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

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

US Urges Taliban to Stay With Afghan Peace Talks

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll 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.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs