Syria: Global powers “condemn” Assad’s chemical massacre in Idlib

| 06.04,17. 02:57 AM |



Syria: Global powers “condemn” Assad’s chemical massacre in Idlib











April 4, 2017 Mahmoud Eskaf Syria Latest News A civil defense member breathes through an oxygen mask, after what rescue workers described as a suspected chemical attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in rebel-held Idlib, Syria April 4, 2017. Global powers condemned the latest chemical attack by Assad regime against civilians in Syria, in which more than 60 civilian were killed, saying that this incident may be held as a war crime if “Assad was found to be responsible.” More than 60 civilians were killed in Syria in a new chemical attack carried out by Assad regime’s air force on the rebel-held Idlib province, doctors and monitoring groups have said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attack caused many people to choke or faint, and some had foam coming from their mouths, citing medical sources who described the symptoms as possible signs of a gas attack. All the children were under the age of eight. The Edlib Media Centre (EMC), a pro-opposition group, posted images that were widely shared on social media, showing people being treated by medics and what appeared to be dead bodies, many of them children. “This morning, at 6:30 a.m., warplanes targeted Khan Sheikhoun with gases, believed to be sarin and chlorine,” said Mounzer Khalil, head of Idlib’s health authority. The attack had killed more than 50 people and wounded 300, he said. “Most of the hospitals in Idlib province are now overflowing with wounded people,” Khalil told a news conference in Idlib. The air strikes that hit the town of Khan Sheikhoun, in the south of rebel-held Idlib, killed at least 58 people, said the Observatory. Khan Sheikhun houses thousands of refugees from the nearby province of Hama who have fled the fighting there. Locals said the attack began in the early morning, when they heard planes in the sky followed by a series of loud explosions after which people very quickly began to show symptoms. They said they could not identify the planes. Both Syrian and Russian jets have bombed the area before. Opposition activists and the AFP news agency, citing one of its journalists on the scene, later said a rocket had slammed into a hospital where the victims were being treated, bringing rubble down on medics as they struggled to deal with victims. The civil defense, also known as the White Helmets – a rescue service that operates in opposition areas of Syria – said jets struck one of its centers in the area and the nearby medical point. 2 This attack is the deadliest chemical attack in Syria since sarin gas killed hundreds of civilians in the rebel-held Ghouta area near the capital in August 2013. Western states said the Assad regime was responsible for the 2013 attack but it denied the charge. The casualties have been distributed across a wide range of hospitals in Idlib, with some sent north towards Turkey. There were reports that casualties driven to the Bab al-Hawa crossing on the Turkish border were experiencing difficulties in entering the country for emergency relief. “The total number of wounded is incredible, so far it’s over 200,” said Mohammad, a doctor at another hospital in Idlib. “We received over 20 victims and most of them are children, and two of them in the ICU are extremely critical. There are a lot of injured and most of these who were near the epicentre of the attack are either dead or in intensive care. “The families are in a terrible state because they expect the victims to die.” Mohammad said the victims he had seen had constricted irises, low oxygen and poor blood pressure and were drifting in and out of consciousness. Many were on respirators. “seriously concerned” The Syrian opposition described the attack as “appalling” and called on the UN security council to take action. “The Assad regime continues to use internationally prohibited weapons in bombing civilian areas in a blatant violation of the fourth Geneva convention and UN security council resolutions 2118, 2209, 2235 and 2254,” the opposition Syrian coalition said. “These crimes would not have happened again had it not been for the lukewarm response by the international community and its failure to ensure protection for civilians.” Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Russian President Vladimir Putin that the “inhuman” attack could endanger peace talks, AFP reported, citing sources. The “horrific” chemical attack in Syria’s Idlib province on Tuesday came from the air, United Nations envoy Staffan de Mistura said on Tuesday, adding the U.N. Security Council would meet to demand accountability. “This was horrific and we are asking, I’m sure there will be a Security Council meeting on this, for clear identification of responsibilities, accountability,” he said at an international conference in Brussels aimed at shoring up ailing Syrian peace talks. 3 The OPCW said it was “seriously concerned”, adding that it was “gathering and analyzing information from all available sources”. Assad is responsible The French foreign minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, demanded an emergency UN security council meeting. “A new and particularly serious chemical attack took place this morning in Idlib province. The first information suggests a large number of victims, including children. I condemn this disgusting act,” France’s foreign minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, said in a statement. “In the face of such serious actions that threaten international security, I ask for everyone not to shirk their responsibilities,” he added. French President Francois Hollande directly blamed Assad regime forces for the attack and said his allies were emboldening him to act with impunity. “Once again the Syrian regime will deny the evidence of its responsibility in this massacre. Like in 2013, Bashar al-Assad counts on the complicity of his allies to act with impunity,” Hollande said in a statement on Tuesday. “Those who support this regime can once again assess the magnitude of their political, strategic and moral responsibility,” he said. The attack is a war crime The British Prime Minister Theresa May has called for an investigation into the attack. May said: “I’m appalled by the reports that there’s been a chemical weapons attack on a town south of Idlib allegedly by the Syrian regime. “We condemn the use of chemical weapons in all circumstances.” “If proven, this will be further evidence of the barbarism of the Syrian regime, and the UK has led international efforts to call to account the Syrian regime and Daesh for the use of chemical weapons and I would urge the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to investigate this incident as soon as possible.” “I’m very clear that there can be no future for Assad in a stable Syria which is representative of all the Syrian people and I call on all the third parties involved to ensure that we have a transition away from Assad.” “We cannot allow this suffering to continue.” 4 British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson denounced the attack as a “war crime” and called for those responsible to be brought to justice. It would be “unbelievable” to think that president Bashar Assad could play a role in the post-war government of the country if his regime is found to be to blame, Johnson said. “If this were proved to have been committed by the Assad regime, it would be another reason to think they are an absolutely heinous outfit. “Bombing your own civilians with chemical weapons is unquestionably a war crime and they must be held to account. “It is unbelievable to think that in the long term, Bashar Assad can play a part in the future of Syria, given what he has done to his people.” No change in the US stance The attack came a day after the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said the US government was no longer focused on Assad’s removal from office. The United States blamed the Syrian government and its patrons, Russia and Iran, on Tuesday’s attack, as the White House called the attack a “reprehensible” act against innocent people “that cannot be ignored by the civilized world.” A senior State Department official said the attack appeared to be a war crime and called on Russia and Iran to restrain Assad regime from carrying out further chemical strikes. However, Sean Spicer, the White House spokesman, said the slaughter was unlikely to change the United States’ posture toward Assad because of the “political realities” in Syria. “There is not a fundamental option of regime change as there has been in the past,” Spicer told reporters. “Somebody would be rather silly not acknowledging the political realities that exist in Syria. What we need to do is to fundamentally do what we can to empower the people of Syria to find a different way.” He added that “these heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the last administration’s weakness and irresolution.” “President Obama said in 2012 that he would establish ‘a red line’ against the use of chemical weapons and then did nothing,” Spicer said. 5 The raid in Khan Sheikhun indicates Assad’s growing confidence. He has wrested control of territory from the rebels, including the entire city of Aleppo, in recent months. His regime has benefited from the unflinching support of Moscow and Shia militias backed by Iran, as well as waning support for the opposition by its allies in the region and the new US administration. The Syrian crisis began as a peaceful demonstration against the injustice in Syria. Assad regime used to fire power and violence against the civilians and led to armed resistance. 450.000 Syrians lost their lives in the past five years according to UN estimates, and more than 12 million have lost their homes. https://www.middleeastobserver.org/2017/04/04/syria-world-leaders-condemn-assads-chemicalmassacre-in-idlib/ Syria: suspected chemical attack kills dozens in Idlib province Doctors say victims from attack on Khan Sheikhun were bleeding from the nose and mouth, had constricted irises and suffered from convulsions Martin Chulov and Kareem Shaheen Wednesday 5 April 2017 At least 70 people have been killed in northern Syria after being exposed to a toxic gas that survivors said was dropped from warplanes, an attack that sparked comparisons to the most infamous act of the country’s six-year war. At least another 100 people were being treated in hospitals in Idlib province where the strike took place at dawn on Tuesday. Several dozen others were transferred to Turkey, some in critical condition. Condemnation mounted throughout Tuesday as the US, Britain and EU blamed the Syrian government for the carnage, hours before the start of a donor conference on Syria in Brussels. Donald Trump denounced the carnage as a “heinous” act that “cannot be ignored by the civilised world”. But he also laid some of the responsibility on Barack Obama, saying in a statement that the attack was “a consequence of the past administration’s weakness and irresolution”. Theresa May said she was appalled by reports of the attack and called for an investigation by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. “I’m very clear that there can be no future for Assad in a stable Syria which is representative of all the Syrian people and I call on all the third parties involved to ensure that we have a transition away from Assad. We cannot allow this suffering to continue,” she said. UK-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the latest death toll in Khan Sheikhoun at 72 by Wednesday morning, including 20 children. 6 The Syrian military said it “categorically denied” responsibility. Russia, which has heavily backed the Syrian regime, said its planes were not operating near Idlib. Early on Wednesday, the Russian defence ministry claimed a Syrian airstrike had hit a “terrorist warehouse” containing an arsenal of “toxic substances” destined for fighters in Iraq. The ministry did not state if the attack was deliberate. Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Hamish de Bretton Gordon, director of Doctors Under Fire and former commanding officer of the UK Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Regiment, said this claim was “completely untrue”. “No I think this [claim] is pretty fanciful, no doubt the Russians trying to protect their allies,” he said. “Axiomatically, if you blow up sarin, you destroy it.” “It’s very clear it’s a sarin attack,” he added. “The view that it’s an al-Qaida or rebel stockpile of sarin that’s been blown up in an explosion, I think is completely unsustainable and completely untrue.” Hours after the attack, a hospital treating the injured was also hit. Images taken inside the clinic appeared to depict the blast as it happened. Photographs and videos taken at the scene and in evacuation areas nearby showed rows of small, lifeless children, some with foam visible near their mouths. Save the Children said at least 11 children were among the casualties. Jerry Smith, the operations chief of the UN-led team that supervised the removal of Syria’s sarin stockpiles following the gas attack on the rebel-held Ghouta area of Damascus four years ago, said: “This absolutely reeks of 2013 all over again.” In that attack, more than 1,300 people were killed. The UN said the perpetrators probably had access to the stockpile of sarin held by the Syrian military at the time, as well as the expertise to use it. A man carries the body of a child, after what rescue workers described as a suspected gas attack in the town of Khan Sheikhun. Photograph: Ammar Abdullah/Reuters In the aftermath of the Ghouta massacre, a UN team supervised the surrender of Syria’s sarin supplies, the removal of which was supposed to have been completed early in 2014. However, suspicions have remained that a portion of the stockpile was not declared to inspectors. Tuesday’s attack struck Khan Sheikhun, where there are thousands of refugees from the nearby province of Hama who have fled recent fighting. The town is also on a crossroads between Hama and Idlib and is considered vital to any regime offensive towards the northern city of Idlib. “In this most recent attack, dozens of children suffocated to death while they slept,” said Ahmad Tarakji, the head of the Syrian American Medical Society (Sams), which supports hospitals in opposition-controlled areas in Syria. “This should strike at the very core of our humanity. How much longer will the world fail to respond to these heinous crimes?” 7 Sams said its doctors had determined that the symptoms of the patients were consistent with exposure to organic phosphorus compounds such as the nerve agent sarin, which is banned by the chemical weapons convention. Smith said: “If you look at the footage itself, the victims don’t have any physical trauma injuries. There is foaming and pinpointed pupils, in particular. This appears to be some kind of organo-phosphate poison. In theory, a nerve agent. What is striking is that it would appear to be more than chlorine. The toxicity of chlorine does not lend itself to the sort of injuries and numbers that we have seen.” Tuesday’s strike came days after the US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, said the Trump administration was no longer prioritising the removal of Assad, and that the Syrian people would ultimately decide his fate. The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, made similar comments on Monday, affirming a shift in US policy that began under the Obama administration. Critics of the stance have said that the absence of a credible threat has given the regime licence to commit war crimes with impunity as its backers, Iran and Russia, steadily claw back years of battlefield losses. The UN security council said it would hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday to discuss the attack, after a request from Britain and France. “Everyone is horrified and the children are in total shock,” said Mohammad Hassoun, a spokesman for civil defence rescue workers in the nearby town of Sarmin, which received 14 of the wounded from Tuesday’s attack. Hassoun said the victims were bleeding from the nose and mouth, had constricted irises and suffered from convulsions. “The total number of wounded is incredible. So far it’s over 200,” said Mohammad, a doctor at another hospital in Idlib. “We received over 20 victims and most of them are children, and two of them in the ICU are extremely critical. There are a lot of injured.” Mohammad said the victims he had seen were drifting in and out of consciousness. Many were on respirators. Few hospitals in Idlib have the capacity to deal with the symptoms of chemical attacks due to the repeated bombing of medical facilities by forces loyal to the government and lack sufficient oxygen tanks to treat victims. Idlib is one of the last bastions of rebel control in Syria, and has been subjected to a relentless campaign of aerial bombardment despite a supposed ceasefire brokered this year by Russia and Turkey that was aimed at paving the way for political negotiations. 8 The raid in Khan Sheikhun indicates Assad’s growing confidence. He has wrested control of territory from the rebels, including the entire city of Aleppo, in recent months. His regime has benefited from the unflinching support of Moscow and Shia militias backed by Iran, as well as waning support for the opposition by its allies in the region and the new US administration. A man breathes through an oxygen mask as another receives treatment. Photograph: Ammar Abdullah/Reuters The attack will refocus attention on the failure of the international community to prevent the worst abuses in Syria’s war, and casts doubt on a signature achievement of Obama’s government, which negotiated the presumed destruction of Assad’s chemical arsenal in 2013. That deal followed the sarin gas attack on Ghouta, which nearly prompted a US intervention in the conflict. Since then, chemical attacks have continued on a smaller scale, mostly deploying chlorine gas, which was not covered by the deal because it has industrial uses. However, a similar devastating attack to the Idlib strike took place in east Hama last December, with at least 93 people dying and several hundred more being wounded after exposure to what local authorities described as a nerve agent. Western intelligence agencies believe sarin was used in that attack, but were unable to retrieve biological samples that could prove their fears. Smith said the recovery of samples would be pivotal to the investigation of the Idlib strike. “It is one of the most important things now to get biological samples, interviews and environmental samples, ideally from witnesses who can also give statements,” he said. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/04/syria-chemical-attack-idlib-province Syria conflict: 'Chemical attack' in Idlib kills 58 4 April 2017 From the section Middle East At least 58 people have been killed and dozens wounded in a suspected chemical attack on a rebelheld town in north-western Syria, a monitoring group says. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that strikes on Khan Sheikhoun by Syrian government or Russian jets had caused many people to choke. Later, aircraft fired rockets at local clinics treating survivors, medics and activists said. A Syrian military source denied the government had used any such weapons. Russia's defence ministry meanwhile insisted it had not carried out any air strikes in the vicinity. If confirmed, it would be one of the deadliest chemical attacks in Syria's civil war. What happened? The warplanes are reported to have attacked Khan Sheikhoun, about 50km (30 miles) south of the city of Idlib, early on Tuesday, when many people were asleep. 9 Hussein Kayal, a photographer for the pro-opposition Edlib Media Center (EMC), told the Associated Press that he was awoken by the sound of an explosion at about 06:30 (03:30 GMT). When he reached the scene, there was no smell, he said. He found people lying on the floor, unable to move and with constricted pupils, he added. Mohammed Rasoul, the head of a charity ambulance service in Idlib, told the BBC that his medics had found people, many of them children, choking in the street. The spectre of nerve agents in Syria - again Why is there a war in Syria? The Syrian Observatory (SOHR) quoted medics as saying that they had been treating people with symptoms including fainting, vomiting and foaming at the mouth. An AFP news agency journalist saw a young girl, a woman and two elderly people dead at a hospital, all with foam still visible around their mouths. Opposition activists said Syrian government or Russian warplanes carried out the strikes The journalist also reported that the same facility was hit by a rocket on Tuesday afternoon, bringing down rubble on top of doctors treating the injured. The source of the projectile was not clear, but the EMC and the opposition Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC) network said warplanes had targeted several clinics. Pro-government journalists later cited military sources as saying there had been an explosion at an alQaeda chemical weapons factory in Khan Sheikhoun that was caused either by an air strike or an accident. How many victims are there? The SOHR put the death toll at 58, including 11 children, but Mr Rasoul reported that 67 people had been killed and that 300 were injured. The pro-opposition Step news agency meanwhile said 100 had died. One aid agency, the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations (UOSSM), put the death toll at more than 100 and said that the figure was likely to rise. Rescue workers from the Syria Civil Defence, known as the White Helmets, were also overcome The EMC said it had stopped counting the victims because there were so many. It posted photos showing what appeared to be at least seven dead children in the back of a pick-up truck. There were no visible traumatic injuries on their bodies. What substance was used? The SOHR said it was unable to say what exactly was dropped. However, the EMC and LCC said it was believed to be the nerve agent Sarin, which is highly toxic and considered 20 times as deadly as cyanide. Chemical weapons expert Dan Kaszeta said that determining whether Sarin was involved simply by examining video clips is problematic. He added that Tuesday's attack could have been the result of one of any number of chemical agents as they tend to "behave the same in terms of their physiological effects on the human body". Sarin is almost impossible to detect because it is a clear, colourless and tasteless liquid that has no odour in its purest form. 10 A Syrian military source insisted it "does not and has not" used chemical weapons Has Sarin been used in Syria before? The government was accused by Western powers of firing rockets filled with Sarin at several rebel-held suburbs of the capital Damascus in August 2013, killing hundreds of people. President Bashar al-Assad denied the charge, blaming rebel fighters, but he did subsequently agree to destroy Syria's chemical arsenal. Despite that, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has continued to document the use of toxic chemicals in attacks in Syria. In January 2016, it said blood samples taken from the victims of one unspecified attack showed victims had been exposed to Sarin or a Sarin-like substance. Other reported use of chemical agents: A joint investigation with the UN concluded in October that government forces had used chlorine as a weapon at least three times between 2014 and 2015 It also found Islamic State militants had used the blister agent sulphur mustard Human Rights Watch also recently accused government helicopters of dropping bombs containing chlorine on rebel-held areas of Aleppo Human Rights Watch said helicopters dropped chlorine bombs over rebel-held Aleppo last year What has been the reaction to Tuesday's attack? UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said it was an "horrific" attack and that there should be a "clear identification of responsibilities and accountability" for the attack on the rebel-held town. French President Francois Hollande accused the Syrian regime of a "massacre". "Once again the Syrian regime will deny the evidence of its responsibility for this massacre," Mr Hollande said in a statement. UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said that President Bashar al-Assad would be guilty of a war crime if it were proved his regime was responsible. "Bombing your own civilians with chemical weapons is unquestionably a war crime and they must be held to account," he said. A man breathes through an oxygen mask as another receives treatment after what rescue workers described as a suspected chemical attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in rebel-held Idlib, 4 April France said reports suggested that it was a "particularly serious chemical attack" The UK and France, which said that reports suggested it was a "particularly serious chemical attack", have called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council. There was no immediate comment from the government, but a Syrian military source told Reuters news agency that it "does not and has not" used chemical weapons. The OPCW said it was "seriously concerned" about the alleged chemical attack, adding that it was "gathering and analysing information from all available sources". http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-39488539 11 Syrie:





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