Sunday, 23 February 2014

Update On The Yabrud Offensive From Elijah J Magnier

A special report by Elijah J Magnier on the ongoing Yabrud Offensive.  His earlier reports on the opening stages of the Offensive can be found here and here.

Battle of Qalamoun: First revelation on Qusseyr battle
  • 9 killed and 21 wounded among Hezbollah fighters in the first 10 days in Qalamoun when over 250 were registered between dead and wounded in the first 10 days of Qussyr
  • Hezbollah/SAA forces moved 1500 meters inside Rima Farms
  • Over 15000 Hezbollah fighters involved in Qalamoun along with SAA
  • Nusrallah ordered to slow down the advance to avoid losses
High-ranking officer within the joint military operational room run by Hezbollah and SAA in Syria claimed, Most cities in Qalamoun are today under fire control. In one or two cities, inhabitants and FSA have decided to stop rebels from accessing to avoid the battle. Other cities refused to continue negotiating, intimidated by rebels. At the moment, the main ‘arrow advance’ of attacking forces is taking place in Rima Farms were forces advanced 1500 meters inside the farms. The objective is to reach Yabrud from North. Nine Hezbollah fighters have been killed and 21 wounded in the first 10 days of the battle’. According to the source, ‘Hezbollah Leader Sayed Hasan Nusrallah instructed his men to move slowly, ignoring time factor, to reduce losses. We are fully aware that, once the battle rhythm increases, the number of live losses will increase as well.

In the first revelation ever made about the battle of Qusseyr, the source confirmed, “In the first 10 days of Qusseyr battle, over 250 Hezbollah fighters were killed and wounded. Therefore, the military tactic has changed. We are surrounding each city to isolate it from others. As far as it concerns (rebels) mountain position and stronghold, as soon as the city of Yabrud falls, the rebels logistic support for those taking refuge in mountains and caves will be cut off and terminated, making their resistance more difficult on the long term”.

He added, “In several locations in Qalamoun, close combat have taken place. The rebels managed to destroy many (SAA) vehicles and tanks. That is a normal outcome because we, the attacking forces, are manoeuvring, spreading forces and advancing in a large geographic area. While the rebels have taken refuge in different static locations. As in every battle, there are losses taken into account, particularly in Qalamoun where a very high number of rebels is gathering, unwilling to surrender.”

The source concluded: ”Hezbollah has injected in Qalamoun battle over 15000 fighters in a vast area, manoeuvring and holding the initiative of attack and deciding upon the location of close contact. That is offering a unique experience in fighting al-Qaeda and other enemies should these arises.” 

Monday, 17 February 2014

More Evidence Of BM-30 Smerch Launched Rockets In Syria

Since my post earlier this week on 9M55 series rockets, as launched by the BM-30 Smerch, appearing in Syria, more evidence of the use of these rockets has appeared.  First, this video showing cluster munitions from the town of Kafr Zita, Hama

As the Armament Research Services website details, these are unexploded 9N235 fragmentation submunitions, deployed by 9M55K rockets, fired from the BM-30 Smerch and 220 mm 9M27K1 rockets for the BM-27 Uragan MLRS.  Considering the remains of a nearby 9M55 series rocket, it seems very likely those rocket remains would be the 9M55K.

In addition to the remains of the rocket uploaded on February 12th, two photographs were posted online today that appear to show the remains of a large rocket motor

The source of the first picture claims this is a Fajr-5 rocket, but it shares many similarities with images of 9M55K rockets, and the second picture was reportedly taken in the town of al-Tah, 20km north of Kafr Zita, where the earlier example of a 9M55K rocket was found.  Chris Kabusk put together the following composite image to demonstrate what the separate parts would look like compared to a complete 9M55K rocket

Thanks to Mads Dahl for highlighting the two images in this post.

You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Special Report On The Yabrud Offensive From Elijah J Magnier

A special report by Elijah J Magnier on the ongoing Yabrud Offensive.  His earlier report on the opening stages of the Offensive can be found here.

  • Al-Qalamoun, the Syrian Tora-Bora
  • Al Jarajeer and Al Sahel in the hands of attacking forces
  • 207 rebels were killed in the first week by over 45 air raids, Kornet missiles, tanks and artillery.
  • A full description of the battle map

It is not the battle of Yabroud but the battle of Al-Qalamoun.  Regular Syrian Army Forces, along side with Hezbollah Special Forces, initiated this week a ground attack against Al Qalamoun occupying strategic position and attacking cities around Yabrud. None of the forces engaged consider it is going to be an easy walk. The attacking forces describe the topography of al-Qalamoun, with its mountains and hills, as the ‘Syrian Tora-Bora’, referring to the infamous Afghan mountains.

Over 45 air raids were carried against the rebel’s position in the area so far. More than 207 rebel fighters were killed. All three arms (ground, air, artillery) are fully engaged on the front line.
Hezbollah claim that all car bombs are prepared in Yabroud, driven to Arsal and into its stronghold in the Bekaa and the suburb of Beirut.

A few days prior the beginning of the attack, Shaikh Naim Qassem, vice Secretary general of Hezbollah, explained that ‘it was necessary to put an end to the car bombs coming from Yabrud’. Sayed Hasan Nusrallah, Hezbollah Leader, will be tomorrow evening on Al Manar TV to talk about the newly formed government; the Takfirees operation in Lebanon following the arrest of Naim Abbas, a commander of the Al-Qaeda affiliated Abdullah Azzam terrorist group; to prepare the Shia community for the lost of lives Hezbollah will suffer in Al-Qalamoun battle as he did prior the battle of Quseyr and during Hezbollah full engagement in Syria since May 2013.

A high-ranking source in the joint military operational room said “Al Jarajeer and Al-sahel are fully under the control of the attacking forces, advancing at the moment toward other objectives close to Yabrud and engaged on different fronts. So far, we have counted 207 rebels killed even if the close contacts has been limited so far, allowing the fire power to pound all rebels positions in the area”. The source explained the course of the battle as following:

East: Syrian troops and artillery are deployed East of Yabrud on all strategic positions and hills overlooking Yabroud, from Al Nabak to al-Qastal where Rima farms, Yabrud and Ras al A’yn are under artillery fire control. This is essential to avoid any tactical withdrawal of the rebels toward rif-Dimashq.

North: The front attack has started from the North of Yabrud where the main attacking forces moved from Nabak toward Rima Farms. Strong firepower was used to bombard rebel’s position. The advance forces are also supported by the artillery positioned East of Rima Farms contributing in pounding the farms. Until today, half of Rima farms have been re-taken. No civilians inside Rima farms. Thousands left the area toward the Syrian position prior the battle. These are neutral families. Others, the families of the rebels, were divided between those who left to Arsal (Lebanon) and others toward Yabrud.

West: The main battle is in the West to support the Northern-front attack toward Yabrud. This is where the main military operation is engaged. On the West side, troops were deployed on the mountains and roads between Lebanon and Syria. Four of the six official roads are today fully under control. The remaining two roads are today under fire control and will be soon closed. No vehicle can cross between the two borders. There are ten unofficial roads between Lebanon and Syria, leading to the Lebanese city of Arsal. All these roads are today fully under control. The attacking forces are using smugglers of the area to identify all possible existing paths and caves. On the other hand, ground troops managed to enter both Al-Jarajeer and Al-Sahel. The battle is ongoing now in the surrounded city of Falita, under heavy bombardment.

Nonetheless, notorious inhabitants of Falita asked to negotiate an exit for rebels. The city of Falita is completely surrounded. Inhabitants were asked to gather all weapons in one accessible place for the attacking forces and to raise the Syrian flag is they agreed to surrender. The attacking forces will not enter the city unless the road is completely cleared. We have spotted 6 vehicles with armed rebels going from Falitah toward Yabrud. Anti-tank 9M133 Kornet missiles destroyed these. Hezbollah has effectively used the laser guided missiles Kornet in 2006 war causing heavy loss among the best Israeli tanks, the Merkava.
Always on the West, the attacking forces are advancing on the easier landscape between Falita and Rima Farms, closing the wing on both Rima farms and Yabrud. There is no close contact with the rebels in this area, allowing the artillery to open the road ahead of the ground forces.

South West: On the South West of Yabroud, there is the city of Ras Ma’ara. Forces are advancing North toward Ras Ma’ara to close the road to Yabrud. West of ras Ma’ara there are the Lebanese Shia area of Nahle, Baalbeck, Nabi-Sheet and others, preventing any infiltration into Lebanon.

According to the source, “the city of Yabrud has not been completely surrounded. A passage south of Yabrud maybe left open for a possible withdrawal.”

When asked about the same experience Hezbollah faced in Quseyr allowing some of the rebels to withdraw to fight these later in other places, the source explained: “We're constantly revising our plans according to the battle field necessities. If all the rebels decide to stay, we shall face these. This is what we came to al-Qalamoun for. The style of attack has changed. First we use air force, artillery and tanks power. Ground troops come last. Rebels will be completely trapped inside if we decide to close the passage later. Ground troops will enter when little resistance remains. If the rebels decide to leave, we occupy more land (Yabroud/Qalamoun) with less loss and we shall face these some other time in the battle field if they still have the will to continue fighting”.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Evidence Of The Syrian Military Deploying BM-30 Smerch Launched Cluster Munitions

On February 12th 2014, the following video from Kafr Zita, Hama, was uploaded to YouTube, showing what was claimed to be the remains of a cluster munition

The munition has broken into two sections, the first section is shown below, in an image stitched together from two video stills

The nose cone section is shown below

The remains of the rocket were much larger than any air-dropped cluster munitions used by the Syrian air force, so I took at a look at the multiple rocket launchers used by the Syrian military.  The BM-27 Uragan is the largest multiple rocket launcher system I could find that open source information suggested was being used by the Syrian military, but the 220mm calibre of the rockets seemed far too small for what was seen in the above images.  I compared the foot in the top left corner of the above image to the width of the rocket, and from that it was clear the rocket was closer to 27-30cm wide than the BM-27's 22cm calibre.

I reviewed large rocket systems, and from my investigations it appears the best match is the BM-30 Smerch, a Soviet multiple rocket launcher system, which entered service in the Soviet Army in 1989.  It launches several types of rockets, including cluster munitions designated 9M55K, 9M55K1, and 9M55K4.  While there's not a great amount of detail on the rockets online, I did come across the following image (source)

This shows the 9M55K rocket on the top, and the 9M55F (high explosive fragmentation) rocket on the bottom.  They share a number of design features, some of which I've highlighted below

Based on this, and other images, it seems certain the remains of the rocket in the video is from the 9M55K range of cluster munition rockets, launched by the BM-30 Smerch.  While there's no open source information that suggests the Syrian military has this system, it seems unlikely that the rocket could have come from any other source.  With a range of 90km, it not possible to know what the point of origin was, but it does appear to be the first evidence that the Syrian military are using BM-30 Smerch multiple rocket launchers in the conflict.

Thank to Chris Kabusk for help with this article.

Also thanks to Bente Aika Scheller, author of The Wisdom of Syria's Waiting Game. Foreign Policy under the Assads, whose donation to last years Indiegogo campaign helped keep this blog going.

You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Special Report On Hezbollah's Role In The Yabrud Offensive

A special report by Elijah J Magnier on the Yabrud Offensive, originally published in Arabic here:

High ranking military sources in the Hezbollah and Assad military operations room:
- Advance against Yabrud will be on 6 axes around the city;
- Burkan (Volcano), artillery, tanks, air raids and Special Forces all deployed in the battle of Qalamoun
- Yabrud battle is supposed to end in less than a month at most
- The timing of the start of the attack coincided with the anniversary of the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh

Volcano rockets with Syrian forces in Yabrod [Source]
Hezbollah, supported by Syrian tanks, artillery and air raids, has started this morning a large scale battle advancing toward the city of Yabrud in the Qalamoun, close to the Lebanese-Syrian border.
In fact, the pro-Iranian Hezbollah initiated weeks ago their military operation when thousands of Special Forces were pushed in the area with the following objectives:
  1. Cut the supply line between Lebanon (Arsal) and Syria where rebels have safe heaven.
  2. Protect Damascus and its rif. 
  3. Divide, through future military operations, the North from the South of Syria.
Hezbollah used in this attack self-made Volcano (Burkan) rockets to advance on the ground from Nabak and Deir Atiya re-taking Al-Jarajeer and all the surrounding hills between Lebanon and Syria.  As this article is published, the battle is ongoing in Mazare Rim. The next stop is Fallita before heading toward Yabrud. Hezbollah has learned its lesson in Qusayr: “No more safe exits for rebels” since more than a thousand of them escaped towards Qalamoun. Today, Hezbollah has to fight against those same rebels once more.

A senior leader in the joint operations room, run by Hezbollah and the Syrian regime, said that "the Special Forces started their ground attack on all axes at the crack of dawn. Hezbollah intelligence unit, through meticulous under-cover operation, has gathered detailed information on the number of rebels, where their command centers are, and what is their capability and readiness to fight."

The source said: "After gathering all necessary information, we launched the attack, which coincided with the anniversary of the martyrdom of Hajj Imad Mughnniyeh, Sayyed Abbas Musawi, Sheikh Ragheb Harb and all those who fell by the extremist's car bombs sent to Lebanon. Our message to these: Nahnu Qadimun (We are coming)".

"The battle of Qalamoun will be run differently from the one of Qusayr: Far more intensive fire power to reduce loses and inflict more damage to the rebels. We shall block entry to the city and villages from all access and directions. The advance of the Special Forces (SF) will progress from six different axes to separate the rebel lines and isolate them into smaller groups." explained the source.

He pointed out "Hezbollah SF who have participated in the battle of East Ghota, Idlib and Qusayr have been deployed in the battle with their experience and full equipment, including their special Burkan (Volcano) to open the road."

The source said that, according to their intelligence information, there are "some 200 Lebanese fighters under the banner of the extremist groups, while the rest is divided as follows: One third Saudi, one third from different Gulf countries including Palestinians and one third Syrian, mainly under Jabhat al-Nusra’s command".

According to this high ranking military commander, it is "difficult to predict how long the battle will last, none the less, Yabrud will surely take less time than Qusayr which is no more than two to three weeks".

In relation to the 12 nuns kidnapped by the extremists, the source was aware of the kidnappers request and revealed "the extremists asked to stop the battle against Yabrud and to release 500 extremists from the Rumiyeh jail and from Syria. This is unacceptable since each one of these will return to fight again. We hold the extremists responsible for the safety of the nuns".

Friday, 7 February 2014

CBRN Threat Assessment For Sochi Winter Olympics

SecureBio's assessment on the CBRN threat to the Sochi Winter Olympics.

Executive Summary: SecureBio assess the CBRN threat for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, 07 - 23 Feb 14, as SUBSTANTIAL (Attack is a strong possibility) with the prominent threats originating from hate groups, lone wolf actors and domestic terrorist groups, predominantly originating from the North-Caucasus. The CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear) threat is considered significant enough to recommend the implementation of specific CBRN defensive measures, including basic CBRN awareness training and the development and introduction of Immediate Action (IA) Procedures. However, the threat is not perceived to be significant enough to warrant the carrying of protective equipment.

SecureBio recommend that all personnel attending the Games have an awareness and understanding of CBRN material, the threat and the development of robust CBRN contingency plans. It is SecureBio’s assessment that a Radioactive Dispersal Device (RDD), small-scale chemical agent release or an attack against an individual/team utilising a white powder or an acid is the most likely form of CBRN attack. It is recommended that accompanying security advisors ensure that they have developed a suitable immediate action, decontamination and recovery plan.

SecureBio remain available for further advice, comment and training.

Introduction. Despite being hosted by a relatively stable state with advanced counter-terrorism detection, protection and response capabilities, the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi affords regional and domestic terrorist groups with an ideal platform to deliver a high profile attack, often referred to as a Spectacular. Russian Security Services have identified and named 17 domestic terrorist organisations operating inside Russia; many of these terrorist groups have publically stated their desire to obtain CBRN. As the Games approach, a number of these terrorist groups have publically stated their desire to deliver a Spectacular, one of which (Ansar al-Sunna) said that, unless Russia removes all military and security personnel from the Caucasus region they will resort to the use of Chemical Weapons.

Furthermore, the nature and profile of the Games makes them at risk from high profile terrorist organisation, seeking to deliver a Spectacular on the international stage:
  1. Live television, providing guaranteed broadcast of the attack.
  2. High profile and international event, delivering “the message” to a sizable audience.
  3. Programmed event, providing predictability and repeat events.
  4. Crowded places, likely to generate a high number of casualties and increased fear.
In response to the growing threat, Russian Security Forces have established a 1,500 mile “Ring of Steel” in an attempt to thwart any would be attackers however, reporting has indicated that several threat groups are already inside the Ring of Steel. The Ring of Steel has done little to calm international fears, with a series of recent events highlighting potential security weaknesses:
  1. In December 2013, the Caucasus Emirate (Imarat Kavkaz) conducted two successful terrorist attacks in Stravpol and Volgograd.
  2. Jihadists, believed to be members of the Caucasus Emirate, have been sighted by security services in and around Sochi.
  3. A member of the “Black Widows” has been sighted in Sochi, security services have issued a photograph around the city.
  4. A Fatwa has been issued authorising the use of Suicide Attacks.
Regional. Historically Russia has had a poor track record in protecting and monitoring its CBRN material, including commercial products, weaponised stockpiles and high activity radiological sources used in the power sector, a complete list is at Annex A. These events, occurring over a number of years, are likely to have assisted and maybe even gifted Russian domestic terrorist groups the ability to develop Chemical, Biological or Radiological agents for use in improvised CBRN devices.

Of note, the head of the Russian Nuclear Agency publicly stated that a “Few Grams” of weapons grade nuclear material has gone missing “Here and there” over the years. And as recently as October 2013, a terrorist group were thwarted attempting to blow up a Chemical Weapons storage facility in Kirov; it is assessed as likely that main effort was proliferation of chemical weapons and not the destruction of the facility.

International. Russia has historically held a fractious relationship with its eastern neighbours, even generating close political alliance with failed or failing states. The most recent and prevalent of these is Syria, approximately 1,200km from Sochi. The on-going instability in this region, coupled with Russia’s public alignment to the Assad regime and the number of fractious groups operating inside Syria, the proliferation of Chemical Weapons from Syria must not be discounted and could pose a risk to the Games.


There are several organisations and individuals that pose a CBRN threat within Russia, these groups could be defined as recognised terrorist organisations, hate groups, professional assassinations and lone wolfs.

Terrorist Organisation. There are 17 recognised terrorist groups operating within Russia’s borders, many with close affiliation to Al Qaeda (AQ) and other Islamic extremist organisations. A number of these groups have declared their intent to acquire CBRN material, in order to further their cause. Historically, these organisations have only initiated attacks in retaliation for Russian activity in North Caucasus or to achieve a specific political goal eg. The removal of all Russian claim to the Caucasus region.

SecureBio assess the threat of a CBRN attack during the Winter Olympics in Sochi, by one of the 17 recognised terrorist groups to be SUBSTANTIAL. The threat from terrorist organisations is the most volatile; it is therefore recommended that particular attention be paid to open source reporting and news coverage in the build up to the Games.

Hate Groups. There are a number of “home-grown” highly radical hate groups who frequently use violence or the threat of violence to achieve their aim. Many of the hate groups are xenophobic, with particular motivation coming from racial differences; in 2006 Amnesty International published a report stating that violent racism was out of control:

Due to the Games being on a World Scale, SecureBio assess the threat of a CBRN attack from a hate group to be MODERATE. Hate crimes are estimated to have reduced year on year since the peak in 2008 but remain significantly higher than the UK or Western-Europe.

Lone Wolfs. The lone wolf threat (eg. Bolshoi acid attack) is the hardest to understand, predict and mitigate, however recently there has been a great deal of media exposure to Russia’s stance on homosexuality and its environmental policy and an opportune lone wolf may see the Games as a means to highlight these therefore:

SecureBio assess the lone wolf CBRN threat to be SUBSTANTIAL. The Olympic Games are very high profile and could provide an opportunity for this type of attack.

There are a number of CBRN agents widely available in Russia and of possible interest to terrorist organisations, hate groups and lone wolfs.

Chemical. Chemicals agents are often chosen as they are readily available and can have an immediately life changing effect on the target. Despite their availability most harmful chemicals are relatively easy to detect, difficult to transport and will effect a number of individuals in the area not just the intended target. It is assessed that a small scale chemical attack from a Toxic Industrial Chemical or from a Chemical Warfare Agent proliferated from a Chemical Weapons Storage facility in Russia or Syria.
Acids. Acids are readily available as kitchen cleaners or drain un-blockers, are easy to transport and relatively innocuous. However, to be effective individuals would need to be close to the target (whilst maintaining some stand-off) and have sufficient time to prep the bottle/container. Most acids can be rapidly neutralised with FAST ACT or have their effects mitigated by the rapid application of copious quantities of water and the removal of outer clothing.
Hydrogen Cyanide. Hydrogen Cyanide (HCN), a chemical warfare agent, is one of the easiest to manufacturer from mixing Potassium Cyanide (used in the jewellery industry) and an acid. HCN is highly toxic but disperses rapidly in the wind, it would therefore need to be released in a controlled environment.
Biological. Despite a sizeable Soviet biological programme there have been comparatively few biological attacks in Russia. Furthermore, most biological agents require an incubation period, pose a significant threat to the individual transporting the agent and can be relatively easily neutralised; which makes them unpopular as a terrorist threat agent. It is assessed as unlikely that a biological agent would be used during the Games however the risk from a Hoax White Powder exists.

SecureBio assess the Bio threat to be LOW but the threat from a hoax White Powder to be SUBSTANTIAL. Our Biological Immediate Action Service (BIAS) is a highly effective mitigation service for this type of threat and has been developed to be used by non-specialist users.

Radiological & Nuclear. Owing to the geographical size of the Russian Federation and the remote locations, compact nuclear power generators were readily installed across the country. These, poorly protected, generators contain a differing radiological sources but most commonly is Strontium 90, a strong Beta emitter. Radiological sources are therefore readily available across Russia but easy to detect. The most likely delivery methods are:
Gamma Shine. These are typically left in a public location, with the intent of irradiating nearby individuals. Gamma Shine devices are relatively easy to detect and require a prolonged period of exposure to be truly effective. Despite this, there are several historic examples of this type of device being used in Russia.
Radiological Dispersal Device (RDD). RDDs are IEDs designed to scatter radioactive material over a wide area, they are not a nuclear device. As a weapon the fear generated by an RDD (or potential RDD) is more significant than its actual effectiveness as a lethal weapon.
Contaminated Food Stuffs. Ingested radioactive material is the most harmful and hardest to detect, the most recent example of this is Alexander Litvinenko.
SecureBio assess the threat to be SUBSTANTIAL from a Radiation Dispersal Device or Contaminated Food Stuffs.


It is recommended that all staff working at the Olympic Games are made aware of the threat posed by CBRN material and have an appropriate contingency plan in place; the plan should focus on rapid decontamination action in the event of an acid attack but also include multiple evacuation routes, dependent on wind direction should other threat agents be used.

Currently, the threat is not perceived to be significant enough to warrant the carrying of protective equipment or the implementation of more aggressive and restrictive measures however management should be aware of the Action Plan.

"Today we were unlucky, but remember we only have to be lucky once - you will have to be lucky always." IRA, 1984.

SecureBio remain available for further advice, comment and training.

How Facebook Is Destroying History - A Survey Of August 21st

This week, as Facebook celebrated it's tenth birthday, an article in The Atlantic highlighted another aspect of the Syrian conflict taking place on the pages of Facebook.  Many of us who study open source information relating to the conflict, such as YouTube and Facebook, frequently come across dead links to Facebook pages belonging to opposition groups and pro-government groups.  The Atlantic article points towards the deletion of opposition Facebook pages as being part of online campaigns run by pro-government groups
“We continue our reporting attacks,” read a typical post from December 9 on the SEA’s Facebook page. “Our next target is the Local Coordination Committee of Barzeh [a neighborhood in Damascus], the page that is a partner in shedding Syrian blood and provoking sectarian division.” It then provided two links to photos on the Barzeh page that could get the page taken down. Soon afterwards, the SEA removed its post as if it had never existed.
These deletions mean a vast amount of information is being lost, including initial reports of various events, photographs, and videos.  But how do we get a sense of how much information is being lost?

In recent weeks, I've been working on a project to gather and analyse all the information I can find relating to the August 21st Sarin attacks in Damascus.  This has included collecting a list of YouTube channels posting videos relating to the attacks, many of which have Facebook pages linked in the video descriptions.  To understand how much information is being lost, I've reviewed each channel, and detailed the status of their related Facebook pages below.

Abdullah Alshamy - No linked Facebook pages.
cmo algota - Three pages deleted, c.m.o.alghotac.m.o.alghota2c.m.o.alghota3
Coordinating Kvrbtna -  Current page, Coordinating.City.KafrBatna, created November 2013. Earlier page, kafrbatnasy, deleted.
Darya Revolution - Current page, D.M.C.Daryya, created January 2014. Earlier page, MCDDaryya, deleted.
erbeeni/erbin revo/erbinmedia1/MrERBEEN2011 - Current page, Erbinrevo2011, created November 2013.  Earlier page, erbin2011revolution, deleted.
Fadi Abdallah - No linked Facebook pages.
free syr - No linked Facebook pages.
HAMMORIAFOREVERHamoria.Revolution.Coordinating deleted.
Information Office of the consolidated city Arbin - No linked Facebook pages.
Jobar RevoJobar.Revolution deleted.
lcc doumaDouma.Revolution.lcc created in February 2013.
MajlesRifDimashq - No linked Facebook pages.
Mehmed - No linked Facebook pages.
Mohammed Saeed - No linked Facebook pages.
mrkzmoadamia alsham - Three pages deleted, Moadamiah.Revolution.Newsmjles.moadamia4alll,
Network is always free - Damascus - No linked Facebook pages.
SaqbaRevo0 - No linked Facebook pages.
Sham Media Foundation appeal Foundation.Nidaa.Alsham created April 2013.

9 channels have no Facebook links.  7 are linked to Facebook pages that are now gone (some of which have new replacement pages created after August 21st), with 2 linked to existing Facebook pages.  That means 78% of Facebook pages that could have included initial report about the August 21st attack, and relevant photographs and videos, are gone.  Compared to the hundreds, if not thousands, of YouTube pages linked to Facebook pages, this is a small sample size, but relating to the one event that took place on August 21st, this represents a extremely significant amount of information.

The question for Facebook is how they see their role in the world.  Social media is being used as a place for both sides in the Syrian conflict to get their message out, and sometimes that includes unique and important information.  This has lead to an online information war, with both sides attempting to eliminate each other from the internet, with data on war crimes and key events in the conflict being the collateral damage, if not the intended target.  Facebook has a choice, develop it's policies to take into account the changing way in which online communities and social media are being used in relation to conflicts, or to be just another place where people can share pictures of their latest meal and funny cat pictures.

You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at