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Human rights investigations
The ‘Halfaya bakery massacre’

Seasons greetings to our readers. Our festivities are on temporary hold as we look at another propaganda event – the ‘Halfaya bakery massacre’

25 December 2012

The ‘Halfaya bakery massacre’ is a propaganda event with little basis in terms of evidence, spread by CNN, Al Arabiya, Reuters and other media channels worldwide, the main elements of which are that Syrian MIG jets bombed a bakery in Halfaya killing more than a hundred (CNN) and at least 300 (Al Arabiya) people. Versions of the propaganda story include the jets firing four rockets into a crowd up to 1,000 standing in line due to hunger.

The evidence given for the story are witness statements by ‘Syrian activists,’ video footage provided by these ‘activists’ and (in the case of CNN) has even included imagery from a far more substantial explosion – that of a terrorist car bombing in Baghdad which happened on the same day.

This propaganda exercise coincides with the visit of Lakhdar Brahimi to the Syrian capital.

The story being peddled by CNN etc is undermined by even a cursory look at the actual video evidence. The “journalists” responsible for the story are relying on the likelihood that people will not bother to watch the video footage and that if they do they will be so shocked by its gruesome nature that all rational analysis of the actual evidence will be suspended.

The video footage from Halfaya, which has recently come under rebel control after a long battle, shows the results of an apparent explosion outside a two-story building. The number of bodies shown at the scene is around a dozen, at most, mainly gathered around the rear of a pick-up truck parked just outside the building:

A smaller number of people appear to be injured. The evidence that the building is a bakery rests on the statements of ‘activists’ and photographs of a bloodied loaf of bread. The video footage actually shows some one throwing fresh bread onto some blood on the road:

The building in front of which the bodies are shown appears relatively undamaged but there is a large amount of rubble and concrete blocks in front of it, including over the bodies. The pickup truck is parked right up against one of the doors of the building as if it is loading something from the inside the building. The small crater, such as it is, is a few feet behind the pick-up truck.

It is probable there was an explosion on the scene. It may have been caused by a (single) mortar round or an explosion of some ammunition being loaded into the pick-up or possibly a grenade (eg from a rival battalion.) It is unlikely this is an airstrike as the physical damage is so minor. The concrete blocks suggest that an attempt may have been made to ‘enhance’ the scene or that there was some protection in front of the building, perhaps as it was being used as a HQ or ammunition store.

At least one of the bodies shown in the various footage appears to be in a more advanced state of decomposition than the others and it is possible that some of the bodies, all of which are of men of fighting age, apart from a single body in woman’s clothing in the road, are the casualties of battle, perhaps not even from this scene.

If there were a hundred deaths at the scene (or anything like it) one of the rebel cameramen would have been sure to have recorded them.

The use of the word “activist” in describing the propaganda arms of the various brigades is almost universal and very effective in giving unwarranted credence to rebel propaganda. Any serious journalist is well aware of the fact that so-called activists using advanced communications equipment provided by the US and UK are providing rebel propaganda which is of almost no evidentiary value – but hey, why let the truth get in the way of a good story?

Human rights investigations
December 25, 2012