One of the well publicized and horrific news items to emerge after the Aug. 21 attack in East Damascus was the video of an entire family found dead in their home. I had frankly avoided watching this video for obvious reasons, until I watched it today. It is as horrific and terrible as I suspected, and it is difficult not to have an emotional reaction to such a tragedy. However, this video goes further toward my theory that at least some munitions on Aug. 21st were not chemical weapons (although it is possible that some of the rockets and munitions used were chemical weapons.) The UN examined a rocket today that has the highest likelihood to be a chemical weapon that I have seen. (There will be more on the reason why from others). In particular, I think it is very likely that this family did not die from chemical weapons but rather a pressure wave blast caused by likely a fuel air or thermobaric explosion.
First, here is the video in question. Please watch with caution because it shows horrible injuries and dead children. It is not embedded for this purpose. It is from the ANA new media association. The description reads: “Video portrays an a building inspection in which a number of families are found dead 36 hours after a chemical weapons attack which took place on Damascus suburbs on the 21st of August 2013 early morning time (presumed at 2:00am) this video was taken in the Zamalka area of the Eastern Ghouta of Damascus suburbs.”
I was reading the twitter feed of Dan Kaszeta @DanKaszeta, who is a chemical weapons expert that is often quoted in news articles about chemical weapons attacks in Syria. He has some excellent reading available on the subject of the Aug. 21st attack. In sum, he has lots of questions about what happened. He was asked on twitter about the deaths of this family, and he responded that he thought it looked like they died from conventional munitions rather than chemical weapons.
After examining the video, this looks like death from a fuel air explosive or thermobaric weapon. The first thing to note in the video is that it appears to be an open air building large opening in the side. Fuel air weapons and thermobaric weapons are most effective in these settings.
Second, note the amount of concrete that has fallen to the ground insider the building. It appears that something caused concrete to fall off the sides and ceiling of the building, but there appears to be no impact damage anywhere in the video. The building appears largely intact in every part of the video. This is consistent of a pressure wave shaking the building. Another possibility is that the building is under construction and that the concrete on the ground is part of construction waste. There did appear to be masonry blocks outside the building and the building does appear to be unfinished, therefore this has to considered a possibility. However, a pressure wave death still appears very possible.
All of the bodies appear consistent with internal injuries caused by a pressure wave. There is some body trauma but nothing consistent with deaths from shrapnel. People are found dead on multiple levels of the building. Again, fuel air explosives or thermobaric weapons do not kill by burning but rather by an intense pressure wave that often causes internal injuries.