How The BBC’s Quentin Sommerville Created Fairytales Of Underground Hospitals In Syria

Post by Moon of Alabama

In August 2013 the BBC produced a fake video headlined “Saving Syria’s Children” about an alleged chemical weapon attack in Syria which it claimed was caused by the Syrian government. Robert Stuart has since pressed the BBC to admit the obvious fabrication of these scenes.

Today the BBC posted on its website another Syria clip under the title Idlib’s secret hospitals hiding from air strikes:

Air strikes have been targeting hospitals in the rebel-held province of Idlib, Syria, despite the fact that it is a war crime. Medics have been forced underground in order to survive.The UN accuses the Syrian government and allied Russian warplanes of conducting a deadly campaign that appears to target medical facilities.

BBC’s Middle East correspondent, Quentin Sommerville, visits one hospital in a secret location.

Sommerville starts with standing next to destroyed building claiming that it has been a hospital that was bombed.

Full post here.

Note: the team responsible for Sommerville’s report includes Saving Syria’s Children cameraman Darren Conway and the programme’s “fixer/translator” Mughira Al Sharif, pictured below with White Helmets head Raed Al Saleh.

Robert Stuart vs the BBC: One Man’s Quest to Expose a Fake BBC Video about Syria

It’s a David vs Goliath story. A former local newspaper reporter, Robert Stuart, is taking on the British Broadcasting Corporation. Stuart believes that a sensational video story about an alleged atrocity in Syria ‘was largely, if not entirely, …

Source: Robert Stuart vs the BBC: One Man’s Quest to Expose a Fake BBC Video about Syria

“Keith Allen Thinks The BBC May Have Faked ‘Apocalyptic’ Attack In Syria”: corrections and clarifications

News and opinion website The Huffington Post has written about my campaign to crowdfund a documentary about the 2013 BBC Panorama programme Saving Syria’s Children.

Keith Allen Thinks The BBC May Have Faked ‘Apocalyptic’ Attack In Syria was published on May 4th 2019. Some notes in response follow. Excerpts from The Huffington Post article are italicised.

Stuart says he has spent nearly six years compiling “a mountain of evidence” that shows the BBC’s footage was “faked”. He claims the national broadcaster worked “cheek by jowl with Isis” to produce the Panorama documentary, which was broadcast in September 2013.

Evidence that sequences in Saving Syria’s Children were fabricated is set out on my blog. Readers are free to make their own topographical analogies.

During the programme’s making BBC Panorama reporter Ian Pannell and cameraman Darren Conway were embedded with then ISIS partner group Ahrar al-Sham – a group described elsewhere by the BBC as “hard-line Islamist”. Less than three weeks earlier Ahrar al-Sham, ISIS and other groups together killed over 190 civilians, including women, children and elderly men, and kidnapped over 200 mostly women and children. In the programme’s climactic scenes of the aftermath of an alleged incendiary attack the BBC crew filmed at close quarters an ambulance prominently bearing the ISIS emblem and its militarily attired occupants, at least one of whom was armed.

In an interview with TalkRadio on Friday, Stuart claimed “the only source of [this attack] is the BBC”. However, the strike was also reported by NBC News who interviewed doctors who described the “apocalyptic” attack in detail, documented in painstaking detail by the Violations Documentation Centre in Syria (VDCS), and confirmed by Human Rights Watch.

The NBC News article cited features an interview with a single volunteer doctor named “Roula”. This is clearly Dr Rola Hallam. Dr Hallam and Dr Saleyha Ahsan were being followed by the BBC Panorama team of reporter Ian Pannell and cameraman Darren Conway as they visited hospitals run by the UK charity Hand in Hand for Syria. As such Hallam was central to the BBC reports in question and cannot be considered an independent commentator. [1] [2] [3] [4]

The Violations Documentation Centre in Syria report cited gives the time of the alleged attack as follows:

On 26 Aug 2013, at 02:00 pm, the Syrian air forces shelled ‘Iqraa’ Institution in Orm Al Kubra in Aleppo, which had been under the Free Army’s control for several months then.

The VDCS report also quotes Mustapha Haid, “Head of ‘Doulati Organization/My State Organization’”:

At 3 in the afternoon, On 26 Aug 2013, I was in Al Atareb City and I heard rumours about a ‘chemical attack’ on Orm Al Kubra and that tens of casualties were brought to Al Atareb Hospital.

However the BBC has categorically stated in complaints correspondence that:

The attack happened on the 26th of August at around 5.30pm at the end of the school day. [5]

The VDCS report quotes a second witness, Issa Obeid, “Head of Nursing Department in Al Atareb Hospital”, who provides a first-hand account of his actions at Atareb Hospital:

We washed the casualties with water and serums after taking off their clothes. We used ‘Florasline’ liniment on the burnt areas and provided the casualties with fluids and some of them were given tranquilizers like Morphine.

Issa Obeid, or Iessa Obied, was employed at Atareb Hospital until 2016. Iessa is the younger brother of Atareb’s then Medical Director Abdulrahman Obied. Iessa’s testimony in the VDCS report is false: on 26 August 2013 neither of the Obied brothers were present at Atareb but were attending a battle first aid training course in Antakia, Turkey. [6]

Iessa Obied has been photographed posing with an arsenal of weaponry including assault rifles, an anti-aircraft gun and a shoulder-launched surface-to-air missile. [7] [8]

The Huffington Post reports that the strike was “confirmed by Human Rights Watch”. However Mary Wareham, Advocacy Director of HRW’s Arms Division, stated in a contemporary (August 2013) article that Human Rights Watch has “not investigated this incident“. [9]

HuffPost UK asked a team of ex-military and medical professionals who teach hostile environment training to view the full Panorama footage to comment on its authenticity. 

Questions about Hostile Environment Awareness Training, the company cited by the Huffington Post, are raised by journalist Kit Klarenberg.

They described it as “legitimate” and “consistent with chemical exposure”, adding the select footage in Stuart and Allen’s promotional video had been “cleverly” edited in a way to manipulate the viewer.

The BBC has been at pains to assert “that this was an attack using an incendiary device, rather than a chemical weapon.”

As noted on my blog a GMC registered doctor with burns experience has concluded that the scenes of alleged incendiary bomb victims arriving at Atareb Hospital in Saving Syria’s Children were “an act”. Further sceptical comment by medical professionals, including former UK and US military personnel, plus observations by lay people with experience of burns victims, is collated here. [10]

None of the BBC footage used in the crowdfunding video has been altered in any way, save for basic editing techniques such as freeze frame and fade.

Stuart also takes issue with the fact the documentary makers – reporter Ian Pannell and cameraman Darren Conway  – worked alongside the armed Islamist groups that controlled the Aleppo region where Atarib is situated.

When required, all major media organisations negotiate access with whoever controls the area in question. Numerous journalists have risked their lives to report on what is happening inside Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, Hamas-controlled Gaza or Boko Haram-controlled Nigeria, for example. 

It is clearly in the public interest for BBC audiences to be made aware that a portion of their license fee revenue has apparently been paid to a jihadist group co-founded by “one of Osama bin Laden’s most trusted couriers”.

The BBC rebutted the claims made by Stuart and Allen in a statement to HuffPost UK, saying there is “absolutely no evidence that any part of the programme was fabricated”.

It added: “Any such suggestion is offensive to the victims, medics and reporters.”

This statement was published on Facebook by BBC Panorama editor Rachel Jupp over two years ago in response to challenges made by film, television and radio producer Victor Lewis-Smith.

An RT report based on Stuart’s work was found to be in breach of Ofcom broadcasting rules and described as “materially misleading”.

Some important caveats in Ofcom’s finding against the RT programme in question have been noted by OffGuardian:

To be clear, according to OfCom’s own description of its remit, in the dispute between RT and the BBC, OfCom did not look into the BBC’s accuracy or credibility. Nor did OfCom investigate whether RT’s allegations of fakery were true or false. In fact the Broadcast Bulletin makes it clear OfCom ruled in favour of the BBC based solely on two things:

    1. a finding that RT had broken “Rule 7 of the Code”, which requires a broadcaster to allow sufficient right of reply to anyone accused.
    2. a finding that RT had infringed “Rule 2.2 of the Code” which requires a broadcaster not to present facts in a way likely to “mislead the viewer” – based on the fact RT had referred to Robert Stuart’s ongoing investigation into the BBC’s Panorama program as a “massive public investigation”, when OfCom thought the size of his investigation did not merit such an epithet.

Anyone can visit Robert Stuart’s website and decide for themselves if his investigation can fairly be described as “massive”, but the extent to which OfCom’s findings are themselves factual inaccuracies I’ll leave for others to explore. The most significant point here is that OfCom has specifically not cleared the BBC of suspicion of wrongdoing, and is not claiming to have done so.


[1] At the time the BBC Panorama programme Saving Syria’s Children aired in 2013 Dr Hallam’s father, Dr Mousa al-Kurdi, was a prominent Syrian opposition advocate who in 2012 had personally lobbied senior political representatives of NATO member states, including US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, to either intervene directly on the side of the opposition in Syria or to provide arms to the Free Syrian Army.

[2] The NBC article reports Hallam’s claim that the first case she received was a seven month old baby who “was covered in full-body burns”. Hallam has elsewhere stated that the baby had “80% burns”.

However Dr Saleyha Ahsan, who is seen treating the infant in the same room as Dr Hallam in Saving Syria’s Children, has made the significantly lesser claim that the child had “nasty scolds [sic] on his legs”. Stills from the programme do not make it clear that the child had sustained any burns at all.

Hallam, Ahsan and BBC reporter Ian Pannell have made contradictory claims about whether the baby was the first victim to arrive at Atareb Hospital on 26 August 2013. Hallam and Ahsan have additionally made self-contradictory claims on this point.

Speaking at the Women of the World Summit in New York in 2017 Hallam gave an account of the attack which is at considerable variance with the BBC Panorama narrative, notably introducing a warplane flying over the hospital necessitating the staff’s retreat to the basement prior to the victims’ arrival. In stark contradiction Ahsan has claimed that she “was sitting on the hospital balcony… …drinking my fifth cup of sweet, sugary tea” immediately prior to the influx of casualties.

Numerous further striking inconsistencies exist in the accounts of the alleged attack by Saleyha Ahsan and Ian Pannell.

[3] Hallam, who is of Syrian heritage, describes an exchange with a sixteen year old female victim, presumably conducted in Arabic:

“She took a deep breath and asked me, ‘Do you think my face is going to be mutilated?’ I said, ‘I don’t know. I hope not.’ She said: ‘All I was trying to do was study for my exams. I was just trying to do my baccalaureate because I want to be like you. I want to be a doctor.'”

Describing what is clearly the same incident a month later in The Independent Dr Ahsan claims that the girl’s question about her face was addressed in English to her (Dr Ahsan):

One girl spoke to me in English. I was humbled by her efforts despite her terrible pain. “How bad is my face, ukhti?” Her mother cried by her side. The girl, composed and calm but in obvious pain asked. “Do you think they can fix my face?” She continued in Arabic, speaking to Dr Rola Hallam my fellow British colleague, who is of Syrian origin. “I was just at school studying… because I want to be like you – a doctor to help people.”

Compounding the contradictions, in a BMJ blog post published the next day Ahsan attributes the question about the girl’s face to the child’s mother rather than to the girl herself.

[4] The NBC article is also notable in claiming that NBC News’ Richard Engel had spoken to a female victim of the alleged attack. However the words attributed to the woman appear to have been lifted from a YouTube video. Serious questions over NBC’s reporting of stories involving Engel have previously arisen.

[5] There is a six hour range in accounts of the time of the alleged attack.

[6] As deduced from the following Facebook posts.

(a) Iessa Obied outside Hotel Liwan, Antakia, Turkey. Upload date 25 August 2013.

(b) Iessa with his older brother, Atareb Hospital’s then Medical Director Abdulrahman Obied, in the restaurant-bar of Hotel Liwan. Upload date 26 August 2013, the day of the alleged napalm attack and subsequent treatment of alleged victims at Atareb Hospital as portrayed in Saving Syria’s Children.

(c) Abdulrahman Obied (second right) and other Atareb Hospital staff members “attending a battle first aid training course in Antakia, Turkey” in a post (subsequently deleted) uploaded to Atareb Hospital’s Facebook page on 26 August 2013, the date of the alleged napalm attack. Missing from this photo is Iessa Obied, who perhaps took the picture.

(d) Abdulrahman Obied (second left) wearing same shirt as in image (c) participating in first aid training. Upload date 26 August 2013.

(e) Iessa Obied (red t-shirt) participating in first aid training. While the upload date is 29 August 2013, Iessa Obied’s t-shirt is the same as in image (b), the man immediately above Iessa (another Atareb employee) is wearing the same shirt as in image (c) and the man second left is wearing the same checked shirt as in image (d). As images (b), (c) and (d) were uploaded to separate Facebook accounts on 26 August 2013 the strong likelihood is that they were all taken on that date – the day of the battle first aid training course – and that the above image was also taken on 26 August 2013 but was uploaded to Facebook by Iessa Obied three days later.

(f) Iessa Obied on the Orontes River bridge, Antakya. Upload date 26 August 2013.

Further undermining Iessa Obied’s first-hand account of his supposed actions at Atareb Hospital on 26 August 2013 is the fact that he does not appear among the medics and orderlies attending to alleged casualties during the relevant sequences in Saving Syria’s Children (from 30:38).

In fact, it would appear that virtually the entire staff team of Atareb Hospital was substituted between two sequences in Saving Syria’s Children. During Drs Hallam and Ahsan’s first visit to the hospital (from 05:47 to 08:22 in the programme) Atareb’s Medical Director Abdulrahman Obied is filmed speaking with Dr Hallam and the medic far left in (c) above is also glimpsed. However, of the many medics and orderlies who are filmed at the hospital a few days later on 26 August 2013 during the alleged crisis sequences (from 30:38), only one is clearly identifiable from the earlier section of the programme.

[7] The Charity Commission found that the images did “not raise sufficient regulatory concern”.

[8] Obied has also posted an affectionate photograph of himself with former freelance Reuters photographer Amer Alfaj. Alfaj has been photographed attending the firing of a “Hell cannon” mortar and has posted images celebrating the munition, some including small children.

[9] In the Human Rights Watch report cited by The Huffington Post, Saleyha Ahsan states that fifteen year old Anas Said Ali “died two weeks later from complications caused by the severe burns”. This contradicts both the Violations Documentation Centre in Syria, whose list of casualties states that Anas Said Ali (Anas al-Sayed Ali) died on 26 August 2013, the day of the alleged attack, and the BBC, which in complaints correspondence stated that Said Ali died “a few days later in hospital in Turkey”.

[10] Two more recent relevant observations.

Matthew Wright Show discusses Saving Syria’s Children

Kudos to broadcaster Matthew Wright for putting his head well and truly above the parapet and inviting Keith Allen and I onto his talkRADIO show on Friday 3 May to discuss our plans to make a documentary about Saving Syria’s Children.

You can listen to the interview at this link.

The interview began with a discussion of Ofcom’s 2015 finding against RT’s Truthseeker programme Media ‘Staged’ Syria Chem Attack. As noted at the time by OffGuardian:

The most significant point here is that OfCom has specifically not cleared the BBC of suspicion of wrongdoing, and is not claiming to have done so.

Although I managed to rattle through most of the main points I wanted to make, I kicked myself for failing to mention the links between the Panorama crew, al-Qaeda and ISIS linked jihadists Ahrar al-Sham and ISIS itself.

My fellow guest, journalist and author Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, was evidently unimpressed with proceedings. I’d ask her to reserve judgement until she’s looked at the footage in question and engaged with the evidence set out on my blog.

Still, Matthew was clear that this is a topic he wishes to return to, hopefully once we’ve met our fundraising target. So please keep sharing the campaign!

Keith Allen fronts Saving Syria’s Children documentary crowdfunder

Actor and director Keith Allen is fronting a campaign to raise funds to make a documentary which will examine the 2013 BBC Panorama programme Saving Syria’s Children.

The crowdfunding platform is here.

The documentary will be made by Associated-Rediffusion, the production company of veteran British film, television and radio producer Victor Lewis-Smith.

Since 2013, I have compiled a wealth of evidence indicating that scenes in Saving Syria’s Children which purport to show the aftermath of an incendiary attack on an Aleppo playground were fabricated.

It has also been revealed that the BBC Panorama team was embedded with ISIS partner group Ahrar al-Sham and appears to have directly colluded with ISIS. I have given several public presentations on the topic.

In 2017 Victor Lewis-Smith challenged the BBC Panorama office over the issue. Failing to get satisfactory answers, Victor tore up a contract for a forthcoming comedy pilot with BBC Radio 4.

Update: The Huffington Post has run a piece critical of this campaign – see my response here:

Doctor Rola Hallam A Humanitarian Only for Those in Terrorist Controlled Areas of Syria

Doctor Rola Hallam, the humanitarian doctor for regime change in Syria, is still in action, setting up Hope Hospital, a crowd funded hospital near

Source: Doctor Rola Hallam A Humanitarian Only for Those in Terrorist Controlled Areas of Syria

Saving Syria’s Children: discussion with George Galloway

Discussion of the 2013 BBC Panorama programme Saving Syria’s Children on the George Galloway hosted Al Mayadeen programme Kalima Horra, broadcast 11 June 2018. 

For fuller details of the points discussed see these links and video presentation:

The full Kalima Horra programme, with guests including former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, is below: 


Media on Trial, 27 May 2018

Saving Syria’s Children: How the BBC are embedding their journalists with Jihadist groups in Syria

Road To Somewhere Else

By Daniel Margrain

For many years I have been following Robert Stuart’s exhaustive and detailed exposition of the BBC Panorama documentary Saving Syria’s Children that highlighted the aftermath of an alleged incendiary bomb attack on the playground of the Urm al-Kubra school near Aleppo in Syria.

The BBC team comprising reporter, Ian Pannell and cameraman, Darren Conway (who coincidentally were inside Syria when the alleged attack happened), reported on, and filmed, the incoming casualties arriving at the Atareb hospital on 26 August 2013. The footage formed the basis of the documentary.


Stuart contends that the filmed sequences were largely, if not entirely, staged. Scenes from the documentary were shown as part of a brief BBC News at Ten

View original post 931 more words

Saving Syria’s Children: the White Helmets connection (Part II)

The previous post on this blog mooted a possible connection between the alleged 26 August 2013 Urm al-Kubra incendiary attack and the then incipient White Helmets, or “Syria Civil Defence”. [1]

Since then evidence has emerged which demonstrates that senior White Helmets were present at Atareb Hospital on 26 August 2013, where they were filmed by BBC cameraman Darren Conway.

Mounir Mustafa

According to the blurb promoting his September 2017 presentation at the Emergency Services Show in Birmingham “Mounir Mustafa is the Deputy Head of the Syria Civil Defense”:

When the Syria conflict started, Mounir and his colleagues started an independent emergency response organisation in 2013- known today as the White Helmets.

Mounir Mustafa in the courtyard of Atareb Hospital, Aleppo on 26 August 2013, as alleged incendiary bomb victims arrive. (32:23 BBC Panorama Saving Syria’s Children). To Mustafa’s right is another senior White Helmet, “Captain” Ali Obied Abo Alkasem (see below).

Mounir Mustafa looks on as “Victim X” is treated (35:35 Saving Syria’s Children).

Mounir Mustafa and “Captain” Ali Obied Abo Alkasem two days after events at Atareb Hospital (from Atareb White Helmets Facebook page). Mustafa is wearing the same Adidas track suit.

While the White Helmets acknowledged creator and trainer is in fact shadowy British mercenary James Le Mesurier [2], Mounir, who evidently laps up the limelight, usefully serves as a public face:

Mounir Mustafa and White Helmet Manal Abazeed [3] meet with Sen. Bernie Sanders in Washington, 25 April 2017. (

Khaled Khatib and Mounir Mustafa of the White Helmets (translator far left) talk to Connie Britton at the 2017 Social Good Summit in New York on Sept. 17, 2017 (

However as an ambassador for the “unarmed and neutral” White Helmets, Mounir’s mask is somewhat loose fitting: [4]

Highlighted in red box: “Captain” Ali Obied Abo Alkasem [L] and Mounir Mustafa [R], with unidentified gunman. (White Helmets Facebook post , 9 September 2013). Far left is former Reuters freelance photographer Amer Alfaj, who one month earlier in August 2013 was photographed attending the launch of a “Hell cannon” mortar [5]

“Captain” Ali Obied Abo Alkasem

In an Atareb White Helmets Facebook post of 18 August 2013, eight days before he was filmed by the BBC at Atareb Hospital, “Captain” Ali Obied Abo Alkasem is described as “Director of the Center for Civil Defense in the liberated area of Al-Attar.”

“Captain” Ali Obied Abo Alkasem (32:31 Saving Syria’s Children). [6]

“Captain” Ali Obied Abo Alkasem (back row, 1st left ) in an Atareb White Helmets Facebook post of 23 August 2013. Mounir Mustafa is front row, 2nd right.

These days the Captain describes himself as

Emergency Trainer, Community Awareness and Support Civil Defense Officer with the rank of Captain Experience in planning, organization and training [7]

While the Captain’s Facebook profile image (above) depicts a statesmanlike paragon of the White Helmets professed principles of “Humanity, Solidarity, Impartiality”, other of his social media effusions somewhat dent this image:

Ghassan Al Mustafa

Previously an enigma wrapped in a hi-visibility vest, Dr Rola Hallam‘s right hand man can now be revealed as Turkish national Ghassan Al-Mustafa. [8]

Ghassan Al-Mustafa gallantly has Dr Rola Hallam’s back as she takes “a break” from the “chaos and carnage ” of what she elsewhere describes as a “mass casualty event” to chat with BBC cameraman Darren Conway. (32.34, Saving Syria’s Children).

Images from the Atareb White Helmets and Ghassan Al-Mustafa‘s personal Facebook pages. Note in third image the logo of Hand in Hand for Syria, the UK charity featured in Saving Syria’s Children, an employee of which has been pictured posing with an array of munitions.

Like the Captain, Ghassan too struggles with the White Helmets’ professed creed of neutrality and impartiality: [9]

Ghassan Al-Mustafa, Facebook, 9 September 2015

Ghassan Al-Mustafa, Facebook, 22 September 2017

The Silver Fox

A ubiquitous figure in the Atareb White Helmets Facebook posts is an unnamed officer who, as previously noted, appears to have been on the scene during the aftermath of the alleged incendiary attack in Urm al-Kubra, Aleppo:

Background image: male present at scene of alleged incendiary attack on a residential building, Urm al-Kubra, 26 August 2013 (see from 3:10 to 3:13 here). Inset image: what appears to be the same individual interviewed following the destruction of the White Helmets centre at nearby Atareb, 26 April 2016 (see from 38s here).

Background image: as above. Inset image: same individual as in inset image above, from Atareb White Helmets Facebook post, 27 August 2014. The fire engine in the background of the inset image (and in other images in the sequence, e.g. here and here) was also filmed outside the residential building seen in the background image (see from 57s to 1:02 here and this analysis).

The Laughing Doctor

A medic in a blue tunic who appears at several points in the BBC’s footage from Atareb Hospital also turns up in an Atareb White Helmets Facebook post:

Male medic at Atareb Hospital gate (Dr Rola Hallam in foreground) in Ian Pannell and Darren Conway’s 29 August 2013 BBC News report. The medic appears in other scenes in this report and in the associated BBC Panorama programme Saving Syria’s Children.

During a seven minute interview conducted on 27 August 2013, the day after having allegedly helped tend to “up to 40 severely burned people with up to 70 to 80 percent burns, second to third degree”, the medic appears barely able to conceal amusement (see from 12:58 to 13.00 and, more markedly, from 17:22 to 17:29 ).

The picture that begins to emerge is that, far from the random assemblage of locals and officials one might expect to attend an incident such as the one alleged by the BBC, many of those captured on film in the town of Urm al-Kubra and at Atareb Hospital, Aleppo on 26 August 2013 more closely constitute a Who’s Who of UK and western backed anti-Syrian forces.

It is established that the BBC Panorama team of Ian Pannell and Darren Conway were embedded with “hardline Islamist” group Ahrar al-Sham throughout the recording of Saving Syria’s Children in August 2013. Ahrar al-Sham were co-founded by “one of Osama bin Laden’s most trusted couriers” and just three weeks earlier had, along with both ISIS and al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, been among “the key fundraisers, organizers, planners, and executors” of an attack in which at least 190 civilians were killed and over 200 – “the vast majority women and children” – were kidnapped.

Furthermore, in the midst of the alleged crisis, Conway filmed, at close quarters, an ambulance plainly bearing the ISIS logo, along with its militarily attired and armed occupants [10]:

In other scenes, figures which could resemble Western state special forces operatives are glimpsed and in one YouTube video a commander of the Ansar Brigade, Yusuf Zou’a (now deceased), expatiates upon the day’s events:

Can there really be any doubt remaining that the alleged Urm al-Kubra incendiary attack and its aftermath were a concoction of western state intelligence agencies aimed at furthering a regime change agenda in Syria?


[1] Independent journalist Vanessa Beeley has researched the real Syria Civil Defence, which was established in 1953, is a founding member of the ICDO (International Civil Defence Organisation) and which, unlike the White Helmets, works to rescue civilians wherever it can within Syria; the White Helmets operate exclusively in Jabhat al-Nusra strongholds, fleeing these areas along with Nusra militants once they have been secured by government forces.

In May 2017 renowned documentary filmmaker and journalist John Pilger described the White Helmets as a “complete propaganda construct” and more recently even the extreme right-wing Fox News has conceded that the White Helmets are “not always the most reliable” and possess “their own agenda”:

[2] The Atareb White Helmets Facebook pages include several images of Le Mesurier and graduates of an August 2014 Emergency Response training:

Le Mesurier and unnamed Atareb White Helmet, Facebook, 30 August 2014.

[3] Described by ITV News as a “brave accountant“, Abazeed prefers to describe herself on Facebook as a journalist. Whatever Abazeed’s professed profession, her social media postings leave no doubt of her affiliations:

[4] As are those of so many of his comrades:

[5] Former Reuters freelance photographer Amer Alfaj attends the firing of a “Hell cannon” mortar in 2013, around the time he was also employed at Bab al-Hawa hospital on the Turkish border:

Alfaj also celebrated the munition in images such as these:

Currently, Alfaj claims to work “at Qatar Red Crescent – Turkey Mission”.

[6] In a slightly later shot from Saving Syria’s Children we see that the Captain’s tunic bore the logo of the Free Aleppo Governorate Council:

A 2014 MENASource blog post states:

The Council formed in March 2013 to provide services and administrative assistance for civilians living in free areas of Aleppo Province.

A 19 August 2013 Facebook post shows the Free Aleppo Governorate Council logo being received by the Atareb White Helmets:

The virtually identical East Aleppo Council logo appears on White Helmets jackets found in abandoned White Helmet/Jabhat al-Nusra centres in East Aleppo by independent journalist Vanessa Beeley in May 2017:

Photo: Vanessa Beeley

In a December 2017 article White Helmets & ‘Local Councils’ – Is the UK FCO Financing Terrorism in Syria with Taxpayer Funds? Beeley writes:

The White Helmet group in East Aleppo was established by the president of the East Aleppo Council (EAC), [Abdulaziz] Maghrabi, who has clear affiliations to terrorist groups inside Syria. Maghrabi is also an active militant member of those groups, by his own admission.

[7] This Partridge-esque sequence suggests key duties of the role include demonstrating unarmed combat tactics to primary school children:

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[8] In his Facebook intro Ghassan describes himself as “Trainer at the Training Center at the Syrian Civil Defense“, although the hyperlink is to the Wikipedia entry for the Mayday Rescue Foundation. This is quite congruous. As Vanessa Beeley notes, White Helmets founder James Le Mesurier:

is also the founder of Mayday Rescue, a “non profit” organisation providing SAR [search & rescue] training to civilians enduring conflict. According to Mesurier’s own biography on the website, Mayday Rescue was founded in 2014, after he had established Syria Civil Defence/White Helmets.

Beeley observes of Mayday:

Its primary function appears to be as an intermediary “not for profit,” set up as a conduit to receive and transfer funds to the White Helmets.

Professor Dr Piers Robinson explains further:

The White Helmets receive funding from the UK government’s Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) and the US government’s USAID, Office of Transition Initiatives programme – the Syria Regional Program II. The UK and US governments do not provide direct training and support to the White Helmets. Instead, private contractors bid for the funding from the CSSF and USAID. Mayday Rescue won the CSSF contract, and Chemonics won the USAID contract. As such, Chemonics and Mayday Rescue train and support the White Helmets on behalf of the US and UK governments.

[9] A cursory scroll through photos on the Atareb White Helmets Facebook account reveals similar indiscretions:

The translation is unclear but, read in conjunction with the ugly accompanying image, here the Atareb White Helmets seem to congratulate “The Hazanu Relief Committee” for a violent takeover of premises. (Facebook, 28 October 2013; a more accurate translation of the original Arabic would be welcomed).

The Atareb White Helmets express solidarity with Facebook group The Syrian Revolution 2011. (Facebook, 2 June 2014).

Curious too is this sequence (commencing here and concluding here) which appears to show the Atareb White Helmets in receipt of clothing and blankets branded with the national emblem of Saudi Arabia:

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[10] It is possible that the three men in the ambulance were not themselves ISIS militants, but were using the ISIS emblem to demonstrate allegiance, and hence ensure their own security, within an ISIS stronghold. This then begs the questions of why the BBC Panorama team of Ian Pannell and Darren Conway were themselves able to move freely in ISIS territory, as was seemingly demonstrated by their unobstructed passage through an ISIS checkpoint in an earlier segment of Saving Syria’s Children.

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