“Rocket debris and symptoms of the victims from the August 21 attacks on Ghouta provide telltale evidence about the weapon systems used,” said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. “This evidence strongly suggests that Syrian government troops launched rockets carrying chemical warheads into the Damascus suburbs that terrible morning.”Human Rights Watch
The evidence concerning the type of rockets and launchers used in these attacks strongly suggests that these are weapon systems known and documented to be only in the possession of, and used by, Syrian government armed forces, Human Rights Watch said.
Within the linked article is a link to a 22 page document, re-linked. That document is a PDF and opens with a full-page picture of dead children.
Trigger alert: disturbing pictures in both links
More below the orange squiggle of power.
The missiles used were a 140mm (5.5") Soviet-made missile, the M-14, and a 330mm (13") missile. These are too large to be transported by hand. A typical MANPAD (Stinger or similar shoulder fired missile) is about half that diameter and shorter. These missiles would weigh 5x to 50x as much as a Stinger.
Wikipedia on the M-14 here. Syria purchased 200 of the launch systems in 1967.
Only 3 types of warheads are known to have been produced for the M-14: a high explosive fragmentation round, a white phosphorus round, and a 2.2 kg of Sarin round. Since none of the victims appear to have been shredded by shrapnel or burned by white phosphorus, it is not unlikely that the 3rd sort of warhead was used.
These M-14 rockets have a "donut" shaped range; they cannot be used on nearby targets for reasons HRW does not state. Witnesses told HRW what direction the rockets came from; the territory in the proper direction and at the necessary range is controlled by the Syrian government and in fact seems to be Syrian bases - which makes the idea that someone interested in a false flag snuck a rocket launcher onto the base and launched it without being noticed rather implausible.
The consistency in the design of these rockets suggests that they were locally but industrially produced, and apparently designed to be deployed with the Iranian 333mm launchers or derivatives thereof. While Human Rights Watch cannot establish where the rockets were manufactured, their basic design and unique size matching the Iranian rocket launching system suggest a Syrian industrial origin. The production of a weapon specifically designed to deliver chemical weapons would be a violation of the 1993 Convention on Chemical Weapons, of which only five countries, including Syria, are not parties.The PDF shows numerous pictures of this rocket. This rocket was designed for the purpose of delivering chemical warheads, and delivers 50 to 60 liters of sarin. That's 13 to 16 gallons for non-metric readers. Imagine the gas tank from a mid-sized car full of poison gas.
Most significantly, the design of the payload of the rockets found at the scene of the Eastern Ghouta August 21 attack strongly indicates that it is compatible, and perhaps specifically designed, for the delivery of chemical agents. The payload of the rocket consists of a large, thin-walled container, capable of holding 50 to 60 liters of chemical agent which is loaded into the payload via a plughole, and a small central tube with a suspected bursting charge at the front, rupturing the thin-walled container and distributing the vaporized chemical agent.A 330mm rocket is not the sort of thing you whip up in your garage, and as stated, these appear to be industrially produced, not hand-crafted. Someone with access to a factory made these rockets, and made them to deliver chemical weapons in large quantity. The rebels do not have access to factories, do not have access to large quantities of poison gas, and do not use the Iranian 333mm launch system.
The 330mm rocket has appeared in its high-explosive form in previous attacks around Damascus. The high-explosive version of the 330mm surface-to-surface rocket appears to have been used in the Daraya suburb of Damascus on January 4, 201321 and in Khalidiya, in Homs governorate, on August 2, 2013. Opposition forces blamed both attacks on the Syrian government, although Human Rights Watch could not independently confirm this allegation.22
Because the August 21 attacks took place in two separate areas of Ghouta, and owing to the chaos resulting from the large number of casualties, it is difficult to establish a precise death toll. The areas affected do not have any large hospitals, and rely on several small, badly supplied underground clinics to provide medical assistance. According to the doctors interviewed by Human Rights Watch, these small medical clinics were overwhelmed by the number of victims, and many of the dead were never brought to the clinics and thus not registered. According to Médecins Sans Frontières, at least 3,600 persons were treated for symptoms consistent with exposure to neurotoxic agents at three hospitals it supports in the area in the first three hours following the attacks.To put it another way, inconsistencies between different estimates of the death toll are to be expected, not cited as evidence that someone is lying.
HRW admits that they lack access to the attacked areas and are drawing their conclusions from what they can obtain via interviews. However, they have enough evidence that they conclude the attacks were, as noted in the title, likely carried out by the government, not the rebels.
I believe that we may safely conclude that Human Rights Watch, which has taken both the United States and Israel to task for use of white phosphorus in the past, is not a tool of Barack Obama's nefarious plot to bomb Syria.
The conclusion that these attacks were carried out by Syrian government forces seems solid. The only way for Assad to escape responsibility is if his forces used these weapons without following proper procedure to obtain authorization. If so, it becomes very urgent that the weapons be secured - because if Assad isn't in control than every base commander can use them at his personal whim.