Ex-Reuters freelancer, published in Mail and Telegraph, pictured with “Hell cannon”

Update 18 May 2016: following the publication of this post, all of the images below from Amer Alfaj‘s and Iessa Obied‘s Facebook accounts have been removed/hidden. Obied has also removed further images featuring weaponry which are included in this submission to the Charity Commission.

An image has emerged of a former Reuters freelance photographer and Syrian hospital employee participating in the firing of a “Hell cannon” mortar.

An image in a Facebook album posted by Amer Alfaj – whose photos from Bab al-Hawa on the Syria-Turkey border have been published in The Daily Mail and The Telegraph – shows him attending the preparation of an improvised mortar shortly before it fires a modified propane gas cylinder. Other of Alfaj’s Facebook photos, which date from 2013 when he was employed by Bab al-Hawa hospital [1], celebrate these munitions in repugnant manner.

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Amer Alfaj (striped top and baseball cap) attends the launch of a Hell cannon mortar. (http://bit.ly/1ThP8sv)


Alfaj is tagged in the sequence (http://bit.ly/1WypwMd)

Further images on Alfaj’s Facebook account grotesquely celebrate “Hell cannon” mortars. 


Alfaj describes himself on Facebook as a “Former Freelance Photographer at Rueters” [sic]. In his Google+ profile photo he sports a press tabard. https://www.facebook.com/amer.alfaj https://plus.google.com/+AmerAlfaj

Bab al-Hawa and Atareb – medics or militants?

The climactic image in Alfaj’s album of the “Hell cannon” being fired was “liked” by Iessa Obied, a staff member of Atareb Hospital, Aleppo. Atareb, which is approximately 20km from Bab al-Hawa, is the “flagship medical facility” of UK charity Hand in Hand for Syria. In March 2016, a series of shocking images of Obied posing with an array of weapons and munitions was submitted to the Charity Commission.


Alfaj’s image of the Hell cannon being fired was “liked” by Iessa Obied (http://bit.ly/1TDDrtE)

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Iessa Obied poses with an array of weapons and munitions in images posted on his Facebook account (http://bit.ly/1stTMeF). In some of the photos he is wearing a Hand in Hand for Syria tunic. Iessa is the brother of Abdulrahman Obied (http://bit.ly/24Wsf39) who has described himself as Atareb Hospital’s Medical Director (http://bit.ly/1TbQWq9).


In a Facebook post from October 2013 Iessa Obied (left) is pictured beside Amer Alfaj, accompanied by an affectionate inscription (http://bit.ly/1XtgTl5)

Amer Alfaj and ‘Saving Syria’s Children’

Images from Amer Alfaj’s August 2013 photo set of two victims of an alleged incendiary attack in Urm al-Kubra, Aleppo arriving and being treated at Bab al-Hawa were published in the Daily Mail and the New York Post. The September 2013 Panorama programme Saving Syria’s Children [2], fronted by BBC International Correspondent Ian Pannell, featured the same two alleged victims at an earlier stage in their treatment at Atareb Hospital. [3]

However Alfaj’s full set of 18 images from the events was originally uploaded to the photo journalism website Demotix dated 25 August 2013, the day before the BBC claims the alleged incendiary attack occurred. In March 2014 the date of the Demotix images was amended to 26 August 2013.

At a point when Alfaj’s images were dated 25 August 2013 Pannell claimed not to recognise the two victims, despite having stated that he was present throughout the “4 to 5 hour period” during which patients from the alleged attack arrived and were treated at Atareb Hospital and despite the fact that the injuries of one of the two victims concerned in particular are shockingly distinctive. After the date of the Demotix images had been amended to 26 August 2013, the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit conceded that Alfaj’s pictures did indeed feature individuals filmed in Pannell’s report. [4] [5]

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“Civilians were rushed to Syrian border hospitals after the opposition claimed that the al-Assad regime had used Napalm and White Phosphorous bombs on a student population in Aleppo. More serious injuries were taken over the border to Turkey.” Amer Alfaj’s 18 images shot at Bab al-Hawa hospital were originally dated 25 August 2013 on the website Demotix. The date was subsequently amended to 26 August 2013, the day the BBC claims that the Syrian air force launched an incendiary bomb attack on the town of Urm al-Kubra, Aleppo.

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Despite Ian Pannell’s claim not to recognise them, the same two individuals who appear in Alfaj’s photographs from Bab al-Hawa are also featured in the BBC’s reports from Atareb of the alleged Urm al-Kubra incendiary bomb attack. For analysis demonstrating this see here http://bit.ly/1IXndsm


Contradictory claims from BBC sources regarding the alleged victims featured in Alfaj’s images. Further startling discrepancies in Ian Pannell’s accounts of the alleged Urm al-Kubra incendiary bomb attack are noted here: http://bit.ly/1Tca6w7

Further information on the controversy surrounding Saving Syria’s Children can be found at these links:


[1] Bab al-Hawa hospital is funded by the UK charity Syria Relief and partner organisations. Syria Relief’s website states that:

Bab Al Hawa Hospital was set up under the auspices of UOSSM, a collaboration between Syria Relief and a number of other international charity organisations such as, Canadian Relief For Syria, and Association D’aide Aux Victimes En Syrie (AAVS).  Management of the hospital is undertaken by its Board of Directors, of whom a Syria Relief trustee is a member

[2] The relevant section commences at 30:38

[3] For more detail on this see here.

[4] Pannell’s comments were made in an 18 February 2014 BBC Audience Services response to a formal complaint about Saving Syria’s Children. The subsequent contradictory observations of the Editorial Complaints Unit were made in a letter of 18 May 2014. The full correspondence is available here.

[5] The BBC claims that there were two incendiary bomb strikes, the first on a residential building, the second on a school playground. (See point 13 in BBC Audience Services’ response of 18 February 2014). While Alfaj claims in the captions to each of his images that the two victims he photographed were “students”, the individuals pictured appear to be adults, as do many of the victims featured in Saving Syria’s Children.