There is a new disinformation offensive over the Syrian al-Bayda massacre, an event I and the ACLOS (A Closer Look On Syria) research community recently studied intensively. Since being reported in the coastal Tartous province on May 2, the outside world is supposedly ignoring the massacre. But mainly, as explained partially below, they have been ignoring key details that implicate the multinational rebel forces, not the governemtn and its allies, in the crimes there.
This pattern of avoidance continues with a nauseatingly slick new propaganda piece by Channel 4 news: Al-Bayda: Anatomy of a War Crime (filmed, Produced and Directed by James Brabazon).  This uses Human Rights Watch Middle East director Nadim Houry, and fancy satellite effects, to sex up what’s really just unverified “activists say” reporting. Some claims are laundered by Houry, who repeats them as fact. This is not investigative reporting, but another campaign to solidify a challenged rebel narrative, as was done in waves with the Houla massacre of May 2012. In that case, it has now been proven the challenging “government” version is after all the best fit with the available evidence, and it seems that a rebel massacre of horrifying audacity has gone unpunished. 
This program comes just days after the UN Human Rights Commission released a report placing the blame for nine horrible massacres in Syria – one (Hatlah) pinned on rebels, eight on the people rebels blamed. Al-Bayda and its follow-up sister massacre in Ras al-Nabi’, Baniyas nearby are two on that short list of eight, Reuters reported.  There were about a dozen others left undecided and like a hundred not even considered.
”Anatomy of a War Crime,” and this article, focus strictly on the earlier al-Bayda half of these Baniyas massacres. The basic gist from Houry, paraphrased: regime forces clearly did the massacre because al-Bayda is a Sunni town and rebels are Sunni, and the Alawite and Christian loyalist towns surround ing it are full of people who could do this. The army admits entering the city by three axes, which “seems to indicate some sort of central decision,” and he’s pretty sure the massacres happened after that. Male bodies piled in the cell phone shop, he decided, were dead. To him, that seems like a big clue.
An army operation, dead people, in a Sunni town, and the government denials are supposed to look pretty thin. They will be held to account, Houry promises, and B-roll footage glorifies his ability to jot down names I recognize and tape lots of things to the wall, like photos I can name the people in.
The video comes with a summary, apparently written by producer James Brabazon, which I’ll use as a template for a partial point-by-point refutation:
”While the investigation into the regime’s alleged use of nerve gas continues, the 2 May massacre in al-Bayda remains the single, most extensive verified act of the killing of civilians carried out by government forces since the war began.”
Oops! It’s actually not very clear at all who’s responsible, as we’ll see. As for the extent of it :
“The Syrian army had killed at least 169 civilians in four hours. The verified final death toll is likely to reach beyond 250.”
The time span is a separate issue, as explained below, quite likely just made up. The death toll seems to be, broadly, 100-120, but it’s not really set.  The only list with about their number is the biggest we could find, with 165 entries, was published shortly after and contains numerous near-duplicate entries, re-mixed names and extra family members that appear in no other sources, etc.  165 was the previous unsubstantiated high estimate among those backed by alleged names (there are higher tallies up to 400+ with no details at all). Channel 4 “verified the names” of a number just higher than that, and that becomes the starting point, the low-end number, with probably more than 250 really killed, or likely twice this minimum or maybe even 400+. This is unsound methodology, designed to maximize the moral outrage at the expense of reliability.
”[al-Bayda] was a predominantly Sunni village … The Syrian government didn’t consider al-Bayda to be a threat.”
This as close as they get to explaining any reason that specific people were targeted, please note. It was a Sunni town, and random Sunni people within it were chosen just for that, presumably – not for any threat, their politics, or anything. Racism and regime evil alone are to blame, HRW and the activists claim.
The alternate explanation, considering no motive past those stupid ones, is that maybe the government’s forces didn’t do it. Civilians were clearly massacred, but maybe someone else who wants to make the regime look bad did it for them. I’m not saying Nadim Houry had a hand in killing these people. I trace it further back, to his ultimate information sources about a crime he may be helping them both obscure and fob off for geopolitical utility.
Loyalist Victims : the Biassi and Related Families
Completely ignored in this “anatomy” is they key feature that from within al-Bayda, it seems government loyalist Sunnis were singled out. The vast majority have political views that are simply unknown, with no proven rebel activism shown for anyone.
There’s only one victim whose views and mind are known – the most prominent martyr, Sheikh Omar Biassi, the 63-year-old imam of the city’s main mosque (or perhaps retired). His photo is shown in the video (doctored with the Syrian flag, 12:45) but he is never named or mentioned therein. All sources on both sides who mention the man at all agree he supported the government, and has been documented calling for interfaith dialog, national unity, and a settlement of the conflict, led by the “captain of the ship” Bashar al-Assad. 
Authorities were not threatened by the pro-government imam, but rebels presumably at least didn’t like the guy. On April 3 in his safe province of Tartous, an Omar Biassi posted a comment calling for the death, if needed, of all “traitors.,” his patience having worn through.  One month later, he and his family were wiped out instead. A reported 36 members of the Biassi family were killed on May 2; at least two dozen with his name appear on lists, and through apparent intermarriage, dozens of others (families Fattouh, Al-Shoghri, Qaddour, Hamouda) are also related. In fact, about half of those listed are demonstratably linked to this one man, who might have just pissed off the rebels in his area. The rest could also be linked and it’s just not clear yet.
Sheikh Biassi would be neither the first nor the last pro-government Sunni cleric singled out, presumably by rebels, for breaking their poorly-written script where all Sunnis reject the regime. Consider top Sunni scholar Dr. Mohammed Saeed Ramadan al-Bouti, killed March 21 in Damascus, Sheikh Abdullatif al-Jumaili in Aleppo, February 8, and Hassan Seifaddine, beheaded in Sheikh Maqsoud Aleppo, March 30. 
There is some further complexity, however, in this case. As Brabazon wrote:
“In May, 2011 [authorities] rounded up all the men in the village square and beat many of them up.”
In mid-April 2011, rather, authorities rounded up about 100 of the men for suspected anti-government activity, and beat up/stomped on some of them. Members of Imam Biassi’s family were prominent among them, as well as other family names that would appear as losing members in the massacre. 
As damning as that might sound, each family had its factions. Omar Biassi sided with the president, while an “Abu Ali Biassi” was allegedly the defense minister of a planned Islamic emirate in Baniyas,* with weapons secured from Lebanese helpers, and power stations slated for destruction. In December, 2011, more Biassis were arrested after some one set Sheikh Omar’s car on fire.  As for which camp the 2013 massacre victims belonged to, Omar himself is our only clear benchmark.
* (side-note: The planned emir of that was Sheikh Anas Ayrout from Baniyas, now an Islamist member of the Syrian National Coalition, in July 2013 urging a “balance of terror” against Syria’s Alawite civilian population which fed the horrific Latakia massacres in August) .
Obscuring Rebel Capabilities
There was no FSA or opposition military presence at all, Barbazon heard, and other sources have spoken of a nominal to non-existent rebel force varying between zero and 14 members, on which they had just symbolically declared al-Bayda “liberated.”  This is important for two reasons : it leaves no real provocation possible for the Army offensive, and also rules out a massacre by the rebel side, which would require some kind of force.
“The only function that al-Bayda played for the opposition was to help smuggle out individual deserting government soldiers who’d run away from their bases on the coast and were trying to reach rebel-held territory.”
”Regime forces came and went as they pleased. No-one attacked them,” the report adds, which was seemingly true through 2012 and 2013, at least until the end of April, when a colonel was assassinated, a checkpoint was attacked, security was tightened, there was a small raid with a few arrests in al-Bayda on May 1.  That night and into the morning, events are not clear. The next day, after the major assault, the government showed on video a large cache of weapons including RPGs and machine guns, seized in what they considered their raid on a fully functioning cell.  That was first jabbed lightly on May 1, perhaps underestimating it, which may have stirred the hornet’s nest for some stinging that night.
As for the help to “individual deserting government soldiers,” not organized armed groups of Islamist defectors or foreigners: Early on May 2 security men came to arrest “a group of three (individual ?) Syrian army deserters who were being hidden in the outskirts of the village” but remained armed and resisted. Only then did about a dozen lightly-armed locals improvise a militia to aid the soldiers, and together they did manage to defeat the Shabiha and leave them burning in their trucks.
This was reported from the beginning: some 30-40 alleged attackers of the National Defense Forces or “Shabiha” came around 4 am or earlier ; they were ambushed by some rebel force, reports on both sides said, with 6-8 killed, some 20-30 others injured and perhaps captured, or even executed and mixed into the man-heavy death toll. Even the few acknowledged as killed are not acknowledged anywhere in a death listing or any rebel video, at least not as themselves. 
So as evidence there was no rebel presence, nothing worth attacking, and nothing capable of its own false flag massacre, we have an allegedly desperate start to a battle. And as always reported, the rebel forces in al-Bayda soundly won it, in the pre-dawn hours of May 2. That is actually further counter-evidence against the crucial claim, and rebel weaponry remains a viable explanation for any violence at that time, if it cannot be proven as something else.
Timeline Clues : Massacre Before the Army Arrived
“At seven in the morning of 2 May this year, Syrian government forces entered the village … At 1.30pm the killing began.”
In the pre-dawn dark, of May 2, the evidence suggests, the women and children victims at least were already dead and being filmed by rebel cameras, hours before the army entered. Nadim Houry is careful to dispel this possibility; at 3 :00 in the video he explains as fact “all the civilians died after 1 :30, when the armed groups, security forces, the army, these paramilitary groups, proceeded to go house to house in the village.”  Clearly he’s relying on what people have told him, and it can hardly be verified by any research.
A wide range of sources suggests the Army’s artillery offensive, not invasion, started around 7 :00 am, and boots in the city only came later than this. The pre-attack started, logically, just after sunrise (about 6 :45 local time that day). So anything filmed on May 2 but before sunrise, clearly, is solidly before the army entered, with the daylight hours after increasingly contested.
Two crime scenes or victims at least are shown twice – once in the dark and once in the light – where it can be established the light scene is later. This means there was a period flanking dawn where opposition activists enjoyed relaxed access to these crime scenes.  Video release dates do not prove anything but no-later-than, and they do fail to prove an early May 1 massacre. Coming out only on May 3, 4, and 5, technically they allow more mornings when each could have been filmed.  But this is apparently a delayed release problem (see below)
Reports by the end of May 2 strengthen this. With only the one night-dawn span preceding it to discover, film, and count bodies, it was reported that “regime forces executed 200 people.” That was at 9 :07 pm on the 2nd as I found, perhaps in error – it might be 8:07. It was known that “50 martyrs, mostly women and children, were slaughtered with knives” by 8:01/7:01 pm. “Slaughter knives” in use were already mentioned at 6:15/5:15 pm. 
All of these are no-later than times for any real knowledge. The best time to start announcing a known tally from the morning is in the evening, after the army has taken charge and could be blamed. How they could actually gather such intelligence in that climate and with such speed is not clear. It is technically possible, but having the information already would explain this rapidly-evolving record even better. Houry notes the rapidity of the killing reports after 1 :30 as a sign of premeditation by the regime – they jumped right to it. Rather, the eager appearance of knowledge might suggest much worse on the other side.
According to the video release timeline, activists generally took days to get any video of the sites with women and children. In Channel 4’s program, Hassan says he filmed his video of the 20 women and girls (see below) around 10 PM on the 2nd, but for whatever reason, it was held back until 2 :45/1 :45 am on the 4th, when the first postings appeared online.  Chances are high it was filmed about 18 hours earlier than he says, and the others too were also delayed, however long after being filmed early on the 2nd or even late on the 1st.
The Victims in Mustafa’s House
“In the house of Mustafa Biyasi, 30 women and children were herded into one room and then executed – shot at point blank.”
In the video, Hassan refers to the home of ”Abu Ali Mustafa, family Biassi.” He shows the dark video of the main massacre scene, which he says was filmed at 10 PM, in his own neighborhood. It’s said the victims were shot at close range, but some display prominent blade slices, and the frequent holes in throats could actually have been poked, alike throat-slicing but less obviously Islamist. (An oddity : there’s little blood visible on the victims, despite the sometimes horrific wounds – this is worth more scrutiny).
Previously, I had found reports of a “Mustafa Ali Biassi,” politics unknown but aged near 50, who was reported arrested by 6 :46 pm local on May 1, as rebels began various operations in the area and security forces started a crackdown.  It wasn’t clear who arrested him, but, then – perhaps that night – came the massacres with so many family members snuffed out, as it seems, largely inside his house (app.100 meters west of the mosque, the video’s map says). Aisha Biassi, named on-screen with a baby in red not named, must (allegedly) be Aisha Qaddour, wife Mohammed Mustafa Ali Biasi, also killed, per the big list.  Two baby boys are listed after: Ali Mustafa Ali, and Mohammed Mustafa Ali (plus two more possible children – an unnamed daughter and a blank entry). 
Others here might be misidentified; five children, all seemingly girls by the colorful, ruffled dresses they wear, are panned over as only three names are shown: Afnan, Sarah, and Abdullah Biyasi. Sarah is one of three Fattouh-Biassa sisters (the others not named) from Safaa Ali Biassi, married to Abdullah Fattouh.  She’s named here as the pregnant woman with a hole in her jaw. The baby, I thought a girl, is said to be her little boy Hamza and could be. Sarah as named is apparently in red, holding Afnan in purple (who I missed in earlier scans). Aged 3, she’s apparently from a different family. This girl’s neck seems hacked badly, details mercifully unclear. Which dress-wearing child is supposed to be Sarah’s brother Abdullah is unclear. Otherwise, with the exception of the baby in red, there are no males in this room. Sex segregation is consistent with either version of the massacre, of course.
Corpses as Props
“Saffa Biyasi cuddled her baby boy, Hamza Biyasi. They lay dead next to each other, serene despite their injuries. Afnan Biyasi and another small child spooned each other on the bed they were shot on, perhaps holding each other for comfort in the last moments before the bullets ripped through their tiny bodies.”
This is unlikely. Bodies were extensively managed by rebels at these crime scenes they enjoyed relaxed access to. At least two clear examples are detailed by ACLOS analysis.
Someone in the opposition network filmed teenage Ahmad Othman in the pre-dawn dark, apparently where he was killed, in his home with other men. Then he was filmed again in daylight “executed in the street,” as it seemed, at the base of a wall smeared with his blood. It looked as if he was shot and slumped there or, since he was killed elsewhere, like he was tossed against the wall for such an effect. 
Consider also the bedroom scene of a mother apparently died while shielding two of her children with her splayed body. This was seen in two videos where the children (a thoroughly brutalized and bloodied child of around eight, and a baby with only a foot visible) are arranged differently for no clear reason. She had to be lifted up then laid back on top of them for that. Quite likely, the original dramatic pose was staged for just this emotional effect. 
Babies seeming to be hugging each other as the bullets tore into them are probably the same type of engineered heart-string tuggings, by twisted people playing with props that used to be Human Beings.
Witnesses to Slaughter?
“At least one young boy, Luqman al-Hiris, was beheaded – in front of his mother.”
This boy is apparently part of those killed “in the town square,” here explained and shown as the sloping street near the mosque, where ACLOS has placed the “curbside victims”  None of those 13 men and boys was visibly beheaded. They know this boy was killed in front of his mother because old woman Um Mohammed witnessed it, from some hiding spot we presume. She says he was the youngest, and one boy has a large torn-out hole in his neck/jaw, but that’s not the same, and most likely a bullet exit wound.
The mentioned family name just barely appears in the previous record. If al-Hiris is the same as Alhris, it appears on the big list of 165, attached to two men – Mohammed Ali and Ali Mohammed, and no one else. There’s no Luqman, and no mother. The opposition CDV entries are lacking for any such name in Arabic or identifiable transliterations. 
Another victim, a pregnant woman, was reportedly sliced open to kill the fetus inside. This horrible allegation comes from previous reports – a rebel from Baniyas saw the aftermath – and a photo of an unborn fetus, wrapped in white and said to be a martyr in al-Bayda. This alleged surgery must have happened after she was filmed pregnant and intact by rebels, if she’s the one called Safaa here. That may not be the case, but there can’t be many pregnant women expected from such a small pool of the populace. 
Anyway, if there was beheading involved, as alleged here, that would add to the existing picture of bladed Islamo-nihilists, inscribing their bleak world view into the flesh of those caught in their path. There’s also Sara, a 12-year-old girl who survived somehow, probably by hiding. She says she later found the body of her tortured and murdered father, throat sliced. Again, this is a crime we haven’t seen clearly in the visual record, but there are the pierced throats of the woman and children at least.
That seems to be Sara at the start of the video rattling off a list of memorized names of massacre victims. With unusual sophistication, she calls for intervention by the outside world: “”They have slaughtered all of us … The world should pay attention about what is happening in al-Bayda. Why is everyone asleep? Why don’t they do something?” This is extremely reminiscent of Ali al-Sayed, an 11-year-old miracle survivor of the infamous false-flag Houla massacre a year before. He also had some names memorized, but switched them from one relative to another, along with all relevant details of his shifting story. He was clearer in his “demand that the international community stop the killing in Syria & in Houla … We’re being killed in our homes. The international community … must fight for us, do what they say, and protect us.” 
(from the video, 10 :25) “The Syrian Government denies any massacre took place.”
That’s not true. First, loyalist sources – not government ones – have been clear about there being some scale of civilian massacre. One told Voice of Russia “the military offensive” blamed for the killings “was started in response to the brutal assassination of Sheikh Omar Baniyasi [sic].”  All the clues for massacres in the night of May 1-2 are consistent with this. But perhaps to avoid panicking the people there, or for whatever reason one might imagine, the government itself has been pretty quiet. SANA and government sources have said little to nothing about civilian massacres one way or the other, only speaking of chasing out terrorists and restoring order. The claim that their forces only killed terrorists is not a claim that there were no civilian killings – just any such thing was not done by the army or its allies.
While the government’s relative silence is taken as a sign of guilt, everyone else has been allegedly silent, evidencing moral weakness, this emotive propaganda would leave us feeling. As Sara said, “the world should pay attention about what is happening in al-Bayda.” I’ll second that, while adding that it should be close and critical attention, as if the real truth mattered, regardless of what the gatekeepers have decided, as if human lives were on the line and mattered more than the goals of the destroy-Syria-and-Iran camp of the “World Community” and its deadly “Human Rights” weapons.