Early today, news of a US-led airstrike on Syrian army positions was published by several media outlets, only to be disputed shortly afterwards. The source of information was traced back to the Reuters World Twitter account, citing the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA):
U.S.-led coalition hits Syrian army positions: Hezbollah media unit https://t.co/0J8YxWvj9i
— Reuters World (@ReutersWorld) May 23, 2018
The original post is no longer available on the SANA website, but is has been referenced by a number of Arab-language publications, the heavily cited Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and international news agencies, before the information was disputed by both US (Pentagon spokesman, Marine Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway) and Russian (unnamed source) military officials.
The timeline of the story, as analyzed by TrustServista
The information of the US airstrike is first published by SANA (https://www.sana.sy/?p=758691) at 2018-05-23 23:40:42.
The post is not longer available, but it was processed, automatically translated from Arabic into English and analyzed by TrustServista. The title was: “A military source: some of our military sites between albwkmal intimacy today dawn the aggression launched by the US coalition aircraft in conjunction with thshdat daaish terrorists organization of the damage was confined almadyat”
(alternative translation into English: “Military source: Some of our military positions between Albuqmal and the intimacy of the dawn of the day to the aggression launched by the US coalition aircraft in conjunction with the rallies of the terrorists of the organization advocated and limited damage to material”)
The post content was identical to the title.
After an hour, the same author (mohamad) published a more detailed piece on the same story: https://www.sana.sy/?p=758694
The article used the same anonymous source as in the previous article and mentioned that “The aggression after less than 24 hours to foil the Syrian Arab army forces and the generic attacked terrorists from “Daaish” on a number of points in the apparent fields Prevlaka (rural) Deir Al-Zour and the elimination of more than 10 of them some of them foreign nationalities and dozens of injured and the destruction of one of their vehicles.”
It also specifies that there were no injuries on the Syrian side.
The information was quickly picked up by Arab-language publications:
- Al Majd. Citing SANA, claims the loss of 25 civilian lives. Article has been deleted since.
- Asharq Al Awsat. Uses the information from SANA.
- Alsumaria. Cites SANA, but mentions the US does not confirm the attack. In addition, it mentions that Syrian military sources claim the attack targeted two sites near the T2 Atomic Energy facility, which is located near the border with Iraq, about 100 km west of the Euphrates River.
- Al Bawaba. Identical to the Alsumaria article.
- SkyNewsArabia. The first Arab-language publication to mention that the source is actually Hezbollah.
- Aljazeera. Mentions that the Pentagon does not confirm the attack. Attributes the information to the Syrian Government (SANA).
- Barakish. Quotes Reuters news agency which in turn quoted the military public information unit of the Hezbollah.
The story in the English-language press
The first English-language media agency that got hold of the information was Reuters, who was quick to post a message on Twitter. It then published a full article about this story, updated with the latest information: Syrian state media says U.S. hit army posts, U.S. denies
The Reuters article contains most of the information published by the Arab publications, such as the location of the attack, the time when it occurred, the actors and also mentions Hezbollah as an information source. It also mentions the official statements from the Pentagon:
A U.S. military official denied any knowledge of the strikes. “We have no operational reporting of a U.S.-led coalition strike against pro-Syrian regime targets or forces,” Captain Bill Urban, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, told Reuters.
Another Pentagon spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “We have no information to substantiate those reports.”
Other publications that picked up the story and then published the Pentagon’s denial were: The Associated Press, North Jefferson News, Seattle Times, Washington Post, New York Post, Russia Today, Times Of Israel.