Long before the first reports emerged of an Israeli attack on a research facility near Damascus, media activists associated with the adjoining neighbourhood of Hameh (الهامة) and the surrounding areas posted videos and reports suggesting such a site had been hit. Activists filmed strikes and described loud booms at the ‘scientific research facility’ from shortly after midnight on Wednesday, January 30. Later reports described heightened security in the area.
The lead video (above) was posted at 0100 (local time) on January 30. The video below is said to show ‘very strong explosions’ heard ‘in the city’. It adds that flames and smoke were seen billowing into the sky from Fardos (ضاحية الفردوس) by many people in nearby Hameh (الهامة). Fardos is adjacent to the facility reportedly hit by the strikes. Both lie in an area known as Jamraya (جمرايا), which spans both banks of the Barada river valley on the Beirut road.
The uploader of this video is a regular uploader of video labeled as being from Hameh, and videos from the account regularly appear on the Facebook page of the local coordinating committee. They also appear on a media-activist Facebook page for Hameh, Dummar (دمر) and Qudsaya (قدسيا) called ‘Cham Revolution’ — like the uploading YouTube account.
The first report of an attack came at 1225 (local time) on the LCC Facebook page here; and was followed by several more reports before the first videos appeared. Initial information indicated that violent explosions had rocked Fardos; that the site of these explosions was the Jamraya Scientific Research Facility and that a very large pall of smoke had enveloped the whole neighbourhood. In the wake of the attack, local media activists reported heightened security around the facility with Fardos effectively sealed off.
Although the videos and reports here indicate the attack took place around 1230 local time, an official statement carried by SANA news agency — and blaming Israel for the attack — said it happened at ‘dawn’ (Original Arabic/English). The statement, which quoted the leadership of the Syrian Armed Forces, described the facility as a scientific research centre but added, somewhat cryptically, that it was “responsible for raising the levels of resistance and self-defense”.
A look at the crowdsourced Wikimapia history shows that the location has been variously listed as a research facility, a special forces training centre and, simply, as a walled compound. Activists in nearby areas and other sources on the ground may be able to throw more light on this.
- The map above shows some of the locations mentioned here including the scientific research facility (rough location), which is marked with a red exclamation mark. Other place marks: Fardos (yellow); Hameh (red); Qudsaya (aquamarine); Dummar (green). The presidential palace, barely five miles from the facility, is marked in purple.
The video above was posted at 0155 local time on January 30. The account associated with the video has no history. It is registered to Syria on January 25 and has only posted one video. The name of the account, Mohammed Alhamana (محمد الهاماني), is a reference to Hameh. The video was also featured on the LCC Facebook page. According to the video description, it shows ‘the pounding of the scientific research centre from an unknown location’.
The video above was posted at 0159 local time on January 30 to a media activist account associated with the nearby suburb of Dummar. The activists who posted this video speculated that rockets were used in the attack and that they were fired at state forces in Jamraya (جمرايا) by their own comrades — evincing a split in the army.
The Lebanese army on Tuesday, January 30 said that an unusually dense series of incursions into their airspace took place overnight from Israel, with a group of Israeli Defense Forces aircraft in Lebanese airspace near Syria's southern borders before, during and after the reported attacks took place. Several reports quoting unnamed western military and diplomatic sources referred to an attack on a convoy near the Lebanese border. The Syrian military, in its statement quoted by SANA and referenced above, said reports that a convoy was attacked were ‘baseless’ (Original Arabic/English). A handy roundup of the day’s reporting on this can be found here.