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False Flag Fail: How Syrian Civilians Derailed White Helmet ‘Chemical’ Stunt in Eastern Ghouta

Vanessa Beeley
21st Century Wire

“On the 6th of March, in Hamouriya, we decided to protest against Failaq Al Rahman and we raised the Syrian flag. We marched against the terrorist occupation. They (Failaq Al Rahman) and the White Helmets were preparing a chemical attack which they intended to blame on the Syrian Arab Army as they closed in on the militants. They were furious with us for our march and for raising the Syrian flag, because it ruined their plans” ~ Ibrahim Omar Toumeh, resident of Hamouriya, 45 years old. 

Some weeks after the liberation of Eastern Ghouta which had been occupied by a series of militant and extremist groups backed and armed by a variety of NATO-member-states, Gulf States and protected by Israel, I had the opportunity to interview civilians from all districts, both on the ground in Ghouta and in the nearby IDP (Internally Displaced People) camps that consisted of highly organised education centres for children, clean single-floor buildings that housed extended families, and that provided clean water, electricity, food and essential supplies to the thousands of temporary residents.


Ibrahim Omar Toumeh talks to Vanessa Beeley, April 2018. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)

I met Ibrahim Omar Toumeh in Harjalleh camp. He had arrived from Hamouriya one week previously, with his entire family. He and his family were keen to talk about their experiences living under Failaq Al Rahman rule (Al Qaeda affiliate) in their neighborhood. The usual stories of deprivation, imprisonment, sectarian brutality were recounted. I was told that the White Helmets worked as “one hand” with the terrorist factions throughout Eastern Ghouta:

White Helmets worked everywhere, they had points in all places – Harasta, Douma, Misrata, Otaya and they had centres in other sectors also alongside Failaq Al Rahman brigade (Nusra Front affiliate). They had points in Jobar also. Everywhere in Ghouta. They worked with terrorist groups like Jaish Al Islam, Failaq Al Rahman, Fair Al-Ummah (Dawn of the Nations).”
~ Mahmoud Al Khaled, resident of Hamouriya.

Toumeh described what he believed happened in Hamouriya on the 6th March 2018 and the days leading up to that date. He told me that at this time, the Syrian Arab Army were rapidly advancing towards Hamouriya and civilians were beginning to feel empowered and more able to protest the presence of Failaq Al Rahman and their associates, the White Helmets and other militant groups.

“On the 6th of March a major conference was due to be held in the UN. We always knew about these conferences because of the co-ordinators in Hamouriya that worked with people inside the UN. On the 4th and 5th of March, the White Helmets and the armed groups began to gather bodies in the hospital. They brought these bodies from everywhere, and they brought them to the  place where they would stage an attack. By the 5th, they had around 30 bodies in the hospital and the White Helmets started to take photographs.”
~ Ibrahim Toumeh

Watch this video of Hamouriya residents raising the Syrian flag on 6th March 2018:


Toumeh continued:

“On the 6th March, we knew the Syrian Arab Army was getting closer.  A group of us decided to march in the streets of Hamouriya and to raise the Syrian flag in solidarity with the Army. We knew the armed groups (Failaq Al Rahman) were betting on a western military intervention with reinforcements from the U.S base at Al Tanf. The armed groups told us that there were even ISIS terrorists from Deir Ezzor among these groups in Al Tanf.”

[EDIT: Investigative journalist, Elijah Magnier, had written about the US secret plans to divert militants from Al Tanf camp to reinforce the extremist groups in control of Eastern Ghouta, in his article: The US Secret Plan on Damascus Foiled – The Russian Role Before the US/UK/France Attack Revealed]

When I checked the 6th March in the UN calendar there had, indeed, been a high level discussion on Syria. “The UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, attended a meeting today with representatives of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Russian Federation, and the Republic of Turkey, hosted by the Russian Federation at its permanent mission in Geneva.”

Toumeh then told me:

“The armed groups were always telling us that the West would intervene and help them to conquer Damascus. After six years of their lies, we knew it was not going to happen. We were human shields for them, nothing more. We were fed up with their lies, so we raised the Syrian flag and we marched to tell them (Failaq Al Rahman) to leave Hamouriya. 

About an hour after we raised the flag, one of the head co-ordinators came to us with another person and he told us that we had ruined their plans. I asked why. They told me they had released “news” of a chemical attack the night before, saying 30 people had been killed. When we raised the flag around 3pm or 3.30pm the day after, we ruined it for them”


Ibrahim Omar Toumeh (on right), a resident of Hamouriya, Eastern Ghouta. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)

I asked Toumeh why he thought they said it was ruined, he smiled and then replied:

“They told me – ‘how can an area get hit by chemical weapons by the Syrian government and  then hours later residents in the same area, are raising the Syrian flag?’. They also told me we had ruined their communications with the UN and that there would be no intervention from Al Tanf after all. The main co-ordinator’s name was Abdulmueeh Hommus.

They wanted to present the “chemical attack” on the day the SAA entered Hamouriya, you see? The next day Failaq Al Rahman issued a Fatwa against all of us. All of us were sentenced to death. They brought one of their prisoners, they wrapped him in the Syrian flag and they shot him dead with three bullets to threaten us. We didnt care. We co-ordinated with the Army and they helped us to leave Hamouriya.”

The following video shows some of the Failaq Al Rahman reprisals against the civilian protestors in Hamouriya. WATCH:


Many reports on the SAA military campaign centering on Hamouriya confirm that the final liberation of this town was imminent. According to SouthFront’s war report on March 7th:

On March 6, the White Helments, a notorious organization operating in areas controlled by al-Qaeda-linked militants, reported that government forces had conducted a new chlorine gas attack in Eastern Ghouta allegedly injuring 30 peopleIt’s interesting to note that reports about alleged chemical attacks started appearing during a rapid advance by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies against Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda), Ahrar al-Sham, Jaish al-Islam and Faylaq al-Rahman.

By March 7, SAA troops had liberated a large area, including farms near the towns of Misraba and Beit Sawa. The town of Hammouriyah had reportedly surrendered to the SAA and government troops had started entering it.” (Emphasis added)

The White Helmet twitter feed confirms their claim of a chlorine gas attack in Hamouriya on the 6th March:

Toumeh is not the only one to have spoken to me about this staged chemical attack.

32 year old Mohammed Al Khatib is also from Hamouriya. I interviewed him in April 2018. He told me:

“The chemical attack was going to be staged to the East of the town in the direction of the Syrian Arab Army. The day before, the White Helmets started to bring bodies to the area, to the hospital. The media groups working with the armed groups also came. They started to film and photograph the bodies. There were many children among the dead. 

At this time all the medical centres were out of service. Only the White Helmets were bringing bodies from all over Hamouriya to this one centre so it would look as if they had been killed in this attack.

On the 6th March after we had marched and raised the flag, we were approached by some of the White Helmet members. They were very angry with us. They told us they wanted to force the West to intervene on their behalf but now their plan would not work and it was our fault.

This was the first time we saw them actually preparing a movie against our country. Usually they would make us go into the basement until they had finished filming an event.” 

Mohammed a father and grandfather from Hamouriya was among those severely punished by Failaq Al Rahman for raising the Syrian flag on the 6th March 2018. I have already told his harrowing story in a previous article:

SEE ALSO: Voices From Eastern Ghouta, Video Testimonies.

The Main Players

When I first heard these testimonies which were echoed by a number of other witnesses from Hamouriya but not in so much detail, I began to piece together the events of the 6th March 2018 and found that much of what had been described to me fell into place alongside tweets and reports from the various Western backed organisations on the ground in Eastern Ghouta.

Those organisations were headed up by the U.S Coalition multi-million-dollar financed White Helmets, with a history of being the preferred source for evidence of previous alleged chemical weapon attacks, including Khan Sheikhoun one year ago in April 2017.

The reliance on the White Helmets to provide the narratives to corroborate UK and U.S government policy in Syria has been undeniably demonstrated by a UK FCO document outlining funding for the White Helmets via the Conflict Stability and Security Fund (CSSF).

SEE ALSO: White Helmets: ‘Humanitarians’ and the ‘Moderate’ Bomb Factory in Saqba, Eastern Ghouta.

Toumeh had told me the demonstrations and flag raising took place around 3pm in the afternoon. The first announcements of an SAA chlorine attack in Hamouriya began to appear from late on the night of the 5th of March (depending on time zone) and then during the day of the 6th March as seen in the White Helmet tweet I have included in the article.

The media and advocacy manager for the White Helmets, Asaad Hanna, was among the first to signal the alleged chlorine attack in Hamouriya. It is worth bearing in mind that according to his own CV, Hanna also is a contributor at Chatham House the British Government-linked policy institute, The Washington Times and TRT World, Turkish state media.

Hanna is a researcher at the Washington-based Toran Centre, where Professor Scott Lucas of EA Worldview is also a consultant. Dima Moussa is also a researcher at the Toran centre – and Moussa is the newly elected Vice-President of the Syrian National Coalition Of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces (formerly known as the SNC, the US-created ‘opposition government’ in exile) and had previously worked for ARK Group and Mayday Rescue, according to her LinkedIn page.

The founder of the White Helmets, James Le Mesurier worked for ARK Group when he established the White Helmets in Turkey, Moussa was with ARK during this period. Le Mesurier then went on to set up Mayday Rescue, ostensibly in the Netherlands (Wayback machine shows the Mayday address in Dubai) as an intermediary to receive and transfer funds from the UK FCO CSSF to the White Helmets. During her time as Operations Manager at Mayday Rescue, Moussa was clearly involved in the day to day support for the White Helmets.

I will go into greater depth about these connections in a subsequent article but this information demonstrates how closely knit these organisations are and how they form a network that is capable of promulgating Syrian narratives favourable to the US Coalition interventionist road map – rapidly and across a diverse and extensive information base that includes corporate media, think tanks and government-aligned institutions, thus ensuring their influence over policy decisions by governments such as the UK and U.S, already heavily invested in the “regime change” operation in Syria.

The Ayman Asfari -funded “Violations Documentation Centre” (VDC) put out a ‘witness’ statement on Twitter on the 6th March:

Ayman Asfari also provided seed funding and ongoing support for Syria Campaign who effectively run the publicity campaign for the White Helmets and has succeeded in presenting these Al Qaeda (and associated extremist groups) affiliates as “impartial, unarmed and neutral humanitarians” for five years since their creation in March 2013, in Turkey.

VDC had previously used one of the more notorious White Helmets as an “expert” witness for another alleged chemical weapon attack in Sarmin, Idlib in March 2015. Muawiya Agha Hassan is perhaps best known for his criminal participation in the torture and execution of two SAA prisoners of war in Khan Touman, Aleppo in April 2016. 

In the early hours of the morning of the 7th March Dr Zaher Sahloul of SAMS (Syrian American Medical Society) tweeted the statement from the so-called Syrian Interim Government retracting claims of a “chlorine attack” which ties in with the statements from Toumeh and Khatib – that their march and protests had derailed plans by the White Helmets and Failaq Al Rahman – to stage a chlorine attack event:

The VDC tweet had been picked up by Syrian “armed opposition” and White Helmet supporter, Professor Scott Lucas of EA Worldview (consultant at the Toran Centre) in an article published the same day, the 6th March. The information was only updated in a separate report on the 7th March when Lucas confirmed that a chemical attack had not actually taken place in Hamouriya on the 6th March:

“As the residents of Hamouriya surrendered, the opposition’s Health Directorate said a Monday “gas attack” was actually fumes from high-potency explosives.”

When I challenged Lucas on why he had not corrected the first article rather than burying the retraction in a ‘follow-up’ article, he responded with familiar defensive avoidance tactics:

Joyce Karam of The National was another one to run with the story literally as it appeared on the Twitter pages of the moderate extremist support groups and individuals, such as Mohamad Katoub, advocacy manager for SAMS  – based in… Gaziantep, Turkey:

The National alludes to the threat of U.S. intervention if ‘another chemical attack’ is perceived to have been carried out by the SAA:

If the attack is proven, it comes at a tricky time for the debate in Washington. On Monday, the Washington Post reported that “the Trump administration has considered new military action against the Syrian government in response to reports of ongoing chemical weapons use.” (Emphasis added)

Al Araby UK also ran the story based upon the White Helmet accounts and has not retracted it to my knowledge, the article is still available on their website and has not been updated.

France Threatens Intervention

Bearing in mind Toumeh’s claims that these “chlorine attacks” were staged in an attempt by Failaq Al Rahman and the White Helmets to pressure the West to intervene on their behalf, it was not surprising to see that France was posturing wildly as Eastern Ghouta was being liberated and the Western proxy grip on Damascus was finally being prised apart.

On the 8th March:

“If the use of chemical weapons were found, verified, attributed and the use of the chemical weapon left people dead,” France would take “intervention measures to prevent the proliferation of chemical weapons,”
Jean-Yves Le Drian, French Foreign Minister.

On the 12th March:

“The day we have, in particular in tandem with our American partners, irrefutable proof that the red line was crossed — namely the chemical weapons were used to lethal effect — we will do what the Americans themselves did moreover a few months ago; we would put ourselves in position to proceed with targeted strikes,”
French President, Francois Macron

The race was on to fulfill this prophecy. Nothing could have given greater encouragement for the US Coalition assets on the ground in Syria to produce a chemical attack provocation than such bellicose rhetoric from Macron and Trump.

Immediately after the retraction of the 6th March chlorine attack, another chlorine attack was allegedly carried out in Hamouriya on the 7th March which was picked up by The GuardianKareem Shaheen in Istanbul, to be precise – based upon testimony from the “rescue workers” which we must presume to be the White Helmets although they are not named by Shaheen.

“They said 29 people, including 15 children, were admitted to a medical centre with breathing problems after a suspected toxic gas attack on the towns of Hamoryah and Saqba.” (Emphasis added)

A familiar White Helmet figure provided a dramatic statement for Al Jazeera.

“Yesterday night was the darkest and most horrific night ever. They used phosphorus, napalm, cluster bombs and chlorine gas,” Ammar al-Selmo, a volunteer aid worker for the Syrian Civil Defence, told Al Jazeera by phone from the opposition-held enclave.”

In September 2016, Al-Selmo provided ‘evidence’ of the alleged Russian bombing of a humanitarian convoy west of Aleppo City. Investigative journalist, Gareth Porter, masterfully deconstructed this evidence in a later report.

The following video was produced by @Syricide on Twitter based upon Al Selmo’s statements in September 2016. There is a remarkable similarity in sensationalism between the 2016 and 2017 statements. WATCH:


Conclusions

Media outlets in the West have no issue with a rush to judgement regarding “suspected” chemical attacks when the source is a part of the approved team on the ground in Syria, dominated by the White Helmets. The stream of chemical weapon reports are repeated in a manner that barely raises any doubt over their credibility. Questions are not asked, and even when the narrative is then retracted, an attack one day later is reported without the caveat that victim symptoms may be the result of smoke inhalation, rather than chlorine or other toxic gas.

The treadmill of “chemical attacks” must be maintained because that is what will instigate U.S coalition intervention, according to the U.S Coalition. Journalists should be mapping the correlation between SAA military advances, the uptick in U.S allied belligerence towards Syria and the increase in claims of chemical attacks by the extremist groups benefiting from U.S intervention. Of course this is not what happens. The western media journalists literally copy-paste the White Helmets supplied narrative that enables an escalation in military aggression in support of the sectarian, extremist occupiers of civilian areas in Syria.

To what degree does the tail wag the dog? Are the U.K, U.S. and France genuinely in control of the White Helmet narratives, do they communicate with co-ordinators on the ground when they feel it is most convenient to receive news of a chemical attack? Or, do the White Helmets take control at times when they feel threatened, in order to trigger international reactions?

The importance given to the protection of the White Helmets by UN agencies, was condemned by Dr Bashar Al Jaafari, Syrian permanent representative to the UN, on the 16th March.

“He warned that giving the opportunity for terrorist groups, including the so-called “White Helmets” which are affiliated to Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist organization, to use the Security Council as a podium constitutes a flagrant violation of UNSC resolutions, particularly those related to combating terrorism, adding “the biggest scandal is that a UN agency operating in Damascus demanded the evacuation of 76 members of White Helmets from Eastern Ghouta, while paying no attention to the lives of thousands of civilians.” 

HRW (Human Rights Watch) who, by their own admission, rely heavily upon the White Helmets for their evidence in Syria, reported on March 17th that they had received a distress call from the White Helmets claiming a number of them were surrounded by the SAA and were fearing “summary execution”.

White Helmets had issued similar reports during the final hours of the liberation of East Aleppo. Owen Jones of The Guardian repeated those stories without hesitation at the time. I was on the ground in Aleppo during liberation and again in Eastern Ghouta. Any White Helmets or armed factions who took Amnesty, were evacuated safely with their families to Idlib.

The April 7th Douma alleged chemical attack was also dismissed as a non-chemical bombing by medical staff who treated victims in the Douma Medical Point. This was reported by Robert Fisk and by a number of other journalists, independent and mainstream who visited the site, including myself.

Despite the clear possibility of this being another misreported “chemical attack”, the corporate media seemed to suffer from selective amnesia in their usual rush to judgement that provided cover for the U.S, U.K and France to unlawfully bomb Syria on the 14th April. This amnesia also covers the existence of chemical weapon manufacturing facilities under the control of the extremist groups across Eastern Ghouta, including Jaish Al Islam in Douma.

My interview with one of the medical staff who was present on the night of the alleged chemical attack on 7th April, in Douma. WATCH:


When we take into consideration the uniformity of narrative across the inter-connecting groups and support groups, including western media, it is hard not to conclude that truth is indeed the first casualty of war, brought to it’s knees by a narrative building apparatus that is ultimately financed and constructed by the hostile government agencies that benefit most from a contrived account of events on the ground in Syria.

The new powers granted to the OPCW to attribute blame will surely lead to a further increase in “chemical attack” claims from the White Helmets and associated militant and terrorist groups still occupying rapidly dwindling areas of southern Syria and in Idlib which will soon be the focus of the SAA campaign to cleanse Syria of the foreign invaders.

***

Vanessa Beeley is an independent journalist, peace activist, photographer and associate editor at 21st Century Wire. Vanessa was a finalist for one of the most prestigious journalism awards – the 2017 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism – whose winners have included the likes of Robert Parry in 2017, Patrick Cockburn, Robert Fisk, Nick Davies and the Bureau for Investigative Journalism team.

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE WHITE HELMETS BY READING THE FOLLOWING ARTICLES:

White Helmets Centre in Saqba, Eastern Ghouta Next Door to Terrorist Bomb Factory
“Humanitarians” and the ‘Moderate’ Bomb Factory in Saqba, Eastern Ghouta.

BBC and Guardian Whitewash of UK FCO Funding Scandal in Syria
What to Expect From BBC Panorama and Guardian’s Whitewash of UK Gov’t Funding Terrorists in Syria

White Helmets Evidence Presented at Geneva Press Club:
Vanessa Beeley Presents Exposé on White Helmets at Swiss Press Club in Geneva

‘Global Britain’ – UK Funding a Shadow State in Syria
‘Global Britain’ is Financing Terrorism and Bloodshed in Syria and Calling it ‘Aid’

White Helmets – Hollywood Poster Boys:

WHITE HELMETS: State Sanctioned Terrorism and Hollywood Poster Boys for War

21st Century Wire:
New Report Destroys Fabricated Myth of Syria’s ‘White Helmets’

Initial Investigation into White Helmets:
Who are Syria’s White Helmets?

21st Century Wire article on the White Helmets:  
Syria’s White Helmets: War by Way of Deception ~ the “Moderate” Executioners

Who Funds the White Helmets?
Secret £1bn UK War Chest Used to Fund the White Helmets and Other ‘Initiatives’

Original investigative report:
The REAL Syria Civil Defence Exposes Fake White Helmets as Terrorist-Linked Imposters 

Irish Peace Prize Farce
Tipperary’s White Helmets Peace Prize: A Judas Kiss to the Antiwar Movement and Syria

White Helmets Executions
WHITE HELMETS: Severed Heads of Syrian Arab Army Soldiers Paraded as Trophies

CNN Fabricate News About the White Helmets
A NOBEL LIE: CNN’s Claim That ‘White Helmets Center in Damascus’ Was Hit by a Barrel Bomb

White Helmets Links to Al Nusra
WHITE HELMETS: Hand in Hand with Al Qaeda and Extremist Child Beheaders in Aleppo

Report by Patrick Henningsen
AN INTRODUCTION: Smart Power & The Human Rights Industrial Complex

Open Letter by Vanessa Beeley
White Helmets Campaign for War NOT Peace – Retract RLA & Nobel Peace Prize Nominations

Staged Rescue Videos
(VIDEO) White Helmets: Miraculous ‘Rag Doll Rescue’

White Helmets Oscar Award Farce:
Forget Oscar: Give The White Helmets the Leni Riefenstahl Award for Best War Propaganda Film

Cory Morningstar report:
Investigation into the funding sources of the White Helmets, including Avaaz, Purpose, The Syria Campaign

Open letter to Canadian MPs from Stop the War Hamilton (Canada):
Letter from the Hamilton Coalition to Stop War to the New Democratic Party in Canada ref the White Helmet nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize:

Open letter to Canada’s NDP Leader on Nobel Prize:
Letter to NDP from Prof. John Ryan protesting White Helmet nomination for RLA and Nobel Peace Prize.

READ MORE WHITE HELMETS NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire White Helmets Files

READ MORE SYRIA NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Syria Files

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