The Guardian article from February 6, 2018, titled “Biggest airstrikes in a year hit Syria after rebels shoot down Russian jet” claims that “Russian and Syrian jets have bombed up to 18 towns across north-west Syria, devastating civilian areas and forcing fresh waves of refugees to flee”. According to the journalists Martin Chulov and Kareem Shahee, a series of devastating airstrikes have been carried out in the northwest of Idlib province. “Nine people were treated for symptoms of chlorine exposure after a bomb was dropped on the town of Saraqeb by a helicopter”, they claim.
Inside Syria Media Center has tried to get to the bottom of the adequacy of this information and determine whether it is credible.
Fake No.1 Mission Impossible
According to The Guardian journalists, “as many as 150 airstrikes beginning on Sunday were recorded in 18 towns of Idlib province by Monday”. Trying to imagine the number of attacks carried out without interruption for 12 hours we came to the conclusion that Idlib Governorate, in the view of The Guardian, has suffered a saturation bombing. In fact, if these figures were accurate at least eight aircraft would have flown mission and dropped about 60 bombs at every town – based on an average maximum loading of eight FAB-500 general purpose bombs per one Su-25 jet.
At the same time, Business Insider reports that “the most recent satellite images of the Russian-operated Hmeimim air base in Syria show Moscow has 10 types of aircraft in the war-torn country, 33 jets in total and a smaller number of fixed-wing aircraft.” So, all the Russian aircraft are supposed to have taken off and landed 4 times, refueled, loaded weapons and once again set course for Idlib for the 12 hours.
If it really did happen, this military operation could be compared to the one-night air raid on London during WW2, which caused over, 500 deaths a night. But this has nothing in common with the casualties reported by The Guardian.
Besides, The Guardian’s figures vary substantially with those from other sources. Thus, The Washington Post referring to ВВС channel reported 25 airstrikes on 15 towns. It also claimed that about 20 militants in the area died in bombardment while The Guardian cited 300 people killed, mostly women and children.
Have analyzed Turkish mass media, we do not consider the Guardian’s ‘facts’ to be authentic. For example, Anadolu Agency reported on civilian casualties referring to White Helmets director in Idlib, Mustafa Haj Yusuf. This organization has already been involved in staging fake videos. Moreover, Turkish media claimed the only tragic case had happened in Masaran village with eight locals killed and about 40 wounded from Feb. 4 to Feb. 5, 2018. It was also reported that three mosques and a hospital had been destroyed in Maarat al-Numan without quoting the number of killed. So Guardian’s data on 300 civilians killed is also looking different.
Fake No.2 Has Termala actually been?
Covering the situation around Termala, The Guardian’s reporters refer to some monitoring groups. In our opinion, the source of this false information is the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Surprisingly, we have not found any photos or videos which could prove this airstrike. The Observatory’s representatives said Russian airstrikes had killed three people targeting the village of Termala in Idlib on February 6. This information was widely disseminated by the influential Western media like Anadolu and NYP. However, their data slightly varies. Some report three civilians deaths while others report five deaths.
Fake No.3 “Chemical explosion”
There is a particular interest in a new case of the use of chemical weapons in Syria. According to The Guardian, “nine people were treated for symptoms of chlorine exposure after a bomb was dropped on the town of Saraqeb by a helicopter.” However, some American sources like Business Insider say there were two bombs and 11 wounded. The Guardian’s journalists refer to the unnamed ‘medics’. This alleged fact causes major doubts because of several reasons.
First, we’ve analyzed the craters formed, according to locals, by the barrel bomb with chlorine gas dropped on Saraqeb.