According to a report on the Aljazeera website, rescue workers have reported that more than 70 people have died in a chemical attack in Syria. Hundreds are injured. Douma is the last rebel stronghold and “has been subject to intense air strikes and much of the city is destroyed,” according to what Moayed al-Dayrani, a resident of Douma and medical volunteer told an Al Jazeera reporter.
Images showing women and children, some of them lifeless, have emerged online. The rescue group White Helmets operating in opposition-held regions of the city told Al Jazeera that the majority of victims were women and children. Aid workers believe that government forces used chlorine bombs and an unknown potent gas in the attacks. Head of the White Helmets, Raed al-Saleh, explained to an Aljazeera reporter that they were attempting to evacuate people by foot because their vehicles were no longer functional.
In response, the US government has warned of a stern global response to this chemical attack. However, the Syrian government dismissed claimed that its forces had used chemical weapons as “farcical.” Instead, it claims that a rebel-held weapons storage facility was the source. Russia has also denied that the Syrian government was responsible.
100’000 civilians believed to be trapped in Douma
Speaking to Aljazeera, former Douma resident Hanan Halimah said that over 100’000 people remained trapped in Douma with little chance of accessing help or supplies. The medical teams on the ground do not have the resources to deal with the high number of casualties. Aid workers are reported to have described that families were taking shelter in basements when the chemical attack occurred. According to the president of the Syrian American Medical Association, Ahmad Tarakji, the “gas goes down to the basement and those people … are getting intoxicated with those chemical weapons and that’s why the casualties are high,”
At a conference on the future of Syria in Brussels, world leaders held a minute’s silence in remembrance of the victims. Many of them believe the Syrian government to be responsible among them France, the United States, and Britain. However, Russia has continually countered these accusations and supported the Syrian government’s position. Meanwhile, the UN is seeking to fully investigate the events surrounding this latest as well as previous suspected chemical attacks.
In a draft resolution seen by Reuters last week, the UN expressed its outrage at the use of chemical weapons, while emphasizing its determination to identify the source of all chemical attacks.
In February, Russia and China blocked a Western power-led resolution to impose sanctions on the Syrian government.
Chemical attacks in Syria
Chemical attacks have visited unimaginable suffering upon the civilian population. Since 2013, hundreds of people have been killed in chemical attacks right across Syria.