Syrians' Facebook posts illustrate tragedy of chemical weapons attacks

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Editor’s note: Storyful pieced together these timelines from eyewitnesses’ Facebook posts and news reports. In addition to noting when Syrians published social media reports, the timelines describe approximate times chemical weapons attacks occurred on Aug. 21 in the Damascus suburbs. The timelines list events from different northeastern Damascus locations, including Jobar, Kafr Batna, Hamoryah, Erbin and Douma.

The map above shows approximate locations described in the timelines. Ein Tarma, Jobar and Zamalka are marked with yellow pins. Zaynia is noted with a red exclamation mark. Victims of the alleged attack were reportedly treated at the following locations: Jobar, Kafr Batna, Hamoryah, Erbin and Douma. These are marked with red crosses. See a full key of map icons.

Activists reported chemical weapons attacks, according to Reuters, from around 2:30 a.m. local time on Aug. 21 in East Ghouta, Damascus. Initial reports made reference to three locations: Jobar, Ein Tarma and Zamalka. On the Facebook account of the Ein Tarma Coordinating, local activists reported the downing of a chopper and the taking of a telecommunications building, in Jobar, in the hours before the attack.

All times quoted are local Syrian times. Click the links to see the Facebook posts from the areas. Please note that the photos are graphic and contain images of dead and wounded people.

Reports from Jobar:

At 2:35 a.m., the first report of a chemical weapons attack was posted by the Jobar Revolutionary Coordination Committee. It gave the location of the “chemical shell” strike as Zaynia, Ein Tarma.

At 3:23 a.m., a posting on the same account said chemical weapons had been used on Jobar and Ein Tarma. This was repeated here a few minutes later.

A posting at 3:40 a.m. reported that hospitals were crowded with women, children and the elderly.

At 4:33 a.m., the first video was posted, said to show a boy from Ein Tarma affected by chemical weapons. The uploading YouTube account was from Jobar.

At 5:39 a.m., Jobar Revolutionary Coordination Committee indicated 600 were wounded “in Jobar, Ein Tarma and Zaynia.”

A posting at 6:01 a.m. claimed that 15 chemical shells were used in the alleged attack.

Reports from Ein Tarma:

At 2:45 a.m., the Ein Tarma Coordinating Committee reported that several people in Zaynia were suffering from suffocation as a result of the town being “bombed with toxic substances.” Zaynia is a high-density housing area on the border of Ein Tarma and Zamalka.

A posting at 3:13 a.m. gave the location of the incident as “between Ein Tarma and Zamalka.”

At 3:15 a.m., it was reported that the cause of this was a ground-to-ground chemical rocket that exploded in the area. Again, the area was given as “between Ein Tarma and Zamalka.”

At 3:55 a.m., the same source reported dozens were dead at several field hospitals.

At 4:02 a.m., the page posted images with a logo belonging to media activists in nearby Erbin, tagged as showing victims from Ein Tarma. Shortly afterward, it posted videos from Erbin tagged as showing Ein Tarma’s dead and wounded.

Some postings on the page listed the affected areas as Jobar, Zamalka and Ein Tarma. For instance here.

At 4:27 a.m., the Ein Tarma Coordinating Committee warned of a toxic cloud spreading from Zaynia and started posting the first videos from nearby Kafr Batna’s coordinating committee.

Reports from Zamalka:

At 2:26 a.m., the Zamalka Revolutionary Coordinating Committee reported the bombing of “the city” with “toxic substances” but did not give any further geographical information.

At 2:45 a.m., the same source reported 20 cases of “suffocation and fainting.”

In general, the reports from Zamalka Revolutionary Coordinating Committee refer only to Jobar and Ein Tarma as the affected locations, for instance here.

Reports of a separate attack in Moadamiyeh Al Sham

There were reports of heavy shelling and a separate chemical weapons attack on Moadamiyeh Al Sham, which lies to the southwest of the capital. Initial reports and videos indicated a smaller-scale event, with the reported death toll attributed to chemical weapons jumping from 7 to 56 late on Aug. 21.

At 5:36 a.m., reports say dozens are killed by chemical weapons rockets “in the city.” The location is not specified.

At 11:44 a.m., continued shelling is reported, but there is no mention of chemical weapons.

At 5:57 p.m., names from Moadamiyeh killed in “chemical massacre of August 21” are listed. No location for the strike is given.

Several subsequent posts updated on chemical weapons casualty figures from the “chemical massacre of August 21.” None mentioned a location beyond saying “the city.” However, a YouTube channel from Moadamiyeh posted videos of victims here, here and here. The videos did not show the kind of mass-casualty incidents portrayed in videos from East Ghouta.

At 6:13 p.m., a report puts the death toll from chemical weapons at seven.

At 8:51 p.m., a report names 52 casualties from Moadamiyeh killed on Aug. 21. It is unclear from the report how many were linked to chemical weapons.

At 10:03 p.m., a report links the 56 deaths listed to the use of chemical weapons.

Reports from other areas of East Ghouta:

Saqba

3:17 a.m. — A report mentions chemical “bombing” on Zaynia, Ein Tarma.

3:56 a.m.— A photo of a child from Erbin is posted. A report says Ein Tarma and Zamalka were targeted.

4:07 a.m. — A video from Hamoriyah is posted. A report says Ein Tarma, Jobar and Zamalka were targeted.

9:13 a.m. — An image of “chemical rocket that fell today causing many deaths” without disambiguation was posted.

Erbin

3:48 a.m. — A report of a chemical weapons strike in Zamalka and Ein Tarma was posted.

3:52 a.m. — An image of a child receiving treatment in an Erbin field hospital after “CW bombing of East Ghouta” was posted.

4:44 a.m. — A video of chemical weapons patients is posted. Geographical reference is only to East Ghouta.

5:02 a.m. — A video of chemical weapons casualties “from East Ghouta” in an Erbin field hospital was posted.

6:01 a.m. — A video of chemical weapons victims in an Erbin field hospital is posted. There's no other geographical reference.

6:10 a.m. — An image of a casualty of chemical weapons strike “on East Ghouta” is posted.

Hamoryah

3:52 a.m. — A report of dozens dead and hundreds wounded is posted after poison gas targeted Jobar, Zamalka and Ein Tarma.

3:54 a.m. — A report of tens dead and wounded in Jobar and Ein Tarma after strike by chemical weapons missiles is posted.

4:06 a.m. — A video from Hamoryah talks of chemical weapons casualties. The description mentions Jobar, Ein Tarma and Zamalka.

Several more videos were posted in the following 30 minutes, all describing the location of attack as Jobar, Ein Tarma and Zamalka.

Kafr Batna

2:35 a.m. — A report is filed of toxic bombings/choking in Zamalka (via Zamalka RCC).

2:46 a.m. — A report on the targeting of Zaynia, Ein Tarma with chemical shells is posted.

4:06 a.m. — A photo of chemical weapons casualties is posted. Caption mentions chemical weapons strikes on Ein Tarma and Zamalka.

Subsequent reports and videos mention Ein Tarma and Zamalka as the areas struck by “chemical rockets.” An affiliated YouTube account posted field hospital videos. The location of shooting was not specified.