the north axis, for these poor folks to be nearing Tamanaah.
 
Rebels say their bus was hit with an artillery shell, and then they were on hand to take pictures. Consider, two of these women at least had their heads sliced with swords, it appears (see comparative graphic for the clearer case at right - I posted it on Twitter somewhere - and/or al-Tamanah bus victims) Or maybe it was artillery shells, as the rebels taking these photos claim. Alawite heretics are considered especially fit for beheading, throat-cutting, or, maybe to be less obvious - head-cutting like this. It's been seen around the edges of the Aqrab Massacre, for example.

Souran Summary:
VDC best count for this massacre: 30-34, depending if the sniper shooting or the bus victims count Scanning the LCC reports for April 8, 9 and 10 (all using the correct 2014 ones), it doesbn't seem the "Locals" heard about this incident. For Hama and Idlib, where Tamanaah actually is, no mention of people on a bus, or any similar grouping, or anything in Tamanaah or Khan Shikhoun area. How is it the LCC can miss the killing of these refugees from there, while they were also ignoring the Ma'an massacre?  It makes more sense if it's all the same thing, doesn't it?

Regime Forces
There are no 17-25 killed government fighters reflected in the VDC's separate databse for that. At least, not specified as dying in Hama province (it's not always noted, but usually, and can be falsified) - it's possible they were listed as civilians and blended into the Jalama or Souran allegations, which are heavy on the adult males. 

Depending on what "Hama" means, the VDC lists 2-5 apparently Ma'an defenders killed - or zero. These are partly after the massacre, apparently in the first battles to re-claim the place? In fact, none of these is dated for the main conquest on the 9th. Are they claiming it was a blood-free conquest, on the loser's side anyway? That can't be true.

Mouahmmed Ahmed Ibrahem
Province Lattakia Jabla - Brigadier general - died 2-11 in Maan (mistranslated Nan in English version)

Ahmed Sleiman, enigmatic "Shabih" hero
Ala'a Bakri Mahouk Hama 2-10 rank: unknown

Ali Hafez Naman rank unknown - from Baniyas - died 2 -12 in Maan


Ahmed Shaban Sleman from, rank: unknown
died 2-10 in Kokab (Kawkab on the map here, south of Maan) - photo, right
Notes: National Defense Forces

Ala'a Mouahmed Hemdoush
Province Lattakia  Qadmous
 Second Lieutenant  photo
2-08 shooting Hama

Summary
VDC's non-Ma'an totals: 17 Jalama + (31-34) Souran + (0-5) regime = 48-55 deaths. Compare that to Ma'an totals of 45+ (SOHR) or 42+(17-25) = 59-67. The number of victims we're looking for in a non-listed massacre is about the same as these combined records. Between the less-substantiated massacres, the few non-laundered fighters they list, and maybe a few missing entries, maybe these two batches are the same - the VDC does list the Ma'an victims, just shifted to two other towns. 

I haven't done a detailed comparison by gender and name groupings yet. This might or might not show a useful pattern. But one immediate note is how among the dozens of names given by the VDC and LCC, none of them is Qaddour. Even if the few missing entries were Qaddours, it's not enough to match what the pro-government sources found. If the Ma'an victims were shifted to either of these other incidents, they had their names altered as well. That would be a smart plan, or a basic part of one anyway.


But we have a similar number of dead at about the same time (as explained, February 8 deaths are quite likely). And they're all in about the same area. The map here shows it's not so large - about 28 km (17.5 miles) between Ma'an and Jalama. That's too far to be part of the same offensive, but close enough it could be all Ma'an-area deaths just fudged a bit.

Why they would fudge it just a bit instead of clear across the country, or out of the record entirely, is a good question. I don't know. Maybe none of this does line up. But it seems worth laying out, anyway.


Deaths by Shooting: The Rebellion Begins in Hama, Part 1

Deaths by Shooting
The Rebellion Begins in Hama, Part 1
July 19, 2015
last edits August 2

(re-posted August 1 for Armed Forces Day in Syria, which this event marked 4 years ago)

Here's a little more historical revisionism on the "peaceful" Arab Spring "protests of 2011," ruthlessly crushed we were told by the "Assad regime," forcing the protesters to take up arms and fight and forcing others to support that, unavoidably leading to a grinding civil war that's claimed hundreds of thousands of lives...

In contrast to cities like Deraa, Baniyas, and Homs, Syria's central city of Hama (alt: Hhamah, Arabic: حماه ) got a slower start. The first soldier from Hama province was killed where he was stationed, in Douma, Damascus, on March 30 per the opposition Violations Documentation Center (VDC). That's nearly a month before they record any Hama civilians killed, on April 22. That was a Friday protest-turned-violent with sniper shootings that spurred the earliest western news reports of a deadly crackdown in Hama (ACLOS section). 10 civilian men from different parts of the province are listed as killed by shooting, perhaps in some protest in the city, or elsewhere. No explanation is provided.

From there, daily violence went up and down but with more up, through May and June and into July. Protests, prayers, and funerals were all disrupted by disputed shooting and deaths. An alleged protest singer, who was more likely an informant for the government, was slaughtered by disputed parties around July 4 (see part 3). At least three men were robbed and/or savagely murdered at or near a certain checkpoint between July 7 and 9 (see part 4) The authorities kept on blaming armed gangs, or "terrorists" supported by outside powers, bent on both destabilizing and demonizing the Syrian government. "Activists" and their political supporters of course blamed a regime unwilling to bow to their legitimate requests, and prepared for any level of brutality.

It was this contentious situation the US ambassador at the time, Robert Ford, was faced with when he visited Hama in early July and showed support for the protests. This visit and his statements, compared to his job history and the facts, are covered in a part two to this article. In short, he found no signs of armed opposition like Damascus claimed, and concluded there could not possibly be any - a message he simply repeated more firmly after the events of July 31 - considered next - clarified the point for him

July 31: A Real Massacre in Hama
Wikipedia's Siege of Hama page currently says:
Over 500,000 citizens had rallied in the city on 29 July, following Muslim prayers in which a pro-rebel cleric told the congregation "the regime must go".[23] Local support for the government had imploded by 30 July in both Homs, Deir ez-Zor and Hama.[23][24][25] President Assad sent his "Terror Buses" packed with private Alawite militia and party loyalists into Hama on 30 July.[26]
That sounds like a recipe for massacre, and no surprise, a killing by the Army and by Alawite "Shabiha" thugs was alleged on July 31 (see ACLOS section, needing updated)

One horrible video among several published shows a man with the whole upper 2/3 of his head blown away and missing, and the remaining chin and jaw somehow halfway off the neck (or ??).  Presumably he was shot by something massive at the very spot he's found, laying on a city street by fellow protesters who were not hit by the ... sniper with a heavy anti-aircraft gun? RPG or mortar shell?

But on closer inspection, he's shed almost no tissue or even blood here, nor en route. The blood trail is one damp spot right under his head, as shown at right.He wasn't shot here or carried here, but laid, from a pickup bed probably, for no clear reason but to be seen dead on a city street.  The worst bleeding even stopped some time ago, there's no other blood in any direction, and this "trail" leads to massacre marketing.

The sold product was purchased: 'Scores dead' as Syrian tanks storm Hama city, Al-Jazeera reported on July 31: 
The National Organisation for Human Rights, a Syrian activist group, said ... at least 100 deaths in Hama, after tanks and soldiers stormed the city ... US President Barack Obama said he was appalled by the Syrian government's use of violence against its people and promised to work with others to isolate President Bashar al-Assad. "The reports out of Hama are horrifying and demonstrate the true character of the Syrian regime," Obama said in a statement released by the White House on Sunday." 
The Guardian on August 1 spoke of "up to 85 who reportedly died in Hama on Sunday, the bloodiest day yet of the uprising." That would be the major, civilian portion, as we'll see, of more than 100 killed. The  VDC lists 87 civilians from Hama killed this day. All are adult males, killed by shooting, many or all with the notes "Died by gunfire" and no further information past name and area, which is often vague. Men from Hama:(blank), Hama:Hama, and a few from specified areas, were killed. Repeat family names: Tarsha x2, al-Masri x4, Mlieh/Mleih x2.

These records may be slightly padded, massively inflated, or accurate - it's not certain. The names may or may not be correct. But it seems to be the best available representation of what activists allege was the day's death toll.

The presumptions was protesters murdered by security forces, and nothing I've seen yet directly contradicts that. But as research precedent suggests, it's totally reasonable to wonder if any of these were local civilians killed by extremists, based on political or religious differences. To most people July 2011 might seem a bit early in the conflict for that, but this is too early in the article to decide that. The vague 80+ is not all going into that "at least 100 deaths," and the other part changes the surface appearance, like rocks along the bottom of a low-running river.

Deaths at the Prison, Hader Police Station, etc.
Another competing set of allegations, both of which became obscured by the massacre of 100, involves other alleged violence, in a prison, and/or against state security forces.

Gulf News mentioned, in a report on the day's violence, unconfirmed government claims that "eight police were killed while "confronting armed terrorist groups" in Hama." (primary source perhaps in time - it wasn't easy to find). Continuing, it says state news "said the military entered Hama to purge armed groups that were terrorising citizens, an account dismissed as "nonsense" by a US diplomat in Damascus." (That would be Robert Ford or a deputy - again, see part 2.)

Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya's report included as an aside to the main shooting in the city, another incident of interest; "Activists said security forces also stormed Hama’s central prison to break up a mutiny and opened fire on prisoners."

So we have a prison clash - prisoners and possibly guards dead, numbers unclear - and the government says "policemen" died. As usual, stories differ, and maybe these are just two different stories.

The fullest list we'll start with is the opposition VDC with 26 regime forces fatalities with death, location Hama, on July 31, 2011. All are adult male, non-civilian, killed by "shooting." They cite this or similar Arabic-language Syrian Interior Ministry articles - not any reports from their own network or other opposition groups. I'll use their victim ordering, name transliteration, and other details as the basis for each entry below.

Partial confirmation comes from the pro-government Syrian Center for Documentation (SCD), with no single link I know of. I found several matches clustered around martyr #100, with others perhaps scattered later on or earlier (I may dig deeper, later).

Further, several matches were found in a huge list I didn't trawl entirely, provided in 2015 by the pro-Assad Dr. Shadi Nasr here on Blogspot (Arabic). Each of those killed July 31 is listed something like "tasked with maintaining security and order in the city of Hama with his colleagues and had the honor of martyrdom after he was assassinated by bullets malevolent by armed terrorist groups were irrigated his blood pure soil of the beloved Syria."

Photos are from one or another of these pro-government sources.
4 Hussein Mohammed, policeman from Aleppo

1 Ahmad Fadl Al-Aakel - Warrnat (Warrant) Officer First Class (category-wide typo there, corrected here) from Idlib  Kafrenbil  Martyrdom location Hama: Souran - VDC

2 Hassan Muhammad Deeb al-Mustafa    - Policeman  from Tartous  Kharab 24 unmarried Police Command Personnel In Hama-External Branch - VDC

3 Hassan Ameen Salih - Policeman - from  Tartous  Haderiya  23 unmarried Police Command Personnel In Hama-External Branch - VDC

4 Hussein Rasheen Al-Mohammad - Policeman  from Aleppo  Ezaz- Ghaytoun   21- Police Command Personnel In Hama - Hader Police Station - he joined the Internal Security Forces on 2/10/2010. with a rank of the Police Command in Hama - Hader Police Station. - VDC - SCD adds DoB 1991-01-01

5 Rateb Fayad Shamma - Warrant Officer First Class - from  Homs - VDC

6 Sami Ahmad Shaaban - Policeman - from Tartous  Sendyanah- Ein Hafadh age 27. Notes: From Police Command Personnel In Hama - External Branch - VDC - Nasr adds "joined the force 07.23.2005 after graduating from the College of the brave martyr ... on 31.07.2011 was tasked with maintaining security and order in the city of Hama with his colleagues and had the honor of martyrdom after he was assassinated by bullets malevolent by armed terrorist groups..."

7 Shadi Fahde Ibraheem - Policeman - from Homs:  Quseir- Naarah - age 29 Martyrdom location Hader Police Station- Hama. Notes: Police Command Personnel In Hama- Hader Police Station - VDC - SCD DoB 1982-02-01

8 Salah Ibrahim Al-Zanak - Colonel  - from Tartous  Banyas: Deir Al-Bishl Martyrdom location Homs Road- Hama - Another source mentioned that he was a Lieutenant - VDC

9 Abdul-hakeem Abdul-kareem al-Khalid - Policeman - from Hama Mwarrek (Morek) 33 Married and had four children Martyrdom location Hader Police Station- Hama. Notes: Police Command Personnel In Hama- Hader Police Station - VDC - SCD DoB 1978-02-15

10 Abdulla Khatib, policeman from Aleppo
10 Abdullah Muhammad al-Khateeb - Policeman  - from Aleppo  Efreen   age 21 Martyrdom location Hader Police Station- Hama Cause of Death Shooting Rank Policeman Notes Police Command Personnel In Hama- Hader Police Station - VDC - SCD DoB 1991-01-09

11 Adnan Mostafa Sakhyata - Warrnat Officer First Class  - from Idlib  Khan Sheikhoun   age 41 Married and had three children. Police Command Personnel In Hama - Hader Police Station - VDC - SCD DoB 1969-12-01

12 Ali Muhammad Khalil - Policeman  - from Hama  Masyaf- Hakre Aataq age 36 married Police Command Personnel In Hama- Central Security Unit - VDC - SCD DoB 1974-09-15

13 Ghassan Mohammad Al-Hamwi - Warrant Officer First Class  - from Homs  - VDC

14 Fadi Hussein Kouk Oghlie - Policeman  - from Aleppo  Arab Azzah 23 unmarried Police Command Personnel In Hama- Central Security Unit - VDC

15 Qadour Khaled Al-Halabi     Warrnat Officer First Class  Adult - Male  Hama  Mwarrek   46 Married and had four children Police Command Personnel In Hama - Hader Police Station - VDC

16 Muhammad Ahmad Sam'o - Policeman  - from Aleppo  Tatiyah 23 unmarried Police Command Personnel In Hama - Central Security Unit - VDC

17 Muhammad Rashid Al-Satouf - Policeman  - from Hama  Kafrenabaudeh - 30, unmarried. Notes: he joined the Internal Security Forces on 23/10/2010 with a rank of the Police Command in Hama - the Security and Riot police Units - VDC 

18 Muhammad Suleiman Quteish - Warrnat Officer First Class  - from Idlib  Marzita age 48, married with 7 children, Police Command Personnel In Hama - Hader Police Station - VDC - SCD DoB 1963-05-04 

19 Muhammad Tahir al-Sayadi - Corporal  - from Hama  Mohardet Zalaqiat 43, married with 7 children. Martyrdom location Hader Police Station - Hama. Police Command Personnel In Hama - Hader Police Station - VDC - SCD DoB 1968-07-10

20 Mahmoud al-Abboud, policeman
from Idlib province, age: almost 37,
leaving a widow and 7 orphans
20 Mahmoud Jomaa al-Aboud - Policeman  - from Idlib  Heesh - age 37 (not quite)  Police Command Personnel In Hama - Field Branch - VDC. Dr. Nasr adds he was "married and has seven children" and DoB 08/01/1974 - he died one day short of his 37th birthday.

21 Naem Jameel Al-Tareef     Warrant Officer First Class  - from  Hama  Rabe'ah - age 43. Martyrdom location Hama. Notes: He died due to an attack on the Officers' Club in Hama  - VDC

22 Safwan Mohamad Soubhi Wardeh - Sergeant  - from Aleppo  Al-Atarb. Age 21 - Martyrdom location Hama: Suran - VDC 

23 Hassan Muhammad Yassin -21, unmarried - Policeman - from Idlib  Papolin. Martyrdom location Hama. Notes: with a rank of the Police Command in Hama - the Security and Riot police Units he joined the Internal Security Forces on 23/10/2010. - VDC - SCD area: Edlib adlb-baboulin DoB 1991-03-15 (the uprising started on his 20th birthday before it took his life a few months later)

24 Fawzy Mohammad Al-Abbas - Sergeant  Adult - Male  Hama  Harbnafsa - married - Martyrdom location Hama - VDC  

25 Souleman Abbas Souleman - Warrant Officer First Class  Adult - Male  Hama  Mesyaf - 46, married - Martyrdom location Hama Souran - VDC

26 Redwan Mohammad Kheir al-Mohammad  - Warrant Officer First Class  Adult - Male  Raqqa - 44, married - Martyrdom location Hama: Souran - VDC

So by this, 13 policemen and 13 military servicemen were killed. Many were older, aged around 40 or older, and others seem to be  20 to 24, with few ages in between. A few too many have exactly 7 children. These details may not all be exactly correct, but there seems little reason to doubt that many or all these people were killed, many wives widowed, children orphaned, other family and friends bereaved. A nation was also wounded here, neither for the first nor the last time.

Many (8 total) were listed as killed at Hader police station, and others at Police Command Personnel In Hama - External Branch, which might be the same place, or a different one. Hader police station is labeled on Wikimapia as here, behind the civil defense station, in the northwest of Hama. See map.

These three others - also called police - were with the "central security unit," which actually might be the central prison mentioned, with live shooting at the inmates. However, none of the civilians VDC lists dying in Syria this day has "prison" in their martyrdom location or notes - only perhaps these three policemen are specified that way.

The map at left (the dump part explained below) shows the relation between the station and the central prison across town in the southwest; at nearly 4km apart, an incident at one cannot be directly related to or confused with the other. This must be two different incidents, the prison one seeming less substantial but still deadly - for those running it. It's likely a real uprising/takeover attempt would be coordinated with outside attacks, maybe with an intent to merge the stories. But they don't seem to be able to explain each other at all, and I don't see the stories merged anywhere, yet.

It's reported soldiers were restoring order / fighting rebels in the city, and thus possibly dying from that. But consider this: some clues suggest the attackers didn't just shoot into the police station, but took it over for a period - they apparently collected at least 13 bodies of their victims and held them overnight - suggesting a large armed group, with a base and so on. They may have hit other places, if just in passing. One victim is listed by the VDC as dying in an attack on the "officer's club" (probably somewhere in the same area). And considering the map, it's worth wondering if any servicemen were killed at home. This may have been a morning attack, and just north of Hader station, Wikimapia lists "compound villas / officer housing."

Also, consider the timing of the event: August 1 is Army Day in Syria, as president Assad's special address marked it on the day after this massacre, lauding the military's steadfastness against terrorists (PDF link English version).

As for the larger portion of the day's toll, the 80+ civilian deaths by shooting, let's re-consider it in this light: were they all gunmen killed by security forces in these attacks or in clashes after (provoked)? Were they peaceful protesters hit instead of the attackers, or at least a pure mix of different kinds of security forces victims?

Or is some chunk of this local civilians killed by the same terrorist gangs that seemingly went on a new level of attack that day? Could it even be the majority of the victims fit that bill, being loyalists, Alawitres, or just disposable people? From my research, it's more likely than not to be the case. But at the moment, it seems hard to get and information about and impossible to settle. And so we focus on what we can see direct evidence for.

Terrorists Dump Their Trash
It was reportedly the next day, August 1, but maybe July 31 itself, when a horrible scene unfolded on a bridge over the verdant and aromatic Orontes river at the northern edge of Hama (placement explained below). In a scene noted widely at the time but left murky, a pickup truck full of at least 6-7 bloodied corpses of men in civilian dress clothes was driven to the middle of a highway bridge.

In broad afternoon daylight a jeering crowd carried the bodies one by one to the railing and, shouting Allahu Akbar, rolled them over into the water tens of meters below. As each one hits, he comes apart somewhat and blood races ahead in a red streak north up the river as his body snags on bottom debris. A total of 8 corpses, one wrapped in a rug, make that splash.

This video was covered prominently, in fact, by CNN's Arwa Damon on August 2. Some like Syria 360 call this report a "whitewash," but by CNN standards it's not bad. It questioned activist claims, unusually, and said it just wasn't clear what happened; while "the posting on the video says the bodies are anti-government forces being dumped by thugs loyal to President Bashar al-Assad," it wasn't actually clear who the victims were. "Were they among the 1,600 civilians or 370 security forces slain in the unrest?"

This is the closest the corporate media can get to saying activist claims were patently untrue. And she probably didn't even line it up with the available evidence like I will here to virtually prove it. It was just evident in so many ways the guess seemed unavoidable even to a known rebel massacre marketer like Damon (see reportage on the Khamis Brigade Shed Massacre in Libya, for one example).
The video, two postings with two different stories, for thee stories total including the one blaming pro-Assad "thugs" dumping "anti-government forces"
* RAW, Syria, GRAPHIC surviving protesters in Hama throwing their dead into the river 01,08 2011
* UPDATE [31/7/2011] Syria, Hama: "Peaceful" intellectuals dump bodies into river (GRAPHIC)
(note: July 31 someone's time...)

The second one embedded:


Damon's report for CNN translated the dialog, disproving the first posting's claim.
"Brother of a whore!" they shouted as the corpses splashed and the water ran red. "Animals!" "Dogs!" At one point, a voice asks mockingly, "This is a soldier?"
No, they were policemen, it seems. Damon passed on the differing responses of opposition activists, including one prominent but unnamed (I'm guessing Rami Abdlerahman of the SOHR) who "told CNN the state TV account was correct," the victims were "Syrian secret police" killed by Iraq insurgency veterans come home to do the same in Syria. "That same activist stressed that the antagonists are not representative of the protest movement," but ... they were real-life terrorists, in at least one "gang." Recall the VDC listed 13 of the victims as policemen, citing government records, and consider state media reported 13 bodies recovered from the river after this, as a still-available video posting with English subtitles explains (footage may be placed later). 

The exact number match might be a coincidence - in fact it seems 3 of the police may have died in the prison, presumably killed by mutinying inmates. Their bodies would not likely leave the premises. But other clues bear out the likelihood of this match among the rest. Note most victims wear uniform clothes - gray slacks, black socks, white dress shirt or undershirt. This seems like police station attire, with only distinguishing jackets, caps, and footwear removed.

The victims seem fairly fresh; the blood is wet and bright red. But the limpness suggests rigor mortis has already faded, consistent with a next-morning video (seen below) Unless rigor mortis hadn't set in, and this is a July 31 video, right after a morning massacre. It's possible some were never even killed on site but taken captive and executed later. Some victims seem to have been bound (see still above, a loose tie on the left wrist of a falling victim). The injuries suggest execution at least, and maybe worse: a hole in lower throat and sliced to shoulder are, I think, evident on the shirtless man tossed over the rails at 2:10.

The still above shows - besides a guy with a rifle - at least two other people filming the scene, footage that apparently was never published like this (leaked?) view.  Only about 8 bodies are seen in the video - a standard truckload. This to a dumped total of 13 means another truck likely brought the rest, probably after this one, in another dumping that was not filmed and shared like the first.

How many other terrorist incidents like this have Syria's "pro-democracy activists" or allies filmed like this, but failed to show or even mention, at least honestly? This one stray reporting was posted as Shabiha dumping protesters.

Location and Comparing Location Theories 
Location: the sun is a bit low, I'd guess afternoon but it's probably morning, from the east. The light is visibly from ahead of the truck, a bit from the far (right) side. This  means it's on a roughly east-west bridge. There's only one spot that easily fits, here on Wikimapia, and marked on the map above - on the northwest edge of Hama, truck pointed east. The river flows north here, and comparing it that way, the scenery visible (mainly to the north) seems to be an exact match.


above: looking west
above:  views to the southwest and west, across the bridge - nothing but a hill to the south, a house and small trees to the north.

left: views to the north up the river and to the northwest shore - note small shack at a dip in the shoreline and larger tree, those curving paths up the slope, etc.

below: the scene as recorded in two other months of August, from Google Earth. Note matches in the distance hous, the shack by the river, the curving road down to it, the fields across, and other details that totally match.


This match isn't 100% certain at the moment, but close enough easily for me to call it, and to venture this comparison of two assessments:

The CNN report said "Syrian state TV has aired the video, saying that the bodies are being dumped by anti-government protesters. A banner said the incident took place in Hama over the Orontes River." Yes, inside city limits even, or close, and over the Orontes river (by the way, the same river is called al-Assi upstream near Homs - between the stretches this river has floated hundreds or thousands of corpses in this war so far). The exact spot is 1.8 km west-northwest of the stricken police station. The driving direction was towards it, by how the truck is parked (may have U-turned). But it seems to be the following morning, not right after the event.

The victims seem fairly fresh; the blood is wet and bright red. But the limpness suggests rigor mortis has already faded - unless it hasn't set in, and this is a July 31 video, right after a morning massacre. Or perhaps they were never even killed on site but taken captive and executed later. In fact, this could explains Syria's claim of 8 police killed - they knew 13 were abducted, and saw 8 dumped on that video.


The anti-Assad VDC  had (or would have) 13 police killed, and heard about these videos of 13 bodies tossed in the river within a day of that. Perhaps fearing the obvious connection, their director told CNN the dumping happened somewhere else, not in Hama. "Razan Zaitouneh, a Syrian activist, said activists doubt the incident could have happened at the Hama location because the river is dry at this time of year."

That's another claim we can check. Google Earth images show the river at this stretch wet and running, if green, in every image that I see. But focusing on this increasingly dry time of the year:
* Aug 25 and 27 2013, running with a wet, uniform surface the usual width.
* September 21, August 29, and July 17 2012: same, with only minor variations.
* All of 2011 is skipped but August 6, 2010 shows the same as the rest.

See two of these in the image above. Nowhere does it appear dry, although it could be low. The August 25 image shows a rough surface, maybe just tricking over rocks at the bottom. We don't get 2011 images, but the video suggests it's low - the bodies move little, hit objects and just stay there. They were recovered probably quite near. And we can say this seems consistent with a low, but not dry, Orontes river in the dry season - say, August 1.

So we can see it wasn't faked in any other place, unless it was a very well-chose site with so many exact similarities. And it was not faked, it seems, at any other time of year. The video relates to the massacre(s) of July 31, as armed terrorist groups began their efforts to destabilize the state.

Add July 21: a source I forgot - an investigative piece at Storyful (left blame unclear) passes on that the VDC's pals in the Local Coordinating Committees also pushed this video away from Hama on river dryness - however it wasn't a seasonal, but intentional draw-down.
1) The Assi river has been dry for a month and a half now because the dams at Rastan have not been opened to allow water to flow.

This is possible - we can see it usually flows but if it were totally stopped, that would be abother story. There are plenty of dams along the way. There are no satellite images of this span, or 2011 at all, to check against. But that's clearly the right spot, so are they alleging it was faked earlier? No, they say it happened far away... 



2) There is no such bridge in Hama.

False. Even the Storyful journalist figured that out with the help of a video (now gone), pointing to the same spot I just found as a clear and exact match.

3) There is no background noise whatsoever in the video Not even a splash. Nothing.



Microphone dynamics, dude, and little splash - it's so low they're almost just hitting the ground.

4) the way this video was distributed by unknown sources and the timing, suggests that it was released by the regime to justify an attack on Hama. This video was most likely taken in Jisr el Shughur, and shows pro-regime militia disposing on civilian bodies.



Except, the dumpers don't look like security forces, the dumped do, it seems rebels killed security forces in Jisr al-Shughour as well and lied about it, but this scene was clearly filmed at the bridge in northwest Hama.  

They go on to say that after four months, the regime can come up with no valid accusations against Hama, so they have resorted to making some up.

Local Coordinating committes - this is what they call themselves. Local means on the ground, with direct knowledge, and so they are a trusted source for many. But here at least, all they can come up with is easily falsifiable lies about the country's geography, in an effort to obscure and shift blame for the crimes of the terrorist allies? Weak, besides wrong. 

This Storyful report also addresses a theory that anti-government killers could only be members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the insults against presumably Muslim victims, as heard, (and are they presuming Sunni?) would be out of line for them. Apparently the Brotherhood are totally okay with Shia and Alawi? Even in Syria? I'm no expert on them, but ... how are they going to win and get support from Turkey, KSA, all their clerics, etc. with that attitude? They'd be called pawns of Assad and Iran. Sounds like crap to me.  But maybe it's true, and these aren't exactly MB members, but allies more of the Al Qaeda stripe, etc. Maybe this was a straw man argument they tore down.

And also a video transcription that adds:
Don’t film us, guys

Don’t film, don’t film


(implied: if you do, don't publicize)

God curse your origins ... Damn your religion
...
This one, his throat’s cut ... Good work, guys

Overall Conclusion
Do we actually need a conclusion here? Maybe ... later.

For snark, we can note President Obama did not cite the bridge dump video, or the Hader police station or officer's club attacks, as he "promised to work with others to isolate President Bashar al-Assad." But having it put back in this context - not the one Obama meant - the facts in Hama "are horrifying," and Obama would be right to say these terrorist crimes, and the resilience, defiance, and accuracy of their targets "demonstrate the true character of the Syrian regime" - and the true character of the sick conspiracy against them.