Video of the airstrike at Aleppo University on January 15th.
On Wednesday, we posted an article, Syria Exclusive: Proving the Assad Jet Fighter's Attack on Aleppo University, where we compiled evidence that a regime airstrike was responsible for the 15 January attack that left more than 80 students dead.
Today we have received new information which --- when added to our audio and video evidence, eyewitness testimony, and expert analysis --- definitively establishes that a fighter jet was responsible for this attack. Evidence also suggests that a missile, not a bomb, was used.
There is now conclusive evidence that the explosions at Aleppo University were caused by an airstrike, not a ballistic missile strike and certainly not a car bomb.
Well-placed Western government officials in the region, with access to "technical" information about the strike, have told EA that they "can say with 'certainty' that the missiles were delivered by a jet, flying at altitude".
The officials were specific that their evidence showed that the explosion was not from a ballistic missile fired from the ground or a bomb dropped from the aircraft.
The officials would not divulge the basis for this information, but a source for EA indicates that Western government have used sophisticated radar, deployed in Turkey and other countries in the region, as well as information gathered from classified "listening posts" that monitor signal interceptions and pilot chatter.
Further analysis of the evidence we have collected matches the assessment of the officials.
The key factors to consider in determining what weapon was used are the size of the payload, which can be determined by the size of the explosion, and the speed of the projectile that hit the target.
We know the speed of the weapon was subsonic (below the speed of sound) because we can hear the projectile before it passes the camera. The sonic characteristics also do not match that of a supersonic weapon.
Most rockets possessed by either the regime or the opposition are too small to do this kind of damage. Larger ballistic missiles, are too fast, their payloads do not match the explosion, or their size is so great that evidence of the ballistic missile would be present after the blast.
Several experts have told EA that they think this weapon was a bomb. However, there are problems with this theory. The jet would have to be traveling extremely fast, and would have to pull a strong climb and/or turn after delivering the bomb, remaining out of the frame of the video. Such a move is not incompatible with the audio evidence, but it is less likely than other options.
Under the right conditions, a bomb could cause this damage without the airplane leaving a very loud noise-print at the bombing site. However, these conditions are rare. While we believe a noise-print of the jet is audible at the 40 second mark in the video, it is not as loud as that in most other footage of bombing raids. In contrast, a jet at altitude, firing an air-to-ground missile, could easily leave this audio signature.
Then there is the "roar" of the bomb. Audio analysis rules out, with a relatively high degree of certainty, that this roar is created by the plane delivering the strike. Several experts, however, suggest that many of the large bombs which are suspects could create such a noise due to the extreme speed and heavy weight of the projectile. We revisited the evidence, and we believe that the audio does not rule out this option. Because we have been unable to find a comparison video that closely approximates the specific circumstances seen in this footage, we have been unable to test this theory.
The initial hypothesis that this was an air-to-ground missile was partially based on the sound of the incoming projectile. One complaint about this is that there is no sign of smoke, a signature of a missile. However, it is possible that the rocket ran out of propulsion fuel right before it entered the frame. This would indicate that the missile was towards the end of its range, a possible explanation for why the jet is not seen in the video, and why the audio of the jet noise is quieter than one might expect.
All of the experts we have consulted agreed, with certainty, that this was an airstrike. This conclusion matches the eyewitness testimony that we have, as well as the testimony offered by journalists inside Aleppo. Adding the evaluations of aviationists, arms specialists, and combat veteranst to the technical testimony of the well-placed Western government officials, we conclude that this was an airstrike. We maintain the original hypothesis that jet-fired missiles were used. And we hold that --- uniquely, so far --- this video offers proof of a deliberate, targeted and repeated strike by Syrian forces against civilians in a Government-controlled area. The use of an air-to-ground missile against this target is also unique, signifying the importance of the strike to the Assad government.