Jisr al-Shaghour – the Government Story as told by a Foreign Member of the Organized Press Visit

I asked a friend who joined the organized Foreign Press Corps visit to Jisr al-Shaghour to tell me what his take was on the visit. This is his account:

We got a tour of the place with lots of press. The story is that the Syrian Military Intelligence (SMI) garrison was attacked and seized over the course of about 36 hours between 4 and 5 June. 500 “armed criminals” attacked. The detachment, about 72 people, was overrun when they ran out of ammo. The condition of the place was pretty consistent with an armed attack, though I don’t think it lasted that long and I think the garrison likely surrendered. The insurgents then took over the city, looting several gov’t buildings, esp the Palace of Justice and burning the files there, esp the criminal investigation records. These buildings were extensively damaged. No evidence of real damage in the rest of the town – I don’t think the military took it by force. They just rolled in.

There are people returning – we saw a convoy of what we were told was refugees returning from Turkey, waving Syrian flags and photos of the President. The city is still pretty devoid of people, but there are some shops open and people in the streets. They seem to get along with the soldiers, but that could have been staged for our benefit.

We also were taken to a mass grave of the dead from the SMI garrison. The story is the dead SMI soldiers were taken by the rebels and buried in several areas, to include the town dump. A local resident who operates a bucket loader was forced by the rebels to dig the graves. He was there to tell his story to us. The bodies I saw were military age males and looked like they had been dead about two weeks.

They tell us the “rebels” are a mix of criminals (smugglers mostly) and Salafists, and are from the local area, using lots of Turkish weapons and ammo. No implication the Turkish gov’t is supplying them.

I think the event happened, more or less. I also think our trip was stage-managed, with lots of press, and they waited for us to get there to pull the bodies out.

There is a big military presence in the north. It is hard to say what is going on in the rest of that area.

There are two parallel narratives going on. There are peaceful protestors (I saw them in Hama last Friday), and there is an armed insurgency in the north of the country. There may well be one around Daraa as well. How the government deals with both separately will determine where we go from here. The president acknowledged the peaceful protests in his speech, so that is something. But people in Hama told me there is no going back. They won’t negotiate. Maybe that is just talk, but they sound pretty determined.

Hope this helps….

Here is Adrian Blomfield of the Telegraph’s account of the visit: Northern Syria deserted thanks to scorched earth campaign

Addendum: See this report by the BBC, Syria crisis: Investigating Jisr al-Shughour, which adds some interest detail and context.

Comments (146)

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101. Mina said:

When I want to know something on Syria, I don’t ask an Israel guy to explain it to me (you have political prisoners: remember Vanunu? and thousands of Palestinians).

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June 22nd, 2011, 12:23 pm


102. why-discuss said:


“On June 18, Western governments began to warn their nationals of an impending collapse in Syria. The British Foreign Office urged its nationals to leave Syria immediately while foreign carriers were still operating. ”

Good riddance! For what they have been useful to Syria!

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June 22nd, 2011, 12:23 pm


103. Basil said:

I have cousins in Jisr who had to flee. Some of them have come back, but the reports through my family grapevine are that things are tough because the town is shut down. They may have to leave again because there is no food.

As for cock-and-bull story from the regime about “armed gangs”, I think it is fantasy. None of my relatives talked about the town being overrun by a “armed gangs”, but there was talk of an army mutiny. The ‘evidence’ presented in the press tour would fit more closely with an army mutiny than with anything else — after all, where exactly are these “armed gangs” based and how are they launching some kind of military operation to seize the town of Jisr, and why on earth would Jisr be such a strategic prize?

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June 22nd, 2011, 12:27 pm


104. why-discuss said:


“Assad is a racist thug” Really? All your leaders have been and continue to be racist thugs, unless they are in a coma or senile, where they should all end up.

Don’t mention Hamas when you “democratic” leaders killed children in Gaza. Even Erdogan said it to your senile president: “You know how to kill children” You remember? but I think your senile president has trouble hearing.. like all of you, blinding yourself from the horrors you provoke.

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June 22nd, 2011, 12:29 pm


105. Syrian Commando said:


We will never be the first to use our strike ability. If anyone is a coward it is you, why aren’t you using your nuclear weapons?

What a joke you are. Kill yourself.

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June 22nd, 2011, 12:30 pm


106. why-discuss said:


You negotiate what? A cease fire? borders?

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June 22nd, 2011, 12:32 pm


107. AIG said:

Why Discuss,

Who is banned from travelling to Europe and the US? Assad or Netanyahu? Assad is banned because he is a criminal. Yes, of course the US and Europe are lying because of some conspiracy you will now tell me about by quoting some antisemitic book.

Assad supported the bombing and killing of 1000 Israeli women, children and civilians in hotel, discos and restaurants. He is a brutal and sadistic murderer both in Syria and out of Syria.

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June 22nd, 2011, 12:34 pm


108. Mina said:

You mean Erdogan pre-elections or Erdogan post-elections?
Because now that he is against the Gaza flotilla and all smile to Netanyahu, he is certainly post-elections. I can imagine the reaction of the Turks. Betrayed. Best way to get more hatred, but that is something politicians seem to like playing with.

Another “peaceful website” (just check the imagery, you would think SC has designed it) with calls for delation. As if the Syrians did not know who among their neighbours work for the mukhabaraat…

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June 22nd, 2011, 12:39 pm


109. majedkhaldoon said:

why discuss
it is exactly my point, there is no sense in negotiations with a dictator,he has to give up power.

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June 22nd, 2011, 12:40 pm


110. AIG said:

SYRIAN Coward,

Who holds the Golan? All of Israel is in the range of the Rabbit of the Golan, so why is he and you are not doing anything? The answer is simple. You are cowards that only use weapons against your own civilians. You are threatening war all the time, like a coward. Why don’t you and the Rabbit of the Golan do anything except attack your own citizens?

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June 22nd, 2011, 12:40 pm


111. pedro ali alves said:


everyone keep passing this information over and over..the anti assad simpletons have no clue what happens in syria..even opposition itself doenst know whos leading them are zionists…facts at links above..pass this iformation around..it destroys western narratives..

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June 22nd, 2011, 12:41 pm


112. Syria no kandahar said:

It is very clear how much we deserve freedom and democracy,you can see that here,in SC.freedom here is :Tuz feek,air,jahash,wlak…is that how we proof that we are (superior).I think this is exactly why all this freedom (mawal)is going on,the west and isreal know exactly that we don’t know how to swim in freedom and democracy water even if it is 2 feet,they will make us chop each others head to get to swim in 20 feet freedom and democracy water,who ever has his head stil attached,will drown.

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June 22nd, 2011, 12:42 pm


113. Syrian Commando said:

You are quite thick AIG, so I will repeat ONE LAST TIME: We will never be the first to use our strike ability. This system will only be used when our very existence is threatened.

I hope you understand this, dumbass.

As for the fake Syrian above me, lol, we understand their “demockrazy” very very well. We saw how they democratically turned a crowd of millions into mere tens of thousands. No doubt, this is how their voting system churns out idiot puppet after idiot puppet.

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June 22nd, 2011, 12:51 pm


114. why-discuss said:


I trusted and continue to trust Erdogan. I saw an interview of Davutoglu on Al Jazeera. These people are pragmatic and I think that Bashar is too.
Maybe there are some elements affiliated to the MB in Turkey who are plotting and giving support to their likes in Syria, but the Turkish governemnt has been very sensible. I am sure Turkey will play a major role in influencing the opposition in dialoging with the governemnt. They don’t want war, they want commercial relationships and they want to create a middle east free market and later a union. Europe is in a mess economically, who wants to join them now? One bankrupt after the other, now Greece, tomorrow Portugal, then Spain. East and south is a much better to look for relationships!
Walid Moallem said exactly that: Forget about the EU! Look south, east!

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June 22nd, 2011, 12:51 pm


115. Abughassan said:

Somehow my SC logging name was used in a bundle of people on this blogg who were ,as implied by an Islamist blogger, as supporters of Bashar speech. I can not speak on behalf of others but I do not Know where this lie came from. I always stated facts and expressed my opposition to both the regime and the islamists because they are not good for Syria,with islamists being a bigger danger
for obvious reasons.the same guy published a list of officers who “participated in atrocities” copying the list from a defecting army officer,who may or may not be truthful.that list is simply an assassination list that can only be used to trigger violence and revenge,and I am absolutely against this criminal tactic because it
will only feed violence and revenge and is very hard to verify.those who target the army are on the same side with Israel,they want aءTaliban state and we will not accept that.what many islamists do not get is this: most Syrians hate the regime but they hate those violent islamists more. That officer,assuming he was speaking the truth,is a tool in the effort to divide the army and fuel violence and unrest.shame on anybody who took part of this dangerous piece of garbage.

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June 22nd, 2011, 12:59 pm


116. Syria no kandahar said:

Syria commando
Do you read posts befor you respond to them?
Are you the only ultimate pureنخب اول Syrian ?

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June 22nd, 2011, 12:59 pm


117. Mina said:

Tara!!! Please!
I will try to buy your optimism about Turkey and turn a blind eye on 873 and his trumpets of doomsday.

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June 22nd, 2011, 1:03 pm


118. Syrian Commando said:


My rule for declaring non-Syrians:

– If they seem to truly think what they are saying will benefit Syria, they are Syrians.
– If not, they’re probably fake. I go with definitely to be on the safe side.

Maybe I misinterpreted your message, the English was poor…

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June 22nd, 2011, 1:08 pm


119. AIG said:

Syrian Coward,

You are a liar. You used your first strike capability in 1973. You are just making excuses for your and Assad’s cowardice. Why are you attacking your own citizens? Because you are a coward that is only good at making excuses.

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June 22nd, 2011, 1:09 pm


120. Syrian Commando said:

You are a MORON AIG.

LOL, that’s not what the strike capability I speak of means. Read between the lines.

My god, is your IQ less than 80?

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June 22nd, 2011, 1:15 pm


121. Tara said:

AIG #95

You said

“Why….It is clear you are racist, against democracy and against Israel.”

You are wrong!

I do not agree with Why on lot of things but he is not a racist. Read his comment # 85. I am too (just like Why) not against the Jews but I am against Israel ever lasting history of brutal oppression of the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank and its denial of their basic human rights i.e freedom and dignity. Being against Israel abuse of human rights is not racism. It is humanity.

I welcome your moral support to our peaceful revolution against Assad oppression and I hope that one day you and other Israelis offer the same to the Palestinians.

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June 22nd, 2011, 1:16 pm


122. vlad-the-syrian said:

The honesty of US democrassy (*) and its allies

L’Irak veut savoir où ont disparu 17 milliards de revenus pétroliers

L’Irak veut savoir où ont disparu 17 milliards de revenus pétroliers

the most ironic part is at the end of the article. I quote:

“Le 10 juin, un parlementaire américain en visite à Bagdad avait demandé aux Irakiens de rembourser une partie des frais engagés par les Etats-Unis en Irak depuis l’invasion de 2003 qui avait entraîné la chute du régime de Saddam Hussein”.

Not only they stole money but they ask to be paid back for the wreckage they have caused. Incredible

(*) in french crasse = dirty, filthy

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June 22nd, 2011, 1:38 pm


123. vlad-the-syrian said:

#86. Abu Umar

“yet your idol’(Bashar) grandfather praised the Zionist project and blamed the Palestinian for resisting”

really ? where did you get that from ?

this is an utter lie and misinformation

dare give your source

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June 22nd, 2011, 1:46 pm


124. vlad-the-syrian said:

#55. Mohamed kanj


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June 22nd, 2011, 1:48 pm


125. AIG said:

Syrian Coward,

Again, trying to make excuses for your cowardice. Assad had no problem using “first strike” capabilities against citizens of Syria. He had no problem attacking them first and jailing and torturing them. But the Rabbit of the Golan, is just like you, a coward and an idle talker who is only good at threats and excuses. Thank you for showing what low life some of Assad supporters are.


Once Syrians are free we can have a frank and candid discussion about the Palestinian issue. Why Discuss is a racist that cannot care less about the Palestinians, all he is interested in is denying democracy and dignity to Syrians and using Israel as an excuse for Assads crimes.

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June 22nd, 2011, 1:50 pm


126. AIG said:

Isn’t it obvious by now? Assad is a pathological liar.


Ban says Assad has no “credibility”
June 22, 2011 share

UN leader Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad does not have “credibility” and urged the UN Security Council to overcome divisions on the Syria crisis.

“I do not see much credibility [in] what he has been saying,” Ban told a small group of reporters in an interview to mark his reelection as secretary general of the global body.

“How long should the situation continue in this way? [Assad] really has to take firm measures,” Ban added.

The UN leader said it would be “very helpful” for the UN Security Council to speak out on the Syria crisis.

Russia and China have threatened to veto a resolution proposed by European powers on the 15-member council condemning the Syria violence, in which hundreds of anti-regime protesters have been killed, according to rights groups.

-AFP/NOW Lebanon

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June 22nd, 2011, 1:58 pm


127. Mina said:

And what had Ban Ki Moon said about the war on Gaza?

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June 22nd, 2011, 2:01 pm


128. AIG said:


You do realize we are talking about Syria?
You do realize that trying to deflect and make excuses or use Israel as an excuse just portrays you as a nut case?

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June 22nd, 2011, 2:03 pm


129. vlad-the-syrian said:

#125 AI(r)G


this lackey has personally supervised the civil war in Ivory Coast initiated by IMF , USA and FRANCE which ended by the topple of an elected president and caused thousands of deads and injuries

he is the one who has no credibility at all

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June 22nd, 2011, 2:07 pm


130. William Scott Scherk said:

In post 94 the Syrian Commando writes:

They’re pulling out 10,000 soldiers from Afghanistan and sending them to Turkey in preparation for the war.

Can you please give us an indication of where this information comes from?

Similarly, poster 873 announces this at post 93:

US cavalry and brigade units to begin staging near Syrian border early July. Some units also redeploying from Afghanistan to Turkish border region.

Can you please give readers here an indication of where this information comes from?

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June 22nd, 2011, 2:08 pm


131. William Scott Scherk said:

In Syrian Commando’s commentary on the purported defector video featuring “Captain Riyad Ahmad” he writes: one of the Israeli advisers this fake speaks of was caught, along with his papers from the Mossad.

Commando, can you please give more information on this claim? Where can we find evidence that a Mossad agent was caught in Baniyas?

Here is what the purported defecting captain said (from a transcription of the video’s English subtitles via Syrian Interpreter)

We, in cohort 45, the Special Forces, were ordered to go to Baniyas city. According to the instructions of the headquarters, there were armed gangs whose members are from a number of Arab countries: Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, plus 4 Israeli experts and an Egyptian general (brigadier), all of whom formed an armed organization in Baniyas with a purpose of stirring instability in Syria. On the basis of this information, the cohort was sent in two stages.

Beyond that, Commando, it seems you do not believe much from this video at all — I expect that to call this man a ‘fake’ means you believe he was not and is not a captain in the special forces.

By what means do you think it could be proved one way or the other that ‘Captain Ahmad’ is not who he says he is?

If it turns out that this man was is what he said he is, that his tale of defection and the reasons for it is true, how might your opinion of events in Baniyas change, if at all?

I do not fully comprehend the insistence that particular ‘defectors’ are fake . . . if there is evidence, strong evidence that this purported captain is posing, please bring that evidence forward.

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June 22nd, 2011, 2:45 pm


132. Tara said:


I agree with #113. But “East” needs to play smart and avoids alienating the masses. Syria fate is sealed (with or without civil war). I truly have no doubt about it. This is what history says. I am just afraid that a culture of mistrust towards “east” would set in the way things are going.

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June 22nd, 2011, 2:48 pm


133. Tara said:


Are you Buthina Shaaban?

or may be her assistant?

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June 22nd, 2011, 2:51 pm


134. Chris W said:

I think it’s a mistake for the discussion to get distracted by discussion of Israel and the Jews.

The fact that these Israeli/Jewish commenters have admitted who they are (they make up over half the regular ‘pro-revolution’ commenters) is enough to discredit them.

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June 22nd, 2011, 4:24 pm


135. Revlon said:

Dear Commentors, I posed the following question on the earlier post:
[[Dears: ABUGHASSAN, Syrian Knight, Mohammad Kanj, JAD, ALEX, Syrian Commando,Why-Discuss, Syria No Kabndahar, Vlad-The-Syrian, 873, USAMA, and JOHN KHOURI
In his preamble to justify his means for combatting conspiracy, Jr said:
(Burying sedition is a national, moral, and religious duty; and all those who can contribute to burying it and do not are part of it. The Holy Quran says, “sedition is worse than killing,”) Jr Speech I, March 31st 2011.
I would like to see your frank answer to this question:
Do you agree with your president’s statement; in principle, context, and implications?]]

Thusfar, two have kindly replied.

1. Syrian Commando wrote: I’m not religious, so I don’t care for references to religious text, but in this case, when the country is at war and there is an international conspiracy against it, “sedition” is very self-harming.
In contrast, “sedition” in Greece and Spain is extremely important as these countries have been conquered by the international bankers, whereas Syria is still free.

Thank you for your reply.
Your position, as I understand, is neutral on the principle, context, and implications of “referring to religious texts” in support of major national policy

I would like you to note that the statement was not just a mere reference to a religious text.
The statement amounts to a Shari3a Fatwa, based on a verse in Quran and Sunna.

2. ABUGHASSAN wrote: “Somehow my SC logging name was used in a bundle of people on this blogg who were ,as implied by an Islamist blogger, as supporters of Bashar speech. I can not speak on behalf of others but I do not Know where this lie came from.”

Thank you for taking the time to reply to my question.
Your position, as I understand it, is that you choose to refrain from addressing the question.
Before I continue, I would like to tell you that I owe you a clarification and an apology.
I listed your name first as you come across to me as the only “neutral Syrian” on this blog.
I should have made that a priori clear.

1/11 supporters did not mind the statement
1/1 neutrals and 10/11 regime supporters are either still pondering or have chosen to decline to address the issue.

Until I am proven otherwise, they are likely to fall in two categories
– Non-critical: They share Syrian Commando’s stance: Do not care!
– Critical of the statement, but prefer not to voice opinion for various reasons.

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June 22nd, 2011, 10:01 pm


136. Revlon said:

The day of the Fall of Legitimacy
Tomorrow, Friday 23 June 2011

Jr’s presidency has never been more than part legitimate, at best.

Jr’s presidency and vested powers are binding only to a minority of the People’s of Syria.
They are:
The Baath party members whom he approves,
The parliament members whom he either appoints or sponsors,
The top commanding security and army officers whom he appoints, and the benefactors/idolisers, by own choice.

Jr has no legitimate, binding contract with the majority of the people of Syria.

While the revolution acknowledges the right of his followers to support him as their representative, The Revolution consider his post as president of the people of Syria to be an illegitimate misrepresentation of their will.

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June 22nd, 2011, 10:26 pm


137. 873 said:


I agree that the Brits should get out of Syria and US Embassy staff too. You dont need to provide them an island for dissident recruitment or a base for anti-Syrian covert ops inside the country. Let the Trojan Horses go, and yes good riddance! The purpose of posting that item was to indicate that it seems a foreign strike on Syria is nearing. How soon is uncertain. Coalition of the Killing usually withdraw their nationals in advance. Seems a signal of escalating moves towards NATO aka MB/Turks on Syrian territory.


I Dont at all trust Erdogan. He is putting his money where his interests lie and that is with the NATO billions/bases not with impoverished Syria who would be more liability than asset to him at this stage. Wish it werent so, but real politique… There was article in past weeks with him intimating how part of the spat with Israel was a PR show so real deals could proceed as usual behind the scenes. Which sounds far more realistic than otherwise, no? His subsequent actions and words on Syrian and Palestine issues bears that out.

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June 22nd, 2011, 11:01 pm


138. Syrian Commando said:

Someone get AIG some painkillers, I think my simple words are too much for his rotten “brain”.

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June 23rd, 2011, 4:16 am


139. Talal said:

So were are those hundreds of mysterious gunmen who materialized out of thin air then suddenly disappeared? And why did they bother about burying their victims? By the way, I love the picture. It brought tears to my eyes. Yes, it “may” have been staged for their benefit.

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June 23rd, 2011, 11:02 am


140. 5 dancing shlomos said:

“The plan to destabilize Syria”


“Turkish Actions Designed To Trigger NATO Confrontation With Syria?”


the israeli posters are just throwing crap to waste time. they post lies and nonsense from their cubicles to divert.

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June 23rd, 2011, 11:33 am


141. 5 dancing shlomos said:

55. Mohamed kanj said:
“Amir – go back to your gas chamber”

why some others so worked up by this comment?

gas chambers are a fiction. the jewish claims are a fiction.

israelis and all other jews say, do far worse to the palestinians, iraqis, syrians, lebanese, afganis, pakistanis. what they say and do are no fiction.

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June 23rd, 2011, 11:44 am


142. vlad-the-syrian said:


i just dont bother answering or talking to people like you
i ignore them

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June 23rd, 2011, 6:20 pm


143. Kurt said:


“gas chambers are a fiction. the jewish claims are a fiction.”

They’re not Jewish claims. The Nazis documented it extensively themselves. Buy a clue. You may criticize Zionism and Israeli Apartheid, but there is no sense in being a denier of the Holocaust.

103 Basil, I’m sure you’re one of these Zionist agents. After all, that’s the one seriously unoriginal line they know. Interesting most apologists just ignored you, actually.

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June 23rd, 2011, 7:40 pm


144. riskability said:

Turkey & Syria Exist , “Israel” & Europe not

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June 23rd, 2011, 11:24 pm


145. 5 dancing shlomos said:

gas chambers for killing jews are not documented. 6 million is not documented. certainly not since auschwitz reduced from 4mill to under 100,000. just repetition of fiction.

i deny fabrications are truth.

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June 24th, 2011, 12:52 pm


146. 5 dancing shlomos said:

“At Mauthausen, one of the extermination camps in Austria, close to 2,000,000 people, mostly Jews, were exterminated between 1941 and 1945”

now alleged only 14,000 jews died (how did they die?)

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum now states on its website about Mauthausen:

“An estimated 197,464 prisoners passed through the Mauthausen camp system between August 1938 and May 1945. At least 95,000 died there. More than 14,000 were Jewish.”

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June 24th, 2011, 2:16 pm


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