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‘False flag’ attack in Fouaa and Kefraya?

Apr 19,2017 - Last updated at Apr 19,2017

Last Saturday’s suicide bombing of buses carrying Shiite civilian evacuees from the towns of Fouaa and Kefraya has not drawn condemnation from world leaders aside from Roman Catholic Pope Francis, a humanitarian figure without a disturbing political agenda.

Writing in The Independent, Robert Fisk makes the point that there was not a word from Washington, not a tweet from Trump, no condemnation from EU foreign policy spokeswoman Federica Mogherini.

No missiles were fired to punish the perpetrators.

The attack was quickly claimed by Jaish Al Islam’s general command on its Facebook site.

The group vowed to stop the evacuation of Fouaa and Kefraya and to “make hell for the kufar” (unbelievers).

The text said the “special forces of Jaish Al Islam had targeted the buses that transport the Shiite fighters from Kefraya and Al Fouaa. They were the killing tools for our people and our families... And we are announcing that fighters from Kefraya and Al Fouaa are our legitimate target.”

The communiqué was issued by the spokesperson for the general command of Jaish Al Islam, Hamza Beraqdar.

Based in Jaish Al Islam-held territory, in eastern Ghouta, he is well known to those tracking the claims and comments of this group and its allies.

This claim, recorded by a friend in Damascus on his cell phone, was removed from the group’s Facebook page when it was learned the majority of those killed by the suicide bomber were not “fighters” but children, women and elderly men.

Among the 109 townspeople slain were 68 children.

Since this posting had been removed, the international community could safely announce there was no claim of responsibility.

This is surprising, as intelligence agencies across the world closely monitor the Facebook and website posts of taqfiri groups operating in this region and abroad.

The US, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia and others promptly blamed the Syrian government for the alleged poison gas attack that is said to have slain at least 74 civilians at Khan Shaikhoun on April 4.

The government denied responsibility and President Bashar Assad belatedly called the accusation a “100 per cent fabrication”.

Commentators who queried the allegation asked why Damascus would carry out such an operation at a time the US was saying Assad should stay on, his troops were advancing on the ground against a range of insurgents and he had secured the demand to include “terrorism” on the agenda of UN-brokered talks aimed at ending the war.

Instead of gaining by this attack, the government suffered from a change of policy by the Trump administration, demonisation and damage.

The poison gas pretext was used to justify the April 7 attack with 59 US cruise missiles on the Syrian Shayarat airbase near Homs.

This was launched before there was a serious investigation into the event at Khan Shaikhoun, a town in the Idlib province held by Tahrir Al Sham, the coalition of taqfiri factions led by Al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Fatah Al Sham, the most dangerous of these groups now that Daesh is being decimated in Syria and Iraq.

Leading US weapons expert Theodore Postol argues that the US has presented no “concrete” evidence the government bombed Khan Shaikhoun with a chemical weapon.

Postol says: “In fact, the main piece of evidence that is cited [in the White House document] points to an attack that was executed by individuals on the ground, not from an aircraft, on the morning of April 4.

“This conclusion is based on an assumption made by the White House when it cited the source of the sarin release and the photographs of that source. My own assessment is that the source was very likely tampered with or staged, so no serious conclusion could be made from the photographs cited by the White House.”

In his view, the state of the shell said to have contained sarin is inconsistent with damage caused by aerial delivery.

Postol holds that an explosive charge was detonated on top of a shell containing sarin, releasing the compressed gas and causing a shallow crater.

He holds that the White House did not consult experts before launching its cruise missiles.

“No competent analyst would miss the fact that the alleged sarin canister was forcefully crushed from above, rather than exploded by ammunition within it.”

He implies a “false flag” attack.

Following 2013 sarin attacks east and west of Damascus, he also expressed reservations over charges that the government was responsible.

The UN report, drawn up by experts who visited the sites where sarin was said to have been used, did not allocate blame.

Postol, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor emeritus and former US department of defence advisor, has long been critical of US intelligence reports which, in his view, have suffered from “politicisation”.

I wonder what he thought of former US secretary of state Colin Powell’s 2003 lying address to the UN Security Council, providing the George W. Bush administration’s case for waging war on Iraq.

Or of British prime minister Tony Blair’s 2002 claim that Iraqi president Saddam Hussein could deploy chemical weapons within 45 minutes.

This was dismissed by UN weapons inspector Hans Blix as a “fundamental mistake” and revealed as a lie when, after the US-UK war on Iraq, no chemical, biological or nuclear weapons were found.

It is obvious that the slaughter of the innocents from Fouaa and Kefraya has also been politicised.

Fisk accuses world leaders of mourning Sunni but not Shiite children.

This very well could be the case, but the townspeople of Fouaa and Kefraya are also portrayed in Western media as “pro-government”, therefore deserving death and mutilation.

They were, however, simple people living in towns garrisoned by a number of troops and besieged by taqfiri fighters who kidnapped civilians and in September 2015 staged a suicide bombing seriously damaging Fouaa,

After Fouaa and Kefraya came under siege and blockade, the government provided food and medical supplies by making drops from helicopters.

The International Committee of the Red Cross and World Food Programme, operating under the auspices of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, reached a deal to deliver humanitarian goods to Fouaa and Kefraya at the same time aid was provided to the government-besieged, insurgent-held towns of Zabadani and Madaya, west of Damascus.

This pairing was extended to the withdrawal of fighters from the latter, which was carried out at the same time as the evacuation of civilians and some government forces from the former.

 

The taqfiri fighters being relocated from Zabadani and Madaya were not, of course, targeted by colleagues in Jaish Al Islam and reached Idlib safely.

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