Annex II

Inquiry into allegations of chemical weapons used in
Khan Shaykhun, Idlib, on 4 April 2017

I.Initial reports and allegations

⚠ Demolition in progress.
 Last update: Monday, 18th September, 2017; 11 pm GMT

1. On the morning of 4 April, public reports emerged1 that shortly after sunrise a series of airstrikes were launched on Khan Shaykhun, a town in southern Idlib which borders northern Hama. Khan Shaykhun is controlled by armed groups including Ahrar al-Sham and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an umbrella coalition of extremist factions led by terrorist group Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (previously Jabhat al-Nusra). Throughout the day, news outlets2 and social media reported that dozens of civilians had died and hundreds of residents were suffering from symptoms consistent with exposure to sarin.3 The allegations would amount to the first sarin attack in the Syrian Arab Republic since 21 August 2013 when approximately 1,000 people were killed in Ghouta4 due to sarin exposure. Some hours later, between 11.30 and 1.30 p.m., the al-Rahma medical point and civil defence centre in Khan Shaykhun, which neighbour each other,5 were reportedly hit by airstrikes while treating patients of the alleged sarin attack. The al-Rahma medical point served as the main trauma facility6 in Khan Shaykhun.


Several points need to be made very clear from the outset in considering this report and the two OPCW reports upon which it is largely based.

  • The fact that news outlets and social media accounts report en event, is no proof at all that the event has happened as they tell it, or indeed at all. This is quite unarguable.
  • Every event has the attributes place and time. Photos and videos without verifiable date and time or without corroborating evidence of time cannot be adduced as evidence. This also is unarguable.It is possible to discover the time a video was uploaded to YouTube and the time it was published. It is generally quite impossible to prove when it was made.
  • The ar-Rahma (Mercy) ‘hospital’, here demoted to ‘medical point’, but promoted to ‘main trauma facility for Khan Sheikhun’, is, and ever was, a private fortified sick-room for the use of the White Helmets.
  • The White Helmets’ station is situated to the east of the town, easily isolable from traffic and surrounded by structures or natural features that hide its activities from prying eyes.

1 It is reported below that the ‘deadly’ event took place at 6:45 am. In fact the times reported vary from 6:00 am (SAMS Doctor Tennari) to past 7:00 am. but let that pass for the moment. The first social media mention of this event that I can find, came at 8:51 am, more than two hours after UNCoI’s picked-at-random ‘impact time’.. So far as I can tell, the ball was set rolling by terrorist reporter Mousa al-Omar, who tweets and posts only in Arabic and resides unmolested in London. It was Al-Omar also who set the ball rolling for the expensive but ineffectual al-Habit legless boy hoax in February. Having 469,000 Twitter followers, he is an ideal shill for the propagation of these deceits. You will discover that within minutes of al-Omar’s Facebook post, the flood began.
2 It must be clearly understood that the only ‘news outlets’ reporting on this affair were NuNusra/HTS-terrorist-aligned agencies and reporters.
3 Given that the only attested sarin attack took place in the interior of a metro train in Tokyo, it is amazing how quickly the whole population of Khan Sheikhun and the world at large became experts in this chemical.
4 Ghouta 2013 is mentioned here merely as a rhetorical device.
5 Ar-Rahma ‘medical point’, hitherto always referred to deliberately as a ‘hospital’, is part and parcel of the White Helmets’ station outside the town to the east. It is one room with four, perhaps five, beds; not a public facility but serving the needs of the White Helmets alone.
6 To say that ar-Rahma served as the ‘main trauma facility’ in Khan Sheikhun would be nothing more than ridiculous if this report were not claiming to be serious. Several videos produced by the terrorists and their collaborators show this room and the beds are almost invariably empty. One or two rarer videos show an apparently healthy child being examined—not treated—on one of the beds, all the other beds being vacant. In short, this now-demoted—and none too soon!—‘hospital’ is not even made out in the terrorists’ copious video record, to be a useful ‘medical point’ with respect to the claimed ‘sarin bomb’ attack. Its only relevance is owing to its being situated in the White Helmets’ conveniently secluded compound—of which more anon.

II.Statements by Russian and Syrian authorities

2.During the course of the day on 4 April, Russian and Syrian authorities made public statements concerning the events in Khan Shaykhun. Both denied the involvement of Syrian forces in the alleged sarin attack suggesting instead that terrorist groups were responsible. The Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation released a statement saying that the Syrian air force had struck a terrorist depot in Khan Shaykhun between 11.30 a.m. and 12.30 pm,1 and that the depot included workshops where chemical warfare munitions were produced.1The Syrian Army issued a statement denying it had used chemical agents in Khan Shaykhun and that responsibility for the attack lied [sic] with militants.2

3.Syrian and Russian officials continued to make statements after 4 April. At a press conference on 6 April, the Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs repeated the Russian Federation Ministry of Defence claim by saying that the Syrian “army attacked an arms depot belonging to Jabhat al-Nusra chemical weapons”. He denied that Government forces had used chemical weapons instead explaining that the first airstrike carried out by Syrian forces in Khan Shaykhun on 4 April was at 11.30 a.m.3 Subsequently, during an interview on 13 April, President Bashar al-Assad denied that the Syrian army had used sarin and said that the allegations were fabricated, noting “the West, mainly the United States, is hand-in-glove with the terrorists. They fabricated the whole story in order to have a pretext for the attack [on the Shayrat airbase]”. He added that “[i]f they said that we launched the sarin attack from that airbase, what happened to the sarin when they attacked the depots?”4, suggesting the Syrian army’s deployment concept for sarin relied on the storage of the agent itself.5 Finally, President al-Assad took the position that Khan Shaykhun is not a strategic area and that the Government does not have army or battles there.6 On 2 May, the Russian Federation Ministry of Defence said that Soviet ammunition KHAB-2502 was never exported outside of the USSR and was never filled with sarin.7

1Facebook post titled “Russian Defence Ministry comments on the destruction of a depot with terrorists’ chemical weapons near Khan Sheikhun carried out by the Syrian aviation”, posted by the Russian Federation Ministry of Defence on 4 April 2017.

2Syrian Army rejects claims of chemical weapons use in Idlib, blames militants, SPUTNIK NEWS, 4 April 2014.

3Live: Syrian FM Walid al-Moallem, holds press conference in Damascus, YouTube video clip uploaded on 6 April 2017.

4Statement in response to the United States airstrike of 7 April against the Shayrat airbase in Homs.

5Information published by the OPCW about the materials declared by the Syrian Arab Republic as part of its chemical weapons stockpile contradicts this statement. See OPCW documents EC-M-34/DG.1 of 25 October 2013, EC-M-34/DEC.1, para. 2(a)(ii) of 15 November 2013, EC-M-36/DG.4 of 17 December 2013.

6AFP Interview President Assad on chemical attack, Youtube, 13 April, 2017. Transcript of the interview.

7Ministry of Defence: Ammunition HUB 250 has never been exported and were not filled with sarin, RUSSIAN REALITY, 2 May 2017.

1 This was not the first time that I. E. Konashenkov had reacted hastily to false accusation, but the U.N. Security Council was due to gather in emergency session the following day—he made his statement in Moscow after midnight on 5th April—and presumably some sort of statement was thought necessary.
On 6th April, I summarised my assessment of the Khan Sheikhun happenings in a tweet, as shown here, where I write that,

“The Russians have countered the CW claim with a claim that Syrian aircraft struck a terrorist factory that made chemical munitions. This is counter-productive and very foolish. It feeds the myth of a chemical incident.”

Konashenkov’s statement has indeed proved damaging, and it would have been far better to take the line that the Russians very soon did take, namely that a thorough independent inquiry was needed in order to discover what had really happened—or not.
The statement was foolish because it made no sense, and was based on the misconception that the apparently suffering ‘victims’ in the numerous videos were ‘for real’. Statements from other important Russian officials at the time make it clear that in the first day or two they really did believe that a chemical incident had led to the death and injury of many people.

The fundamental error that Konashenkov, or his staff at the MoD, made, was to put 2 and 2 together and make 5. Let me explain : White Helmets [❝SCD❞] stations are a prime target for the Russians and the Syrians, since they are known to be in effect a wing of the NuNusra terrorist organisation, often sharing premises with them. They are also generously funded by Western governments (e.g. £65 million from the UK Foreign Office via @DFID_UK) to create fake movies and tell lies to further the anti-Syrian agenda of the West.

The ‘terrorist dépôt’ the Russian MoD claimed the SyAAF had hit, was almost certainly precisely that White Helmets station that features with such prominence in the terrorists’ videos. Such an isolated and well-protected site would in fact be quite suitable for storing chemicals and making chemical weapons. The Russians would have been as unaware of this putative activity as they would have been of a cave-built room with four beds destined to be described as the Town’s ‘main trauma unit’. What the Syrians were bombing was the local headquarters of the terrorist mob known as the White Helmets. Any question of there being either a sarin factory or a ‘Mercy Hospital’ will have been very far from their thoughts. What the MoD should have asked themselves is what all these alleged sarin victims were doing lying about and groaning and panting in the yard of this jolly establishment before they dropped the bombs on it at 11:30 (according to the CoI’s narrative.)

2 Any talk of KHAB-250 or any other supposed munition is pure fantasy. The highly changeable and much-photographed object apparently stuck in the hole in the road—also now demoted from its exalted ❝crater❞ status (I really think they must have been reading my tweets!)—resembles nothing so much as a discarded length of lead piping, and the OPCW’s Fact-Losing Mission thought it safer to leave in the good hands of NuNusra “for possible later retrieval” rather than submit it to the rigours of the “Designated Laboratories” only to discover it to be a galvanised moonbeam.


4. To establish the facts surrounding these allegations, the Commission sent a note verbale on 7 April to the Permanent Representative of Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations requesting information from the Government1. At the time of writing, no response has been received. The Commission conducted 43 interviews with eyewitnesses, victims, first-responders, medical workers, and persons who visited the site after the attack.2 It also collected satellite imagery,8 photographs of bomb remnants, early warning reports, videos of the area allegedly impacted by the airstrikes, and reviewed photographs and videos of victims depicting symptoms.3 The Commission took into account the findings of OPCW report on the results of its Fact-Finding Mission (OPCW FFM).9Taken as a whole, this body of information allowed the Commission to reach the narrative of events and findings below.5

8 UNOSAT satellite imagery analysis uploaded on the webpage of the Commission.

9OPCW Note by the Technical Secretariat, Report of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission in Syria Regarding an Alleged Incident in Khan Shaykhun, Syrian Arab Republic, April 2017 (hereinafter: “OPCW FFM report”), S/1510/2017, 29 April 2017,

1 We are left to guess the nature of the information requested and the degree of stiffness of the note verbale.

2 Let it be clear that by first responders they mean members of the NuNusra White Helmets; and by medical workers they mean members or agents of the ❝Syrian-American Medical Society❞—SAMS whose rôle in the dramas and melodramas of Khan Sheikhun cannot be overstated.

3 All they seem to be saying here is that in the space of four highly-paid months they as a team accomplished a fraction of what others managed to do in four weeks for no monetary reward.

5 It is difficult to work out not only the purpose of this UNCoI report is, coming as it does between the 29th June report of the OPCW and the report of Edmond Mulet’s JIM report, promised for October, but also what it contains that has not already been in the public domain for many weeks.

IV.Khan Shaykhun’s location

5.Khan Shaykhun, a town controlled by armed groups and HTS, is located along the M5 highway. The M5, often described as the most important highway in Syria, connects the country’s major cities including Damascus, Homs, Hama, and Aleppo, all of which are currently controlled by Government forces. Owing to its location, warring parties have fought for control over Khan Shaykhun since the early days of the conflict.1

6.In March, the area was viewed as having increased strategic value as armed groups and HTS successfully attacked Government positions in Hama. Government forces reacted by carrying out a counter-offensive in southern Idlib, including in Khan Shaykhun, and the neighbouring towns of Kafr Zeita, Murek, and Al-Latamneh in northern Hama. If successful, this offensive would give Government forces control over the only pocket in northern Hama controlled by armed groups and HTS. Interviewees confirmed that in the days leading up to 4 April, numerous airstrikes impacted towns around the area of Khan Shaykhun.2 The Commission has also investigated and made findings on several incidents using airdropped munition which took place in the area in March and April, including through the use of chemical weapons in Al-Latamneh,103 and attacks on hospitals in southern Idlib and northern Hama. 114 The latter severely impacted the level of medical care which victims of chemical attacks received.

10 A/HRC/36/55, paras. 69-70.

11A/HRC/36/55, paras. 63-65.

1 Indeed. Khan Sheikhun might also be described as a hotbed of terrorism, scene, only a few months ago, of the most terrible massacre by ISIS-affiliated gang Liwa al-Aqsa. I fail to see what relevance any of this has to the investigation of an alleged sarin bomb attack!

2 So far, nothing of relevance in this paragraph. Students of history have far more reliable sources to consult. The title of this annex is “Inquiry into allegations of chemical weapons used in Khan Shaykhun, Idlib, on 4 April 2017”

3 I here reproduce an image of paras. 69-70, from which it will be seen that the “findings” referred to so glibly here, amount to tales told by “interviewees” (no doubt resident in Turkey) allegedly from the terrorist-controlled town of al-Latamneh. Any reader of this critique who has more solid evidence of the claims made here, is welcome to contact me so that I may update this information.

4 I here reproduce an image of paras. 63-65. Astute readers will note that among these “hospitals” is included our very own ar-Rahma ‘hospital’, which, as I have explained above, is and was nothing of the kind. Schools, hospitals, kindergartens etc. are well known not always to be put to the uses their names might suggest and that terrorist propaganda would have us believe. Liberated Aleppo has provided striking examples of this. The much publicised bombing of a ‘school’ in Haas, Idlib, may well have damaged structures designed to be a school, but it is known to discreet Western journalists (who would, of course, never allow the fact to be publicised!) that as school it most certainly was not being used.

V. The Events of 4 April

7.On the morning of 4 April, the sky was clear.1 At 6.26 a.m., early warning observers12 reported that two Sukhoi 22 (Su-22) aircraft had taken off from Shayrat airbase,2 at least one of which was heading in the direction of Khan Shaykhun. Shayrat is a military airbase in Homs located approximately 120 kilometres south of Khan Shaykhun, and has been used by the Syrian air force throughout the conflict to launch attacks on Homs and Hama. Since late 2015, it is also used as a base by Russian forces. The Commission notes that two individuals interviewed by the OPCW claimed that on the morning of 4 April the early warning system did not issue warnings until 11 to 11.30 a.m., and that no aircraft were observed until that time. 13 The Commission has not gathered any information to support this claim, but rather the opposite, as detailed below. Eyewitnesses explained seeing a plane over Khan Shaykhun at around 6.45 a.m., and numerous interviewees recalled3 hearing messages from the early warning system 20 minutes prior to the strikes. As further examined below (paras. 17-18), 11.30 a.m. was the time when the al-Rahma medical point in Khan Shaykhun was attacked by airstrikes including cluster incendiary munitions, though not chemical weapons.4

8.At around 6.45 a.m.,5 interviewees recalled seeing an aircraft flying low over Khan Shaykhun, which is consistent with the airspeed of the aircraft and the distance that needed to be covered. In the span of a few minutes, the aircraft, identified by interviewees as a Su-22, made two passes over the town and dropped four bombs. TheSu-22 is easy to recognise, and difficult to mistake for anything else. Recognition features include a single vertical stabilizer, swing-wings, and flat intake mounted in the nose.14 Satellite imagery, photographs, and video footage corroborate witness accounts that air delivered munitions hit the impact points of the four bombs. As previously found by the Commission, only the Syrian air force uses Su-22s,15 an aircraft which has no night-time capability. The Russian Federation and the international coalition do not operate this type of aircraft. It is therefore concluded that the Syrian air force carried out airstrikes on Khan Shaykhun at around 6.45 a.m. on 4 April.6

12Early warning observers comprise civilians who monitor aircraft flights to provide other civilians with advance warning prior to an airstrike.

13OPCW FFM report, paras. 5.27-5.29.

14A/HRC/34/CRP.3, para. 26.

15A/HRC/34/CRP.3, para. 27.

1 As I have mentioned briefly in passing, the times of events on this Tuesday morning are not verified. One video that has been presented much in evidence would suggest that at dawn there was in fact a pall of mist over the town, as might be expected on a windless morning. The question of the time of the alleged impact of the alleged chemical munition on the alleged day, will be dealt with at length as this article proceeds; it will be seen the “6:45 am” claimed in this report is nothing but a number picked at random, or for the best correspondence with the CoI narrative, from a number of widely differing reports.

2 A very precise time—6:26—is given here, but no details are given either in the text or the note. I have not traced all the repetitions of this meme, or more likely script, but the fact that it was repeated by the totally fictitious “Dr. Mamoun Morad” in his interview with Sophie McNeill on 2nd May, makes me wonder if there is any truth to it at all. Without judicable proof, this tale may be considered a canard. There is no question but that terrorists, activists and other wavers of the French Mandate flag, do communicate by walkie-talkie. Exactly how a certain warning is logged to the nearest minute, perhaps Senhor Pinheiro or his colleagues can explain.

3 Whether ‘eyewitnesses’ and ‘interviewees’ are identical for the purposes of this report and used interchangeably for purely stylistic reasons, is not yet clear to me. Considering the frequency with which they figure here, it would be interesting to know how many they were, or whether there were just a couple of them to do all the recalling, explaining, noting, testifying and identifying. We are told above (§4) that the Commission conducted 43 interviews with eyewitnesses, victims, first-responders, medical workers, and persons who visited the site after the attack. Presuming that all the interviews were conducted by the Commission as averred here, who were all these people? and presuming that they were interviewed ‘in a neighbouring country’, how is it that so many undistinguished non-victims were allowed to cross the border, considering the very strict border controls that were in force at the time? Who exactly were all these people, and why should the slightest credence be given to them, in the absence of any form of interrogation or cross-examination?

4 We shall examine this allegation in the proper place.

5 OK, let us summarise what is claimed here, which allows the CoI to reach its conclusion at the end of the paragraph:

  • The early warning system announced the departure of two Sukhoi-22s from Shayerat aerodrome at precisely 6:26 am, at least one of which was headed towards Khan Sheikhun “120 km” to the north.
  • The distance from Shayerat to Khan Sheikhun is indeed 120 km if you are driving there, but aircraft have a tendency to fly from point to point, and the distance is 57.7 nautical miles, say 108 km, allowing for the ascent.
  • At least one of them was, then, reportedly not heading in that direction, since only one is reported to have arrived in the sky above Khan Sheikhun.
  • The single SyAAF Su-22 arrived low in the sky over Khan Sheikhun ‘at around’ 6:45, having taken 19 minutes to fly from Shayerat, at a speed, therefore, of 182 knots or Mach 0.27 or 341 kph or 210 mph., that is to say nearer to a seventh than to a sixth of its maximum speed of 1,198 knots or Mach 1.8—a leisurely sortie, it seems.
  • “In the span of a few minutes”, reads the report, the aircraft made two passes and dropped fours bombs. Taking ‘a few’ tp mean no more than ten, we therefore infer that that aircraft was away home by 6:55, according to the explanation of the anonymous eyewitness or interviewee.

6 From all this, the CoI concludes that a SyAAF Su-22 bombed Khan Sheikhun about 6:45 in the morning, basing their conclusion on the ‘explanations’ of an unknown number of unnamed ‘eyewitnesses’.

9.1 Three of the bombs created loud explosions, causing damage to buildings though apparently only one casualty. Based on crater analysis and satellite imagery, the Commission was able to identify three conventional bombs, likely OFAB-100-120, and the remaining a chemical bomb.2 The chemical bomb landed in the middle of a street in a northern neighbourhood of Khan Shaykhun, approximately 150 meters from al-Yousuf [or Yousef] park, close to a bakery and a grain silo, which interviewees explained was not operational and unused for any purpose after having been hit by an airstrike in 2016.3 Eyewitnesses further recalled how this bomb made less noise and produced less smoke than the other three bombs, which is confirmed by video footage of the attack.4 Photographs of the impact site show a hole, too small to be considered a crater, and the remnants of what appears to have been a Soviet-era chemical bomb. The small hole is indicative of a weapon which used a contact fuze and small burster to deploy chemical agents, with the kinetic energy of the bomb’s body creating most of the hole.5 Two parts of the bomb were found at the site, a large piece of the weapon body marked in green for chemical payload and a filler cap for chemical weapons. Although the Commission is unable to determine the exact type of chemical bomb used, the parts are consistent with sarin bombs produced by the former Soviet Union in the 250kg-class of bombs, which would have approximately 40kg of sarin, depending on the munition used.6

10.The weather conditions7 at 6.45 a.m. of 4 April were ideal for delivering a chemical weapon. Data based on historical weather forecasts indicates that the wind speed was just over three kilometres per hour from the southeast, that there was no rain and practically no cloud cover, and that the temperature was around 13 degree Celsius.16 The OPCW FFM, in the absence of actual weather data recorded for Khan Shaykhun and instead relying on actual weather data recorded at three other locations in the area, concluded that the wind speed was low with uncertain direction, most likely coming from somewhere between the south and east. All available data indicates stable atmospheric conditions without significant turbulence. Under such conditions, the agent cloud would have drifted slowly downhill following the terrain features at the location (roads and open spaces), in a southerly and westerly direction. This is consistent with the observed locational pattern of individuals becoming affected by the agent cloud.

16See, e.g., Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib Historical Weather, Syria.

sun chart

2 The writer here speaks of ‘crater analysis’ and satellite imagery. Absent further details of this forensic procedure, we can take this statement to be a falsehood. So far as I know there is no record of ‘crater analysis’ having been carried out by anybody on the three putative craters referred to, and it has already been admitted by UNCoI that the damage to the tarmac near the silos is too slight to be worthy of the appellation ‘crater’. As to the very existence of a ‘chemical bomb’, not the slightest evidence has been adduced.

3 The silos, and the large building to their south, were not bombed ‘in 2016’, as stated here, but on 24th March, 2015, and contemporary photos and video attest to this fact. The date may not be significant in the present context, but this is yet another example of the slap-happy nature of this report.

It is well known where the hole in the road is located, from umpteen photos and videos of the place; but to identify it in an official UN report as ‘a street in a northern neighbourhood’ seems to me less than accurate. Presumably the street has a name; why is it not named in the report and why is no map reference given for it?

The mention of ‘Al-Yousef Park’ is most definitely significant, even if the location of this place with respect to the hole in the road needs to be verified; since an astonishing number of alleged ‘witnesses’ in this saga, not least the inconsolable variably-bereaved, twin-bearing Abdelhamid al-Yousef character who features so heavily in the drama, taking part in at least three long interviews and a number of quite revolting video melodramas. It is certainly no coïncidence that the alleged ‘chemical bomb’, for which we have absolutely no evidence, should have made its hole in the road close to where so many al-Yousefs reside, though there is no record of a single al-Yousef or any other person being affected by chemicals within two miles of this hole. The only two ‘witnesses’ shown in the disgraceful Human Rights Watch video, were also named al-Yousef and appear to have been comfortably settled in Turkey for a long time. Al-Yousefs of various names have cropped up in a variety of fantastic and impossible media reports since day one.

4 Exactly which “eyewitness recall” the report refers to here is not specified. One possibility they may be referring to is a ‘nurse’ allegedly engaged in his professional duties at the ar-Rahma [ex-‘hospital’. now demoted to] medical point, who, in one of the videos claims to have heard not an explosion but a ‘thump’. I remind you that this medical point is excavated into solid rock and is 1¾ miles as the crow flies from the hole in the road. How it is possible to hear a thump under such circumstances, let alone associate it with the falling of a chemical bomb, is a question to which Senhor Pinheiro and his team will, no doubt, have a ready answer!

5 This is perfect humbug. The small hole is, needless to say, indicative of nothing of the kind, unless you are writing a report designed to bring a chemical bomb out of thin air in order to incriminate the President of Syria. The small hole is indicative of the simple fact that a small hole had been made by some means in the tarmac in close proximity to where a large number of al-Yousefs resided.

6 Let us deal first with the ‘large piece of the weapon body’ here alluded to. Absolutely no mention is made of this object in the OPCW’s report of 12th May, but by their 29th June report it had evidently been decided that its absence in any of their designated laboratories would be a great deal more amicable to their narrative than its presence. Rather than transport it to a neighbouring country with the rest of the specimens, it was therefore decided to leave it in the secure keeping of NuNusra and their collaborators (e.g. the White Helmets, the Idlib Health Directorate and the Syrian-American Medical Society—SAMS).

5.107—The FFM was unable to retrieve any parts that might relate to dispersion of a chemical. However, the FFM was informed that remnants of a munition from the impact crater…have been secured and could be made available in the future.
What we know, from numerous photographs, of this ‘large piece of the bomb body’ is that
  1. It undergoes many transformations
  2. In some photos and not others it appears to have a faint smear of green
  3. It is pipe-like and apparently very flexible

The second ‘bomb part’ is advertised as a ‘filler cap for chemical weapons’, and what we know of this object is:

  1. It is shown in photographs of the hole in only some cases.
  2. The photographs showing it were taken by and copyrighted by the White Helmets.
  3. It is very rusty.
  4. It is apparently inseparably attached to or integral with what appears to be another lump of rusty cast iron.
  5. It bears no resemblance to any part of the mythical Khab-250 munition claimed by arch liar Ole Solvang in his report ‘Death by Chemicals’ for HRW on 1st May.
Pinheiro’s team seem to have cribbed much of their information about their alleged sarin bomb from Solvang’s HRW report. Though they pointedly avoid using the Khab-250 designation (having presumably discovered that before the HRW report was published, nobody had ever heard of such a thing), they report that the parts are consistent with sarin bombs produced by the former Soviet Union in the 250kg-class of bombs—which comes to precisely the same tall tale.

7 The weather— In July I spent a long time searching in vain for a record of the weather in Khan Sheikhun on 4th April. The result is summarised in this screenshot. An uninterrupted record was available for the city of Idlib and other towns, but for some unexplained reason, the record for Khan Sheikhun for 2017 was absent until 19th April. After this date, and before 20th December, 2016, the log is uninterrupted. I found it quite intriguing that for the only period in the history of the town that might interest the world in general, the record should be missing; and that for every other period, and for other significant Idlib towns, the record should be continuous.

The @UNCoISyria seem to have been more successful in their search, and discovered that a complete record is available at, which somehow escaped my search. This appears to be a serious and well designed site. No information is provided that I can find with regard to its ownership or status. Two postal addresses are given—one in Dubai, and the other in Manchester. The Manchester address turns out to be the ‘Urban Exchange’ by the Rochdale canal, where it appears that 2,136 companies are registered, though the Exchange appears to house four stores, namely Aldi, Go Outdours, M&S Outlet, and PureGym. I leave it to the reader to draw what inference he pleases from this information.

According to this site, the weather on 4th April in Khan Sheikhun roughly matches the weather seen in many of the outside videos propagated on that day.

NYT mist

11.The chemical bomb1 released a cloud which spread over a distance between 300 and 600 metres from the impact point2 and killed at least 83 persons, including 28 children and 23 women.3 One interviewee said that most of those severely affected, including many who died, were within 200 meters to the south and west from the impact point of the bomb,4 while most of the ones less seriously injured were further away. Many of the deceased victims were buried in Khan Shaykhun.5

12.Some of the victims died in bed and their bodies were not found until later on 4 April. A single mother who was out farming returned home to find all her four children dead. The body of one orphaned girl was found the following day. Also on 5 April, one interviewee found the body of a woman and her six children in a basement, where they had apparently tried to take shelter from the gas released by the chemical bomb. Another interviewee described how, on the way to his family’s home, he witnessed people dying in the street and children desperately crying for the help of their parents. When he arrived at the house, he found his niece dead and his two sisters struggling to breathe. He lost consciousness shortly afterwards and woke up in hospital where he learned his sisters had died. In total, 293 persons, including 103 children, were injured. Medical practitioners expressed particular concern over parturient women and the effects that the toxic agent posed to their unborn babies. A lack of access to adequate medical equipment however prevented doctors from establishing whether foetuses were affected.

13.Upon learning of the airstrikes, civil defence teams from Khan Shaykhun and from neighbouring Heish went on location to assist in rescue efforts. They were unaware at the time of the possibility of the release of a chemical agent so they did not carry respirators or other protective equipment. Several fell ill upon arrival to the scene, and at least two died. When they realised a chemical agent may have been present, rescuers warned incoming teams of first-responders who carried respirators with them. Some of those using respirators reported that, despite this protection, they too felt affected by the gas. First-responders removed the clothes from victims, washed them with water, and provided them with oxygen masks. Several medical workers said that first-responders may have inadvertently exposed victims to additional quantities of sarin by removing the clothes on their upper bodies over their neck instead of cutting them off. By removing their clothes this way, victims would have inhaled sarin as the clothes passed by their mouths and noses.

1 Bear in mind that not the slightest evidence of the existence of a ‘chemical bomb’ has hitherto been produced!

2 Fascinating! So here we have a bomb containing 40kg of liquid sarin (HRW) that hits the ground with a thump, sets off a fuse to activate its small burster (§9), and releases a cloud—presumably a visible cloud, or how would they have been able to view its extent? Sarin is a colourless liquid, boiling point: 158°C; vapour density relative to air: 4.86; relative to water: 6.04—small details never mentioned in such reports as these.

Before I continue, let me stress that the date and time of none of the videos and still images from the Khan Sheikhun drama can be verified. The image above is from a video made by activists and claimed to have been made in the early morning of 4th April as bombs were dropped. The video, a clip of which is shown here, was made available to the New York Times in high definition. Whether or not this is true, it is exhibits such as this that the terrorists present as evidence for their case. It needs therefore to be consistent with other elements of their evidence. It is said that the wind was very light on the morning in question, and by their nature very light winds are variable; any discussion of the direction of the wind is therefore irrelevant. In such conditions, on an early spring day destined to be clear and sunny (as other pictures from the archive show it to be), a morning mist would be normal, and the video shows just such a typical scene. Note that it is expressly stated by the narrator of the video that it does not show the falling of any putative chemical bomb but only of conventional bombs dropped “during the same bombing run”. The time given is within two minutes of the time now claimed by the CoI for the ‘sarin-bomb release’.

To return then to the CoI claim that, “The chemical bomb released a cloud which spread over a distance between 300 and 600 metres from the impact point”, An obvious and unanswerable question immediately arises. Since the town was as the time covered in a considerable pall of low mist—i.e. water vapour,—how is it that a cloud of sarin vapour, never before witnessed in human history—sarin, I remind you, whose vapour is six times as heavy as that of water—was detectable (by unnamed witnesses) as a distinct cloud extending for up to a third of a mile in an unstated direction from the alleged ‘impact point’?

To sum up: the claim made at 2 is not only supported by a total absence of judicable evidence; it is also, almost certainly, a physical impossibility.

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14.After washing the victims, first-responders used ambulances, cars, and motorbikes to transport victims to several medical facilities in the area, with the al-Rahma medical point in Khan Shaykhun receiving approximately 80 victims. Others were taken to the al-Salam and al-Watany hospitals in Ma’arat al-Numaan, the Oday hospital in Saraqeb, and hospitals and clinics in Areeha, Ma’arat Misrin, Jarjnaz, Maar Shurin, Abdeen, Tal Minnes, Kafr Nabl, Banesh, Idlib city, Adnan Kewan, Haas, and Bab al-Hawa. Overall, these facilities were ill-equipped to deal with victims of chemical attacks other than chlorine—an issue compounded by the large number of victims and the severity of the symptoms from which they suffered.

15.Moreover, just one and a half days before the attack, on the evening of 2 April, Syrian and/or Russian forces carried out airstrikes which directly hit the Ma’arat al-Numan National Hospital, using at least three delayed fuse aerial bombs. The attacks against the hospital destroyed its upper floors where the inpatients room and intensive care unit were located. Most of the hospital’s equipment, including incubators, were also destroyed. The Ma’arat al-Numan hospital, located 24 kilometres north of Khan Shaykhun, is described by medical staff as the main hospital in the area and the one which could have more adequately dealt with cases of patients exposed to chemical agents. Before the strikes, it employed 300 staff including 20 doctors and over 100 nurses, some of which had received training to treat victims of chemical agents and who subsequently trained their colleagues. The hospital also contained large stocks of atropine, hydrocortisone, diazepam, and oxygen concentrators. As a result of the airstrike, the hospital could only treat some 15 victims of the 4 April chemical attack. One victim who was seriously injured by the gas released by the chemical bomb noted that first-responders took him to Ma’arat al-Numan National Hospital because they were unaware the hospital had been struck two days earlier. The hospital was unable to treat him, and he was subsequently transferred to another hospital.

16.Depending on what the healthcare facilities had available on 4 April, victims of the sarin attack were given atropine to help reactivate their heartrates, and pralidoxime to reverse chemical poisoning, though several medical staff reported that most hospitals did not have the latter or only had it in small quantities. Doctors noted that most of the existing pralidoxime had expired because, after the 2013 attack in Ghouta and the subsequent removal and destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons by the Joint Mission of the United Nations and the OPCW in 2013 and 2014, it was announced that chemical weapons such as sarin no longer existed in Syria. For these reasons, hospitals ceased planning for these types of attack. In the absence of alternatives, doctors administered the expired pralidoxime to patients. Owing to the high number of casualties, several hospitals ran out of atropine and requested other medical facilities to provide them with additional medication. To help them breathe, many of the victims were intubated and, where available, placed in respirators. At least 31 persons were taken from medical facilities in the Syrian Arab Republic to hospitals in a neighbouring country, where at least three subsequently succumbed to their injuries and passed away. Several medical workers noted that the combination of lack of appropriate and sufficient medication, overall shortage of staff, extremely reduced capability of Ma’arat al-Numan National Hospital, and consequent need to take patients to more distant health-care facilities all contributed to the overall high number of fatalities.

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17.Al-Rahma medical point and the neighbouring civil defence centre operate from caves in the mountains, located approximately two kilometres from the centre of Khan Shaykhun. Rescuers took many of the victims directly from the area affected to al-Rahma where at least 25 persons died. Several interviewees explained that al-Rahma was not prepared to treat victims of chemical attacks but that patients were only taken there because it was the closest medical facility. Throughout the morning of 4 April, after the 6.45 a.m. airstrikes, interviewees saw drones over the skies in Khan Shaykhun and between 11.30 a.m. and 1.30 p.m., a series of airstrikes directly impacted the medical point and the civil defence centre, which were treating patients of the chemical attack. Airstrikes in Khan Shaykhun were reported until 4.00 p.m. Eyewitnesses further noted that the airstrikes which struck al-Rahma were conducted by jetfighters. As a result of the attack, the al-Rahma medical point was forced to transfer all intensive care patients to other hospitals without ventilators. Due to the lack of sufficient ambulances, many patients were transferred in civilian vehicles.

18.Interviewees further detailed that the medical point was struck at least three times over the span of a few minutes. One of the strikes destroyed the only external building of the medical point and several ambulances. Another strike hit the hospital’s upper floor and its warehouse destroying some equipment. Though there were no fatalities from the attack, some medical staff and patients sustained minor injuries. Photographs provided to the Commission show the main building and surrounding area were struck by aerial bombs. The building sustained a direct hit from at least one blast weapon and several shallow craters pockmark the site. Additionally, burned out remnants of what appear to be ZAB 2.5SM cluster incendiary munitions were found in scorched grasses dotting the area. In view of the fact that the Commission has previously documented Syrian and/or Russian air

forces having used cluster incendiary munitions,17 that international coalition forces do not use these type of munitions, and that Russian and Syrian officials acknowledged that at the time of the strike, between 11.30 a.m. and 13.30 p.m., the Syrian air force conducted airstrikes in Khan Shaykhun, the Commission finds that there are reasonable grounds to believe that either Syrian and/or Russian forces conducted the airstrike against the al-Rahma medical point.

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VI. The use of sarin

19.Sarin is a synthetic, odourless liquid nerve agent which can be dispersed in air as an aerosol. Upon release, the agent cloud drifts with the wind as well as following terrain features. Unprotected humans will experience both external contamination (skin, hair, clothing), and absorb the agent via inhalation and via the skin. The symptoms of sarin poisoning vary depending on the dose received (page 32), though a classic symptom is miosis (extreme contraction of the pupils). In severe cases, the symptoms include cramps, muscular contraction, seizures, severe pain, and severe respiratory distress; the cause of death is asphyxiation by blockage of the lung muscles as well as the respiratory centre in the central nervous system. The agent or its characteristic biomarkers can be detected in biomedical samples collected from victims for some time (several days in the case of urine, and weeks in the case of blood or other tissue samples collected from survivors or during autopsies). The agent, its characteristic degradation products, and certain impurities contained in the agent mixture can also be found in environmental samples taken from the impact area.

20.According to the OPCW report,18 the OPCW FFM attended the autopsies of three alleged victims in a neighbouring country one day after the alleged attack, and visited ten patients in three hospitals four days later to retrieve biomedical samples for analysis. It also conducted several interviews: one patient and one treating physician were interviewed during the hospital visit on 8 April, and subsequent interviews with two patients who had tested positive for sarin exposure were conducted on 31 May and 1 June, respectively. The OPCW FFM also received environmental and biological-environmental samples collected by non-governmental organisations at the alleged incident location, as well as additional biomedical samples collected at medical facilities in opposition-controlled areas. In addition, the OPCW FFM collected information from the Syrian Government during two visits to Damascus, and visited the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC) in Barza where it received environmental samples and metal fragments from the impact area which the SSRC had previously analysed.

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21.While the Commission was unable to collect or test bio-medical and environmental samples, it notes that based on bio-medical samples obtained during autopsies and from individuals undergoing treatment in a neighbouring country the OPCW FFM found that these individuals were exposed to sarin or a sarin-like substance. The OPCW FFM witnessed the acquisition of these biomedical samples and applied chain of custody procedures to demonstrate sample authenticity and integrity, and the analysis was undertaken by two independent Designated Laboratories, both of which have previously demonstrated their competence for this type of analysis in official OPCW Proficiency Tests. This analysis found that the tissue samples collected from the three victims (blood, brain, hair, lung and liver tissue) who had died contained (with the exception of one hair sample) characteristic biomarkers demonstrating the exposure of the victims to sarin or a sarin-like substance. The analytical findings were consistent with the autopsy reports, which had concluded that the cause of death in all three cases had been exposure to a toxic gas.

22.Bio-medical samples of seven of the 10 persons undergoing treatment in the neighbouring country showed that they, too, were exposed to sarin or a sarin-like substance.

These analytical findings were consistent with the clinical symptoms observed.

17A/HRC/34/64, paras. 14, 59-60; A/HRC/34/CRP.3, paras. 59-60.

18OPCW FFM report, paras. 3.16, 3.52-3.53, 3.64, and 4.7-4.9.

Furthermore, the OPCW FFM was able to confirm by comparative DNA analysis that two individuals who had been the source of blood samples taken in Syria without the OPCW FFM team present were identical to two patients who had given blood samples in the neighbouring country in the presence of the OPCW FFM team. The Designated Laboratory results of the biomedical samples taken from these two patients on both occasions were consistent, and showed exposure to sarin or a sarin-like nerve agent. This DNA test together with the laboratory findings confirms that there was a link between the individuals from whom biomedical samples were taken in the neighbouring country in the presence of the OPCW FFM, the site of the alleged attack, and the witness testimony.

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23.Taken together, the epidemiological data available, the clinical symptomatology reported, the laboratory results of autopsy and biomedical samples taken from alleged victims, and the identity confirmation of two individuals samples of whom had been collected in the presence of the OPCW FFM subject to full chain of custody procedures as well as in biomedical samples collected at medical facilities in Khan Shaykhun19 leave no doubt that sarin or a sarin-like agent had been released in Khan Shaykhun on 4 April, and that it killed or injured these victims.

19OPCW FFM report, paras. 5.90-5.95.

24.The OPCW FFM could not independently verify the provenance of the additional samples it received from third parties. It attempted to corroborate the information about the collection of these samples by testimony and by verifying accompanying documents including photographs and videos taken at sample collection. The OPCW FFM reported that, although it was not in a position to categorically verify the entire chain of custody of these samples, the testimony and documentation submitted alongside the samples provided a good degree of confidence.

25.The analysis of biomedical specimen received from the Khan Shaykhun Medical Centre (blood, liver tissue, lung tissue, and hair samples taken at autopsies from three fatalities) undertaken by two OPCW Designated Laboratories confirmed exposure to sarin or a sarin-like substance.

26.The results of the analyses of the additional environmental samples (animal parts, vegetation, and soil from the impact area) showed chemical signatures consistent with a release of sarin or a sarin-like nerve agent: the presence of primary and secondary degradation products of sarin in environmental samples; fluoride regeneration of sarin and the detection of a tyrosine adduct in biological samples confirming the exposure of the dead animals to sarin or a sarin-like agent; and the detection of by-products of sarin synthesis and certain other characteristic impurities in the environmental samples.20

20OPCW FFM report, paras. 5.99-5.102.

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27.The OPCW FFM also received environmental samples (soil, metal fragments, bone, vegetation, and extracts) from the Syrian government, together with a video recording of the sample collection. An unnamed volunteer from Khan Shaykhun had reportedly provided these samples to the Syrian authorities, and the samples had been analysed by the SSRC Barza. The OPCW analysed these samples at its central laboratory in Rijswijk, the Netherlands. Results of the analyses by the two laboratories (OPCW and SSRC) were broadly consistent, showing the presence of sarin and impurities related to sarin synthesis and characteristic degradation products. Both laboratories also found hexamine in some of the samples.21 The presence of hexamine was not further explained by the OPCW FFM, but the chemical had also been found in environmental samples collected 2013 after the Ghouta incident. Two competing explanations have been offered in the past to explain the presence of hexamine — either the chemical might indicate the use of an artisanal explosive (RDX) for agent dispersion, or it had been used in the sarin synthesis as an acid scavenger. While the former explanation cannot be ruled out, the latter would be consistent with the chemicals declared by Syria in 2013 to the OPCW as part of their chemical weapons stockpile,22 as well as with the process used in the past by the Syrian army for employing sarin (binary synthesis shortly before use without subsequent purification of the agent for long-term storage).

28.The Commission has independently gathered extensive information which, in the aggregate, strongly supports the claim that the victims were exposed to sarin or a sarin-like substance. Apart from the fact that none of the victims was observed to have wounds or visible injuries, the symptoms reported are consistent with those suffered by persons exposed to an organophosphorus chemical such as sarin. Those include: foaming from the mouth and nose, contracted pupils, respiratory difficulties, coughing, blue lips, pale or yellow skin, loss of consciousness, dizziness, convulsions, vomiting, paralysis, and diminished heartbeat. First-responders and medical staff recalled suffering from headaches, nausea, congested chests, and blurred vision after treating patients. Five weeks after 4 April, at least four interviewees were still experiencing some of these symptoms.

29.Most of the interviewees at the scene when the agent cloud was released or who arrived on location shortly thereafter stated they did not notice any particular smell, which is consistent with the fact that sarin is odourless. Some interviewees, however, reported a “bad smell”. One interviewee described it as similar to drainage or waste water, while another said it resembled a strong insecticide. It should be noted that there is a fair degree of variability in the sensitivity of humans to smell, so such discrepancies are not unusual. It is also apparent from the analytical results of the environmental samples that the agent released into the atmosphere contained a number of impurities (several phosphor-organic compounds, hexamine, fluorinated compounds), which would explain the insecticide-like or otherwise bad smell perceived by some witnesses.

21OPCW FFM report, paras. 5.103-5.106.

22OPCW request for expression of interest (EOI), initially posted on the OPCW website on 20 November 2013, EOI reference OPCW/CDB/EOI/01/20913, OPCW document S/1142/2013 of 22

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30.The extensive body of information gathered by the Commission indicates that a Syrian Su-22 conducted four airstrikes in Khan Shaykhun at approximately 6.45 a.m. on 4 April. Photographs of remnants taken at the sites along with satellite imagery corroborate eyewitness testimony identifying the impact points of the four aerial bombs. Eyewitnesses and early warning reports identified the aircraft as a Su-22, which only the Syrian air force operates.

31.The Commission identified three of the bombs as likely OFAB-100-120 and one as a chemical bomb. Interviewees consistently stated that this latter bomb produced less noise and less smoke than the other three, and that it released a gas which spread over a distance between 300 and 600 meters. Photographs of remnants provided to the Commission by interviewees further indicate an aerial chemical bomb was employed. Further, weather conditions at 6.45 a.m. on 4 April were ideal for delivering a chemical weapon. The wind speed was just over three kilometres per hour, with no rain and practically no cloud cover. Under such conditions, the agent cloud would have drifted slowly downhill following the terrain features at the location (roads and open spaces), in a southerly and westerly direction.

32.At least 83 persons, including 28 children and 23 women, were killed, and an additional 293 persons including 103 children were injured after being exposed to gas released by the chemical bomb. Based on bio-medical samples obtained during autopsies and from individuals undergoing treatment in a neighbouring country, the OPCW FFM found that these individuals were exposed to sarin or a sarin-like substance. Information gathered by the Commission from victims, eyewitnesses, and medical personnel on the symptoms suffered by victims is also consistent with exposure to sarin. None of the victims had wounds or visible injuries, and all experienced a combination of the following symptoms: foaming from the mouth and nose, contracted pupils, respiratory difficulties, coughing, blue lips, pale or yellow skin, loss of consciousness, dizziness, convulsions, vomiting, paralysis, and diminished heartbeat.

November 2013. This EOI listed chemicals from the declared Syrian chemical weapon stockpile and included binary chemical weapons components as well as 80 metric tonnes of hexamine.

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33.In its investigation, the Commission considered and investigated all potential scenarios, including claims put forward by Russian and Syrian officials. The Commission has not, however, found any evidence to support the claim that HTS or armed groups had a weapons depot in the area where the chemical bomb impacted. Satellite imagery shows damage to a structure at a nearby grain silo which could correlate with the area where the victims of the sarin release were found, though the silo and a nearby bakery were empty following airstrikes last year. Furthermore, the Russian Federation Ministry of Defence and the Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs argue that the weapons depot was hit between 11.30 a.m. and 12.30, while the evidence laid out above overwhelmingly indicates that the sarin gas was released at around 6.45 a.m.

34.Though the Commission cannot discount the possibility that interviewees did not acknowledge the existence of a weapons depot out of fear of retaliation or out of loyalty to HTS or armed groups, it notes that it is extremely unlikely that an airstrike against such a depot could release sarin stored inside that structure in amounts sufficient to explain the numbers of casualties recorded. First, if there had been such a sarin weapons depot destroyed by an airstrike, the explosion would have burnt off most of the agent inside the building or forced it into the rubble where it would have been absorbed, rather than released in significant amounts into the atmosphere. Second, the facility would still be heavily contaminated today, for which no evidence exists. Third, the scenario suggested by the Russian Federation Ministry of Defence and the Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs does not explain the timing of the appearance of victims of sarin exposure — well before the time, 11.30 a.m., that the Russian Federation Ministry of Defence and the Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs provided for the attack. Finally, the impurities identified in the environmental samples analysed by the OPCW indicate that the released agent had not been purified. This rules out long-term storage of large amounts of sarin, which would have required agent purification. If, on the other hand, the facility had stored the precursor materials for sarin, an explosive destruction would not have released sarin into the air. Moreover, had there been sarin production going on at the time of the attack, the amount of agent would have been small and almost all of the agent would have been burnt off or ended up as local contamination though not in the atmosphere — some agent release into the atmosphere in such a scenario cannot be ruled out but it would not nearly be sufficient to explain the number of casualties.

35.In view of the above, the Commission finds that the claim that airstrikes hit a depot producing chemical munitions or that the attack was fabricated are not supported by the information gathered. On the contrary, all evidence available leads the Commission to conclude that there are reasonable grounds to believe Syrian forces dropped an aerial bomb dispersing sarin in Khan Shaykhun at around 6.45 a.m. on 4 April. The use of chemical weapons is unequivocally banned under international humanitarian law. The use of sarin in Khan Shaykhun on 4 April by Syrian forces constitutes the war crimes of using chemical weapons and indiscriminate attacks, and violation of the prohibition on the use of weapons designed to cause superfluous injury and unnecessary suffering. The manufacture, storage, and use of sarin also violates the Chemical Weapons Convention and Security Council resolution 2118 (2013).

36.As noted above, the Commission further investigated the airstrikes which impacted Khan Shaykhun after 11.30 a.m. It found that these airstrikes struck the al-Rahma medical point while it was functioning solely as a civilian healthcare facility treating victims of the chemical attack. Based on the fact that the medical point was struck with cluster incendiary munition, which only Syrian and Russian air forces use, and that Russian and Syrian officials acknowledged that after 11.30 a.m. the Syrian air force conducted airstrikes in Khan Shaykhun, the Commission finds that there are reasonable grounds to believe that either the Syrian and/or Russian forces conducted the airstrike against the al-Rahma medical point. By bombing the al-Rahma medical point, which also destroyed ambulances, Syrian and/or Russian forces committed the war crimes of deliberately attacking protected objects, and intentionally attacking medical personnel and transport.

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Characteristics of sarin23

23OPCW FFM report, Annex 5.