Chemical Warfare in Syria


syria1A chemical attack doesn’t look like anything much at first. It’s not spectacular or even detectable. By the time the rebel fighters of the Free Syrian Army understand that they’ve been exposed to chemical products by government forces, it’s too late.

Omar Haidar, chief of operations of the Tahrir al-Sham (Liberation of Syria) brigade, described a metallic ping like “a Pepsi can that falls to the ground.” No odor, no smoke, and then the symptoms appear. The men cough violently. Their eyes burn, their vision blurs. Soon they experience difficulty breathing; they begin to vomit or lose consciousness.

Reporters from Le Monde witnessed this on several days in a row in the Jobar district, on the outskirts of Damascus. Gas attacks occurred on a regular basis in April. Dr. Hassan O., of the Al-Fateh de Kafer Battna hospital in the Ghouta region east of Damascus, described the patients’ symptoms in detail. “The people who arrive have trouble breathing. Their pupils are constricted. Some are vomiting. They’ve lost their hearing, they cannot speak, their respiratory muscles have been inert. If we don’t give them immediate emergency treatment, death ensues.”

Heavy fighting raged around the strategic Syrian border town of Qusayr and the capital Damascus on Monday amid further reports of chemical weapons attacks by President Assad’s forces on rebel areas. In Harasta, an eastern Damascus suburb largely under rebel control, dozens of people were afflicted by respiratory difficulties after an apparent overnight chemical attack, according to opposition sources.

Video showed victims lying on the floor, breathing from oxygen masks. Another video from Harasta showed at least two fighters struggling to breathe while medics put tubes into their throats. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said there was “increasingly strong evidence of localized use of chemical weapons” in Syria.

{Andy Newscenter}