By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
DAMASCUS, Syria – Syrian opposition activists claim that the Syrian regime carried out a massive chemical attack in Ghouta, a suburb of the capital, Damascus, killing hundreds of people. Al Jazeera’s Nisreen El-Shamayleh reported that videos capturing the alleged attack showed children and adults in field hospitals, some of them suffocating and coughing.
Chemical weapons experts have said that the symptoms of the victims shown on the footage could indicate the use of a nerve agent. Dina Esfandiary of the International Institute for Strategic Studies said, “By looking at the videos, you can tell that some of the victims are suffering from asphyxiation. They don’t have any external wounds, so it’s consistent with the use of a chemical agent.” She said that it is difficult to determine what actually happened at the site of the alleged attack without physical samples.
Leaders of the international community are demanding that the Syrian government immediately allow United Nations inspectors onto the site of the alleged chemical attacks, which have killed as many as 1,800 people.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for the Syrian government to allow the team of U.N. inspectors already in Syria to investigate alleged chemical weapons attacks at three unrelated sites. He has said that the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime should be investigated immediately. He also said there is “no time to waste” in getting an inspection team to Ghouta.
The Secretary-General said that the use of chemical weapons by Bashar al-Assad’s regime would constitute a crime against humanity. He warned the Syrian regime of “serious consequences” that will follow if their use of chemical weapons against their own people was proven.
Russia, which has maintained support for the Al-Assad regime, has called on the Syrian government to cooperate with the United Nation’s experts in Syria to investigate the alleged use of chemical weapons. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry after the reports first emerged Wednesday, that the “Russian side called on the Syrian government to cooperate with the UN chemical experts,” the foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday.
U.S. President Barack Obama has said that what has occurred in Syria “indicates that this is clearly a big event, of grave concern.” He said that the international community must determine more about whether a chemical weapons attack has occurred and has called for the al-Assad regime to allow for a full investigation.
The United Kingdom and France have also issued strong statements demanding U.N. investigators be granted access to the attack sites.
Despite the International community’s collective demands for an investigation, the U.N has yet to authorize investigator’s to go to Ghouta, Kevin Kennedy, acting head of the United Nations Department of Safety and Security told reporters at the U.N. headquarters on Friday that he has not yet given the inspectors a green light to visit the sites of the alleged attacks, citing extreme violence in the region. Kennedy said, “It’s an active war zone in Damascus.”
For further information please see;
Al Jazeera – Hundreds reported killed in Syria gas attack – 21 August 2013
Foreign Policy – Congress’ Doves Rethinking U.S. Intervention After Syria’s ‘Chemical’ Attacks – 22 August 2013
Al Jazeera – New footage emerges of Syria ‘gas attack’ – 23 August 13
Al Jazeera – Russia backs UN probe of Syria attack – 23 August 2013
CNN International – Official: US military updates options for possible strikes on Syria – 23 August 2013
CNN International – Syria under pressure to allow urgent probe of chemical weapons claim –23 August 2013