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

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    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.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora