Quantcast
Latest Stories

Syria opposition says 1,300 dead in chemical attacks by army


In this citizen journalism photo provided by the Local Committee of Arbeen, a man and woman mourn over the dead bodies of Syrian men after an alleged poisonous gas attack fired by regime forces, according to activists in Arbeen town, Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013. AP

BEIRUT – Syria’s main opposition group accused the government of “massacring” more than 1,300 people in chemical weapons attacks near Damascus Wednesday, as the UN Security Council called for “clarity” and expressed “strong concern” over the allegations.

The accusation, which was strongly denied by Damascus, came as a team of UN inspectors was in Syria to probe previous allegations of chemical weapons strikes leveled against both sides during the 29-month conflict.

Following an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council in New York, the council’s president, Argentina’s envoy Maria Cristina Perceval, said: “There must be clarity on what happened and the situation must be followed carefully.”

She added that members “welcomed the determination of the secretary general to ensure a thorough, impartial and prompt investigation.”

The 15-nation body expressed “strong concern” about the allegations and agreed that any chemical weapons use is “a violation of international law.”

Western governments demanded immediate access for the inspectors to investigate the new allegations. Russia, a longstanding ally of the Damascus regime, echoed the call for an inquiry but said it suspected a “provocation” by the opposition and its foreign backers.

Videos distributed by activists, the authenticity of which could not immediately be verified, showed medics attending to suffocating children and hospitals being overwhelmed.

More footage showed dozens of people laid out on the ground, among them many children, some of them covered in white sheets.

The claim of chemical weapons use, which could not be independently confirmed, was vehemently denied by the Syrian regime, which said it was intended to hinder the work of the UN weapons inspectors already in the country.

Opposition sources accused the army of multiple chemical weapons strikes – one in Moadamiyet al-Sham, southwest of Damascus, and more in the capital’s eastern suburbs.

The Local Coordination Committees (LCC), a network of activists, reported hundreds of casualties from the “brutal use of toxic gas by the criminal regime.”

And in videos posted on YouTube, the Syrian Revolution General Commission, another activist group, showed what it called “a terrible massacre committed by regime forces with toxic gas.”

In one video, children are seen being given first aid in a field hospital, notably oxygen to help them breathe. Doctors appear to be trying to resuscitate unconscious children.

Another video posted on YouTube showed what it said was a case of hysteria following a chemical strike in the eastern suburbs.

A young girl held her head in her hands and frantically repeated “I’m alive,” as a man in a white coat tried to comfort her.

‘Not totally convinced’

Specialists in the impact of chemical weapons said the video evidence was not entirely convincing.

“At the moment, I am not totally convinced because the people that are helping them are without any protective clothing and without any respirators,” said Paula Vanninen, director of Verifin, the Finnish Institute for Verification of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

“In a real case, they would also be contaminated and would also be having symptoms.”

John Hart, head of the Chemical and Biological Security Project at Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said he had not seen the telltale evidence in the eyes of the victims that would be compelling evidence of chemical weapons use.

“Of the videos that I’ve seen for the last few hours, none of them show pinpoint pupils… this would indicate exposure to organophosphorus nerve agents,” he said.

The opposition National Coalition’s George Sabra said more than 1,300 people had been killed in what he described as a “coup de grace that kills all hopes for a political solution in Syria.”

“The Syrian regime is mocking the UN and the great powers when it strikes targets near Damascus, while the (UN weapons inspectors) are just a few steps away,” he said.

State news agency SANA said “reports on the use of chemical weapons in Ghouta (the Damascus suburbs) are totally false. It’s an attempt to prevent the UN commission of inquiry from carrying out its mission.”

UN chief Ban Ki-moon’s office said he was “shocked” by the reports and that talks were already under way with President Bashar al-Assad’s government on securing access to the alleged attack sites.

The head of the UN inspection mission, Aake Sellstroem, was “in discussions with the Syrian government on all issues pertaining to the alleged use of chemical weapons, including this most recent reported incident,” a UN statement said.

Washington demanded the inspectors be given unfettered access.

“For the UN’s efforts to be credible, they must have immediate access to witnesses and affected individuals, and have the ability to examine and collect physical evidence without any interference or manipulation from the Syrian government,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

Washington has previously described chemical weapons use as a red line that might prompt it to intervene militarily in Syria.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said: “I hope this will wake up some who have supported the Assad regime, to realize its murderous and barbaric nature.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was quoted as saying it would be a “frightful crime” if verified.

Moscow, which has said it has proof of chemical weapons use by the rebels in March, expressed skepticism about the opposition’s claims.

The foreign ministry said the timing of the allegations as UN inspectors began their work “makes us think that we are once again dealing with a premeditated provocation.”


Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter


Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Army , chemical attack , chemical weapons , Conflict , Damascus , Military , Russia , Syria , United Nations , video , world




Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
Advertisement
  1. Fr. Suarez says last Mass on Easter before returning donated land to San Miguel
  2. Chinese lawyers say they were tortured by police
  3. Hair salon’s Kim Jong Un poster riles embassy
  4. Siquijor ‘healer’: For every cure, there’s a plant
  5. Why college grads end up in the PNP
  6. Miraculous image makes Gapan City top site for pilgrimage in Central Luzon
  7. I’ll follow my conscience on Estrada, says JV Ejercito
  8. Five men from Cavite found dead in jeep in Batangas
  9. Town, DENR play tug-of-war over crocodile
  10. Suspect in Vhong Navarro mauling tries to leave PH
  1. Suspect in Vhong Navarro mauling tries to leave PH
  2. Massage attendant arrested on rape complaint filed by Japanese tourist
  3. ‘Tell no one’ Makati bettor won P250M lotto
  4. MH370 co-pilot made mid-flight phone call – report
  5. Netizens cry: 6/55 Lotto was rigged
  6. ‘Wife of Jesus’ theory papyrus not fake – Harvard study
  7. North Korea uses flamethrower to execute official
  8. ‘King’ Yabut and I: Driver bares Makati dad ‘abuses’
  9. Gay college instructor arrested for oral sex with student
  10. It was difficult having Japanese blood
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Pork payoffs to newscasters Erwin Tulfo, Del Prado, others bared
  4. UP back on top as ‘average’ student aces bar
  5. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  6. Model Helena Belmonte wished ‘to slash her wrist and hope to die’
  7. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  8. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  9. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  10. Police rule out foul play in Helena Belmonte’s death as boyfriend is ‘traumatized’
Advertisement

News

  • Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  • AFP denies hand in disappearance of Tiamzon’s gardener
  • PH gov’t to verify MILF presence in Basilan clash
  • Padaca ‘eager’ to air side on trial over graft, malversation raps
  • DPWH to favor road rehab over preventive maintenance in next 2 years
  • Sports

  • Power Pinoys salvage 7th place in Asian men’s volley club championship
  • Knicks prevent Nets from clinching fifth seed
  • Arsenal beats West Ham 3-1 in Premier League
  • Memorial service marks Hillsborough anniversary
  • My ideal weight is 140, declares Pacquiao
  • Lifestyle

  • Celebrate Easter Sunday at Buddha-Bar Manila
  • Moriones feast: A slow, steady transformation
  • Weaving ‘palaspas’ a tradition kept alive in Tayabas City
  • Finalists announced for best translated books
  • Summer treat for your aspiring astronomers
  • Entertainment

  • Deniece Cornejo posts bail—report
  • Miley Cyrus hospitalized, cancels US concert
  • Otaku Summer Jam 2014: Summer’s hottest J-rock/Cosplay event
  • 2NE1 returns to Manila with “All Or Nothing” Tour
  • Gary Valenciano just keeps moving
  • Business

  • I-Remit teams up with Lakhoo for remittances from Oman
  • Megawide nets P1.4 B in 2013
  • Longer TRO sought on rate hike
  • Make a stylish statement with the all-new Yaris
  • Hearing set in Olarte case
  • Technology

  • Smart phone apps and sites perfect for the Holy Week
  • Tech company: Change passwords or suffer ‘Heartbleed’
  • Filling the digital talent gap
  • SSS to shut down website for Holy Week
  • Another reason to quit social media this Holy Week: your safety
  • Opinion

  • We may never know
  • Couple of things
  • Mommy D’s magic
  • Stop bizarre and bloody Good Friday rituals
  • Holy Week taboos
  • Global Nation

  • 2 PCG men ordered arrested over Balintang Channel shooting
  • US Embassy closed on Holy Thursday, Good Friday
  • Relief worker draws inspiration from helping Yolanda victims
  • Philippines says peace pact should hold despite clashes
  • No travel restrictions to Middle East amid MERS-CoV scare
  • Marketplace
    Advertisement