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Robert Fisk: The search for truth in the rubble of Douma – and one doctor’s doubts over the chemical attack


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#1 USC

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Posted 17 April 2018 - 10:37 AM

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The search for truth in the rubble of Douma – and one doctor’s doubts over the chemical attack

Exclusive: Robert Fisk visits the Syria clinic at the centre of aThis is the story of a town called Douma, a ravaged, stinking place of smashed apartment blocks – and of an underground clinic whose images of suffering allowed three of the Western world’s most powerful nations to bomb Syria last week. There’s even a friendly doctor in a green coat who, when I track him down in the very same clinic, cheerfully tells me that the “gas” videotape which horrified the world – despite all the doubters – is perfectly genuine

 

 

War stories, however, have a habit of growing darker. For the same 58-year old senior Syrian doctor then adds something profoundly uncomfortable: the patients, he says, were overcome not by gas but by oxygen starvation in the rubbish-filled tunnels and basements in which they lived, on a night of wind and heavy shelling that stirred up a dust storm.

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As Dr Assim Rahaibani announces this extraordinary conclusion, it is worth observing that he is by his own admission not an eyewitness himself and, as he speaks good English, he refers twice to the jihadi gunmen of Jaish el-Islam [the Army of Islam] in Douma as “terrorists” – the regime’s word for their enemies, and a term used by many people across Syria. Am I hearing this right? Which version of events are we to believe?

By bad luck, too, the doctors who were on duty that night on 7 April were all in Damascus giving evidence to a chemical weapons enquiry, which will be attempting to provide a definitive answer to that question in the coming weeks.

France, meanwhile, has said it has “proof” chemical weapons were used, and US media have quoted sources saying urine and blood tests showed this too. The WHO has said its partners on the ground treated 500 patients “exhibiting signs and symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic chemicals”.

Douma chemical attack: Syrian war in pictures

 

 
 

At the same time, inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) are currently blocked from coming here to the site of the alleged gas attack themselves, ostensibly because they lacked the correct UN permits.

Before we go any further, readers should be aware that this is not the only story in Douma. There are the many people I talked to amid the ruins of the town who said they had “never believed in” gas stories – which were usually put about, they claimed, by the armed Islamist groups. These particular jihadis survived under a blizzard of shellfire by living in other’s people’s homes and in vast, wide tunnels with underground roads carved through the living rock by prisoners with pick-axes on three levels beneath the town. I walked through three of them yesterday, vast corridors of living rock which still contained Russian – yes, Russian – rockets and burned-out cars.

So the story of Douma is thus not just a story of gas – or no gas, as the case may be. It’s about thousands of people who did not opt for evacuation from Douma on buses that left last week, alongside the gunmen with whom they had to live like troglodytes for months in order to survive. I walked across this town quite freely yesterday without soldier, policeman or minder to haunt my footsteps, just two Syrian friends, a camera and a notebook. I sometimes had to clamber across 20-foot-high ramparts, up and down almost sheer walls of earth. Happy to see foreigners among them, happier still that the siege is finally over, they are mostly smiling; those whose faces you can see, of course, because a surprising number of Douma’s women wear full-length black hijab.

douma-rubble.jpg
Rubble fills a street in Douma, the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack, near Damascus (AP)

I first drove into Douma as part of an escorted convoy of journalists. But once a boring general had announced outside a wrecked council house “I have no information” – that most helpful rubbish-dump of Arab officialdom – I just walked away. Several other reporters, mostly Syrian, did the same. Even a group of Russian journalists – all in military attire – drifted off.

It was a short walk to Dr Rahaibani. From the door of his subterranean clinic – “Point 200”, it is called, in the weird geology of this partly-underground city – is a corridor leading downhill where he showed me his lowly hospital and the few beds where a small girl was crying as nurses treated a cut above her eye.

“I was with my family in the basement of my home three hundred metres from here on the night but all the doctors know what happened. There was a lot of shelling [by government forces] and aircraft were always over Douma at night – but on this night, there was wind and huge dust clouds began to come into the basements and cellars where people lived. People began to arrive here suffering from hypoxia, oxygen loss. Then someone at the door, a “White Helmet”, shouted “Gas!”, and a panic began. People started throwing water over each other. Yes, the video was filmed here, it is genuine, but what you see are people suffering from hypoxia – not gas poisoning.”

fisk6.jpg
Independent Middle East Correspondent Robert Fisk in one of the miles of tunnels hacked beneath Douma by prisoners of Syrian rebels (Yara Ismail)

Oddly, after chatting to more than 20 people, I couldn’t find one who showed the slightest interest in Douma’s role in bringing about the Western air attacks. Two actually told me they didn’t know about the connection.

But it was a strange world I walked into. Two men, Hussam and Nazir Abu Aishe, said they were unaware how many people had been killed in Douma, although the latter admitted he had a cousin “executed by Jaish el-Islam [the Army of Islam] for allegedly being “close to the regime”. They shrugged when I asked about the 43 people said to have died in the infamous Douma attack.

The White Helmets – the medical first responders already legendary in the West but with some interesting corners to their own story – played a familiar role during the battles. They are partly funded by the Foreign Office and most of the local offices were staffed by Douma men. I found their wrecked offices not far from Dr Rahaibani’s clinic. A gas mask had been left outside a food container with one eye-piece pierced and a pile of dirty military camouflage uniforms lay inside one room. Planted, I asked myself? I doubt it. The place was heaped with capsules, broken medical equipment and files, bedding and mattresses.

Of course we must hear their side of the story, but it will not happen here: a woman told us that every member of the White Helmets in Douma abandoned their main headquarters and chose to take the government-organised and Russian-protected buses to the rebel province of Idlib with the armed groups when the final truce was agreed.

Syria bombings: US, UK and French military air strikes wreckage

 

 
 

There were food stalls open and a patrol of Russian military policemen – a now optional extra for every Syrian ceasefire – and no-one had even bothered to storm into the forbidding Islamist prison near Martyr’s Square where victims were supposedly beheaded in the basements. The town’s complement of Syrian interior ministry civilian police – who eerily wear military clothes – are watched over by the Russians who may or may not be watched by the civilians. Again, my earnest questions about gas were met with what seemed genuine perplexity.

How could it be that Douma refugees who had reached camps in Turkey were already describing a gas attack which no-one in Douma today seemed to recall? It did occur to me, once I was walking for more than a mile through these wretched prisoner-groined tunnels, that the citizens of Douma lived so isolated from each other for so long that “news” in our sense of the word simply had no meaning to them. Syria doesn’t cut it as Jeffersonian democracy – as I cynically like to tell my Arab colleagues – and it is indeed a ruthless dictatorship, but that couldn’t cow these people, happy to see foreigners among them, from reacting with a few words of truth. So what were they telling me?

They talked about the Islamists under whom they had lived. They talked about how the armed groups had stolen civilian homes to avoid the Syrian government and Russian bombing. The Jaish el-Islam had burned their offices before they left, but the massive buildings inside the security zones they created had almost all been sandwiched to the ground by air strikes. A Syrian colonel I came across behind one of these buildings asked if I wanted to see how deep the tunnels were. I stopped after well over a mile when he cryptically observed that “this tunnel might reach as far as Britain”. Ah yes, Ms May, I remembered, whose air strikes had been so intimately connected to this place of tunnels and dust. And gas

 

https://www.independ...s-a8307726.html


Edited by USC, 17 April 2018 - 10:37 AM.

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#2 Kingranch

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Posted 17 April 2018 - 01:00 PM

First and foremost, Robert Fisk, just as he said, was not an eyewitness. Second, multitude of people witnessed two helicopters taking off from Dumayr military airbase, flying over the city of Adra toward Duma. About 15 mins later a loud explosion (supposedly a single explosion) in Duma was heard, witnessed and reported to Syrian military and about 30 mins after that reports of chlorine smell! Now, many people witnessed one of the helicopters dropping what appeared to be a barrel bomb (to knock out the windows I suppose?) but no reports of the second helicopter dropping gray and yellow canisters that were found split open at the crime-scene in the same general area later.  

Are all this reports circumstantial and open to general interpretation...Sure! But highly unlikely!  

 

Third, I don't believe that Assad himself gave order to gas people. But, what if one of his generals, the ones that work for Assad because they have to, not because they want to, had their own "personal" stash of chemicals? I mean, its all tribal influence / clan association shit going on over there anyway...like in Afghanistan, Does Assad really know who's who!?

 

 

BTW, in regards to the report of a first helicopter dropping a single bomb...I've seen Tweets in Arabic (had to use Google translate to read) reporting said helicopter dropping 4 bombs in 3 different areas...but, I can't find it now...just so you know?


Edited by Kingranch, 17 April 2018 - 01:15 PM.

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#3 wirehaired

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Posted 17 April 2018 - 05:53 PM

First and foremost, Robert Fisk, just as he said, was not an eyewitness. Second, multitude of people witnessed two helicopters taking off from Dumayr military airbase, flying over the city of Adra toward Duma. About 15 mins later a loud explosion (supposedly a single explosion) in Duma was heard, witnessed and reported to Syrian military and about 30 mins after that reports of chlorine smell! Now, many people witnessed one of the helicopters dropping what appeared to be a barrel bomb (to knock out the windows I suppose?) but no reports of the second helicopter dropping gray and yellow canisters that were found split open at the crime-scene in the same general area later.  

Are all this reports circumstantial and open to general interpretation...Sure! But highly unlikely!  

 

Third, I don't believe that Assad himself gave order to gas people. But, what if one of his generals, the ones that work for Assad because they have to, not because they want to, had their own "personal" stash of chemicals? I mean, its all tribal influence / clan association shit going on over there anyway...like in Afghanistan, Does Assad really know who's who!?

 

 

BTW, in regards to the report of a first helicopter dropping a single bomb...I've seen Tweets in Arabic (had to use Google translate to read) reporting said helicopter dropping 4 bombs in 3 different areas...but, I can't find it now...just so you know?

There were air strikes taking place at the time on the Jihadi Apes so there would have been aircraft in the sky.


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#4 Nemesis

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Posted 17 April 2018 - 06:00 PM

A well known reputable doctor said that the child shown in the production his electrodes were all connected improperly so there is no way they would work.


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#5 wirehaired

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Posted 17 April 2018 - 06:02 PM

                    

Posted Yesterday, 06:47 PM

https://www.youtube....1&v=PgGqwAwJL5M   This wasn't built by someone with a garden spade,its a major civil engineering job,theose Apes had expert help.

 

                   I posted this thread yesterday showing the huge tunnels.


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#6 Nemesis

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Posted 17 April 2018 - 06:12 PM

First and foremost, Robert Fisk, just as he said, was not an eyewitness. Second, multitude of people witnessed two helicopters taking off from Dumayr military airbase, flying over the city of Adra toward Duma. About 15 mins later a loud explosion (supposedly a single explosion) in Duma was heard, witnessed and reported to Syrian military and about 30 mins after that reports of chlorine smell! Now, many people witnessed one of the helicopters dropping what appeared to be a barrel bomb (to knock out the windows I suppose?) but no reports of the second helicopter dropping gray and yellow canisters that were found split open at the crime-scene in the same general area later.  

Are all this reports circumstantial and open to general interpretation...Sure! But highly unlikely!  

 

Third, I don't believe that Assad himself gave order to gas people. But, what if one of his generals, the ones that work for Assad because they have to, not because they want to, had their own "personal" stash of chemicals? I mean, its all tribal influence / clan association shit going on over there anyway...like in Afghanistan, Does Assad really know who's who!?

 

 

BTW, in regards to the report of a first helicopter dropping a single bomb...I've seen Tweets in Arabic (had to use Google translate to read) reporting said helicopter dropping 4 bombs in 3 different areas...but, I can't find it now...just so you know?

 

 

Ridiculous, the only ones with a stash are the western backed terrorists. Terrorist (FUKUS boys) stashes were found as they fled.  Documentation exists.

 

Like some General would have exactly what motivation??

 

You don't know the Syrian people. They are the exact opposite of clannish/tribal. All just consider themselves Syrians. There's no Sunni, Shia, Alawite, Christian clannishness.


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#7 Kingranch

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Posted 18 April 2018 - 03:13 PM

 

 

Ridiculous, the only ones with a stash are the western backed terrorists. Terrorist (FUKUS boys) stashes were found as they fled.  Documentation exists.

 

Like some General would have exactly what motivation??

 

You don't know the Syrian people. They are the exact opposite of clannish/tribal. All just consider themselves Syrians. There's no Sunni, Shia, Alawite, Christian clannishness.

What motivation there may be? Like: "an enemy of my enemy is my friend" for example? Or, I got orders from Assad to clean up this neighborhood and have no idea what i'm doing here! Why don't I help myself and my boys with some chemistry?

 

You're right...I don't know Arabs at all and I intend to keep it that way!

 

What really bugs me now is the large volume of unofficial reports about 'organ harvesting' coming from Syria! So it appears that most of the victims are very, very young. Dead bodies, crudely stitched up, found with in around towns and ditches, internal parts and organs missing!!! Fucking insane shit!!!


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#8 Mario Milano

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Posted 18 April 2018 - 03:25 PM

Fisk is a piece of zio controlled turd...what ever his motivation is for telling the truth you csn bet that pedo has something else up his sleeve for some future event.

Fisk even looks like the most untrustworthy snake you could ever meet.

Stop giving this jew puppet credibility, he has none...in a few articles he was demonizing Syrian Christisns tor supporting Assad who protects Syrian Christians.

Edited by Mario Milano, 18 April 2018 - 03:26 PM.

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#9 wirehaired

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Posted 18 April 2018 - 04:50 PM

From what I have seen of Fisk over the years he is one of the few who have ANY credibility.,also Pilger in your Country is on the game most of the time,i bet he doesn't get on your TV much.


Edited by wirehaired, 18 April 2018 - 04:51 PM.

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#10 Nemesis

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Posted 18 April 2018 - 05:30 PM

What motivation there may be? Like: "an enemy of my enemy is my friend" for example? Or, I got orders from Assad to clean up this neighborhood and have no idea what i'm doing here! Why don't I help myself and my boys with some chemistry?

 

You're right...I don't know Arabs at all and I intend to keep it that way!

 

What really bugs me now is the large volume of unofficial reports about 'organ harvesting' coming from Syria! So it appears that most of the victims are very, very young. Dead bodies, crudely stitched up, found with in around towns and ditches, internal parts and organs missing!!! Fucking insane shit!!!

 

Who the hell is organ harvesting? Yes your israeli friends and your Kosovo mafia gang, no one else but your allies and friends.

 

Who is the enemy of my enemy in case of Syrian military? Nobody. Unless you want to say their allied coalition, none of whom breach international law, commit terrorist acts or possess chemical weapons.

 

It also absolutely makes no sense that if you and your army are going to immediately attempt to move into an area that you would contaminate the place so you can gas yourself.

 

Stop busting a gut to support terrorist/western innocence. It just doesn't exist. They are lying, admit it.

 

Did you also jump up and down to insist Sadaam had WMDs and his people were throwing babies out of incubators? Did that stupid little girl have you all gung-ho for shock and awe?


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#11 USC

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Posted 18 April 2018 - 06:41 PM

Russian journalist Alexander Kotz found "poisoned boy".

 

30741693_1662422433794779_57947254228516

 

 

https://www.facebook...hc_location=ufi


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#12 USC

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Posted 18 April 2018 - 06:44 PM

30714156_1949800361997004_56686271716109


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#13 wirehaired

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Posted 18 April 2018 - 06:45 PM

Russian journalist Alexander Kotz found "poisoned boy".

 

30741693_1662422433794779_57947254228516

 

 

https://www.facebook...hc_location=ufi

The Kid and his family should know just what the hell happened.


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#14 Nemesis

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Posted 18 April 2018 - 07:59 PM

All over but the crying FUKUS axis!!!


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#15 Kingranch

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Posted 18 April 2018 - 09:57 PM

That report came out soon after attack. People on higher floors were treated for smoke inhalation because of the fires that broke out after bomb(s) exploded. Those on the lower floors died of some type (chlorine?) of gas.


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#16 Kingranch

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Posted 18 April 2018 - 10:05 PM

Watch this clip at the link at tell me if you think is fake?

 


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