On April 7, 2017, at 04:40 EEST, the USS Ross and the USS Porter launched 59 Tomahawk missiles at the Shayrat Air Base in Homs, Syria.
The strike was retribution for the supposed chemical attack in Khan Shaykhun, a town in the rebel-held Idlib province.
The targets of the attack were most likely the 677th and the 685th Fighter Squadron of the Syrian Arab Air Force. These squadrons utilize Soviet era Sukhoi Su-22 bombers, the same bombers that Russia and Syria admit struck a weapons depot in Khan Shaykhun on the same day as the chemical attack.
In analyzing the coverage of the attack, there are glaring inconsistencies in the timeline of events of that day.
The chemical attack is reported to have occurred around 06:30 EEST (local Syrian time) on April 4, 2017. Soon after, residents from Khan Shaykhun started flooding into hospitals. In various photos and videos, people are seen carrying victims and doctors are seen treating people affected by toxins.
The Russian and Syrian government confirmed that they hit a weapons depot on the outskirts of Khan Shaykhun at around 11:30 EEST.
Based on the available media reportage, there wasn't a second release of chemicals that could have coincided with the Syrian strike around noon. The Russian government claimed that the Syrian air force struck a chemical weapons depot in the area, which caused the release of gas, but this is unsubstantiated as there were not reports of a gas attack around noon local time, only in the early morning hours.
The stories of the hospital damaged during the second strike most likely confirm Russia and Syria's timeline of the depot strike. However, based on the available video evidence I've located of a second strike, it's hard to confirm it, as there is no time stamp for the video, nor did the activists who released it say when it took place. Regardless, the video coincides with reports of another strike taking place while victims were being treated, which would make sense with a second bombing occurring hours later.
Additionally, there are several issues in the chemical attack here. The photo and video evidence provided to us rules out the use of sarin because the gas is absorbable through the lungs and skin and physical effects will occur within seconds, according to the CDC.
Sarin can even contaminate the water supply, which makes this photo released by the White Helmets questionable. Spraying a body with water would actually spread the toxin as water can transmit sarin. As the White Helmets and other nearby doctors were one of the first to claim the use of sarin, it is strange also that the rescue workers in the above photo are coming into contact with victims without the use hazmat suits.
(The White Helmets have been brought into question before as they used their time and resources to produce a 'mannequin challenge' video, based on the viral meme.)
While it is not my intention to make light of the issue, much of the photo and video evidence released on the day of the attack is not consistent with sarin gas because anyone coming into contact with it would have been immediately effected, had they not been donning the appropriate protective gear.
This article released yesterday by the Guardian gives more concrete details and sheds light on the two separate strikes that morning.
It appears that the early morning chemical attack was a rather small strike whose primary effect was the gas release. Residents in Khan Shaykhun didn't report much damage from the 06:30 EEST strike:
"There was no evidence of any building being hit in recent days or weeks near where so many people were killed and wounded by a nerve agent. The homes across the street appeared undamaged from the outside. There was no contamination zone near any building. Instead, the contamination area radiated from a hole in a road."
The article actually provides a picture of said hole. Assuming that the hazard sign that someone placed into the hole (which was still contaminated with sarin?) is about poster size, the hole is quite small, and probably wasn't the result of a strike from a Su-22 bomber.
(I would also hope that in the coming days someone can identify the strange metal pipe that is sticking out of the contamination hole.)
The article goes on and gives further confirmation of the depot strike. Pictures are provided as well.
It appears the depot wasn't in use at all since being damaged in an earlier strike months ago:
"The Guardian, the first western media organisation to visit the site of the attack, examined a warehouse and silos directly next to where the missile had landed, and found nothing but an abandoned space covered in dust and half-destroyed silos reeking of leftover grain and animal manure.
"Residents said the silos had been damaged in air raids six months ago, and had stood unused since then."
(I find it strange that the Guardian was given safe passage into an area that is controlled by a group that has long been branded as a terrorist organization by the United States.)
Moving on. The testimonies by witnesses also establish the attack as not being sarin. A White Helmet volunteer said, “They told us ‘HQ, we are losing control’. We had no idea what they were trying to say. Then they said, ‘come save us, we can no longer walk’. So the second and third teams went with just face masks. We could smell it from 500 metres away (again, from the Guardian article).”
Exposure to sarin effects the nervous system, but one bonafide hallmark of the poison is that is has no odor. Despite Turkey's claims, the gas can simply not be sarin if people could 'smell' it.