News / Middle East

Syrian Opposition Details Suspected Chemical Weapons Attack

A photograph taken on August 22 purports to show some of the estimated 1,000 victims of a suspected chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburb of East Ghouta, the day after a missile attacked by government forces. The government denies chemical weapons werA photograph taken on August 22 purports to show some of the estimated 1,000 victims of a suspected chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburb of East Ghouta, the day after a missile attacked by government forces. The government denies chemical weapons wer
x
A photograph taken on August 22 purports to show some of the estimated 1,000 victims of a suspected chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburb of East Ghouta, the day after a missile attacked by government forces. The government denies chemical weapons wer
A photograph taken on August 22 purports to show some of the estimated 1,000 victims of a suspected chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburb of East Ghouta, the day after a missile attacked by government forces. The government denies chemical weapons wer
David Arnold
The main Syrian opposition coalition says the suspected chemical weapons attack near Damascus was launched by a special unit of President Bashar al-Assad’s army from a mountain range north of the capital.
 
In a report issued Wednesday, the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) said the attack on Ghouta and nearby areas on the outskirts of Damascus was carried out by the Army’s 155th Brigade in the early hours of August 21. It said the suspected chemical weapons were delivered by short-range missiles launched from a military compound known as Qutayfa in the Qalamoun Mountains north of the city.
 
The SNC claims were consistent with what chemical warfare experts have been saying in recent days. Jeffrey White, a former U.S. intelligence officer now with the Washington Institute research group, said last week “CW [chemical weapons] use also fits the regime's longstanding pattern of behavior and its current situation on the ground.”
 
“First, the military situation in the Damascus area, while not critical, has not been going in the regime's favor,” White said. “Second, military developments in other parts of the country may have altered the regime's calculus.”
 
Sarin gas may have been used
 
The SNC and its allied have been trying to topple the Assad government for the past 29 months and the fighting has killed more than 100,000 people, according to the United Nations.
 
The SNC report said it was still too soon to confirm what specific kind of chemical weapon may have been involved last week, but added, “Medical reports show the victims exhibited symptoms consistent with exposure to sarin gas.”
 
White and other experts speculated last week that sarin chemicals were involved, but that “determining the specific agent involved will require technical analysis.”
 
A United Nations team is now inspecting the attack area and has taken samples for analysis.
 
The six-page SNC report claimed that more than 1,500 Syrians died in the missile attack, and approximately 5,000 were injured.  Other reports have estimated fewer casualties.
 
There has been no independent verification of the SNC casualty claims and the Assad government has denied any chemical weapons attack took place.
 
The SNC report included a map of greater Damascus and photographs of the bodies of children arranged side by side on their backs and wrapped in white sheets.
 
Planning a chemical attack
 
Chemical warfare experts said last week the attack appeared to have been a well-coordinated operation involving artillery, surface-to-surface missiles and possibly aircraft.
 
“Attacks by air units would be a decisive indicator of regime responsibility,” said White. “The operation is unlike any of the previous cases of CW use in Syria, which were relatively small in scale, limited in terms of casualties, and often seemingly designed to reduce the risk of detection by outside observers.”
 
The SNC said its report was based on information provided by “officers from Assad forces and Assad Air Force intelligence sympathetic to the revolution,” as well as civilian activists and attack survivors.
 
The SNC report said that on the night of August 20, warplanes conducted five air raids on the Ghouta area near Damascus and that only helicopters remained in the area when the government began firing the missiles.
 
It said the attack started at 2:31 a.m. when 16 missiles were fired at East Ghouta. Relief operations were interrupted 49 minutes later when more missiles were fired at Ain Tarma. The report said additional missiles were fired an hour and a half later.
 
Victims were taken to medical facilities in Daraya, another Damascus suburb, the SNC said.

You May Like

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Igor from: Russia
August 28, 2013 10:54 PM
The chemical attack could be launched by any group other than Mr. Assad: The rebels who are calling for Western intervention, the troops that betray Mr. Assad, foreign agents...

by: Chu Chao Min from: China
August 28, 2013 10:47 PM
Was Mr. Assad stupid enough to launch the chemical attack while he had been warned by Mr. Obama about the consequences of that attack? No he was!
Did Mr. Assad lauch the attack in the capital when the UN inspectors were there? No, he didn't. He was not so risky.
Did Mr. Assad need to use such weapon when he was gaining the upper hand? No, he didn't.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs