LATEST: UN Security Council to Meet; US “Deeply Concerned”
Wednesday’s coverage is taken up by developing events in Damascus.
The Assad regime on Wednesday morning have a launched a coordinated series of attacks aimed at retaking key areas of the capital, Damascus. The regime offensive began at 3 AM Damascus time with what activists, local residents and insurgents say were a series of chemical weapons attacks. Video footage and photographs taken at several locations, including Jobar, Zamalka, ‘Ain Tirma, and Hazzah back up local reports that hundreds have been killed including many children.
Activist reports and video footage show an ongoing offensive, with ferocious regime airstrikes, mortars and rocket shelling on several Damascus locations including Muaddamiyyat Ashaam — where locals report dozens of civilian deaths and many more injuries — Irbeen and Jobar.
Map showing location of areas affected by alleged chemical weapons attacks:
Map showing location of Darayya and al-Moadamiyeh, the site of heavy regime airstrikes and possible other attacks:
Russian Foreign Ministry: “Rocket With Unknown Chemical Launched From Area Controlled By Opposition”
Interfax reports a statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Aleksander Lukashevich, who said that a rocket carrying an “unknown chemical” was launched from an area controlled by opposition groups.
“Early in the morning of August 21, from a position controlled by militants, a home-made rocket was launched that is similar to that deployed by terrorists on March 19 in Khan al-Assal, with an as-yet unknown chemical agent. There are reported casualties among the civilian population,” Interfax quoted Lukashevich as saying.
Lukashevich said that the incident was “pre-planned provocation”.
The United Nations Security Council will meet at 3 p.m. New York time (1900 GMT) to discuss the regime attacks near Damascus.
Security Council members France, Britain, the US, Luxembourg, and South Korea requested the closed-door meeting,
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s office said he was “shocked” by the reports of the attack.
A White House statement said that the US was “deeply concerned” and that it was “formally requesting that the United Nations urgently investigate this new allegation”.
Earlier, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said that if the reports were confirmed, they would mark a “shocking escalation” in the use of chemical weapons.
The medical department in Daraya, near Damascus, has released a statement regarding the alleged chemical weapons attacks in Maadamiyeh, west of Daraya, this morning. Victims from Maadamiyeh were brought to the field hospital in Daraya.
The statement includes a list of symptoms experienced by victims of the attacks:
At 06:00 am Wednesday August 21, 2013, the field hospital in the city of Daraya started to receive several victims suffering from the following symptoms:
breathing difficulty (dyspnea) and suffocation, general convulsions, nausea and vomiting, meiosis (constriction of the pupil),increased salivary secretion.
These symptoms are known signs of chemical gas poisoning and were recorded in a previous attack on Daraya on 25/04/2013.
Due to the limited resources of the hospital, victims were given episodic care only. Treatment included the giving of Atropine, High concentration direct oxygen, antispasmodics, Bronchodilators, painkillers and Antiemetics.
Victims continued to come to the hospital until 08:30 am. In total, nearly 70 victims, including 9 children and 8 women, were admitted.
Most of the victims were brought in from the neighboring city of Moaddamiya [Maadamiyeh]. Ten people died of poisoning while those with less severe cases started to settle. Some victims with severe symptoms are still in a critical condition.
The Medical Department calls on all international organizations as well as the UN team of inspectors in Syria to visit the cities of Daraya and Moaddamiya in order to investigate the situation and examine the bodies of the victims before they are buried. We also call on them to face up to their responsibilities by stopping regime massacres and supplying the Syrian people with the necessary medical supplies.
Syrian Coalition Calls On UN Security Council To Hold Emergency Session On Alleged Chemical Weapons Attacks
The Syrian Coalition on Wednesday called upon the UN Security Council to hold an emergency session on the alleged chemical weapons attacks in the Damascus countryside.
The Coalition said in a statement:
The Syrian Coalition emphasizes that the Security Council’s failure to assume its responsibilities towards the unfolding situation in Syria would raise questions about its raison d’être. If the Security Council does not act firmly, it will lose all legitimacy.
Assad forces have committed clear massacres against hundreds of unarmed and defenseless civilians, shelling the eastern and western Ghouta areas with chemical agents. The Syrian Coalition calls upon the Friends of Syria to act immediately and not wait for the Russian veto to once again cover up Assad’s crimes. Countries who claim to be friends of Syria must come together to put an end to the Syrian tragedy by immediately restraining Assad’s crimes.
The Syrian Coalition calls on the United Nation’s chemical weapons investigation team to head immediately towards the locations in Ghouta where Assad forces have used chemical weapons. Reports by activists in Ghouta have documented the death of around 1100 people due to chemical weapons attacks. Hundreds more are suffering from symptoms of exposure to chemical agents. Many of the victims are women and children. The UN team must visit these places, which are only a few kilometers away from where the team is based in the capital Damascus. We ask that the UN team visit Ghouta within the next few hours, listen to people’s testimonies, and gather necessary evidence.
While we are used to State media reporting that “all is well” amid regime attacks and heavy clashes across Syria, we were shocked by today’s report by SANA that the regime is planning new suburban train lines in the Damascus countryside — even as activists report that well over 1,000 civilians died in this morning’s attacks in that area.
SANA reports that Minister of Transportation Dr. Mahmud Ibrahim Saeed had “expressed his keenness on issuing more legislations that govern the transport sector, adding that the project of suburb train lines will link several area in Damascus and its Countryside.”
The regime has denied carrying out Wednesday morning’s attacks, blaming them instead on insurgents.
The European Union on Wednesday afternoon called for a “thorough and immediate” investigation into the alleged chemical attacks in the Damascus suburbs this morning.
“We have seen with grave concern the reports of the possible use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime. Such accusations should be immediately and thoroughly investigated,” a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said.
“The EU reiterates that any use of chemical weapons, by any side in Syria, would be totally unacceptable.”
Activists report that regime forces have recommenced shelling Zamalka in East Ghouta, Damascus countryside.
Meanwhile, this footage from Jobar shows regime attacks on that neighborhood:
The Local Coordination Committees say that the death toll from this morning’s attacks in Eastern Ghouta has risen to 1,360 and that there are increased deaths due to an acute shortage of medical staff and medicines.
The casualty figures given by the LCC are:
400 martyrs in Zamalka, 300 in Hmourih, 150 in Douma,150 in Kafr Batna, 75 in Ain Tirma, 105 in Mouadamiyeh and Daraa, 69 in Saqba, 63 in Erbin, 16 in Jisreen, 5 in Harasta.
Footage of large demonstrations in Aleppo against the alleged chemical weapons attack this morning in East Ghouta, Damascus.
Activists have created this map and report showing the locations of this morning’s attacks on the Damascus suburbs.
This interactive map — which is being updated — also shows the locations of the attacks in great detail.
Footage posted by activists from Erbin in Eastern Ghouta shows a mother identifying her dead baby — a victim of this morning’s attacks — from a line of bodies.
Footage posted Wednesday afternoon shows victims of this morning’s attacks on East Ghouta being buried in mass graves.
State TV on Wednesday afternoon broadcast an official statement by the General Command of the Army and Armed Forces, who denied that regime forces had carried out a chemical weapons attack in Syria.
The General Command said that “biased channels of misdirection of bloodshed”, “terrorist groups” and the “channels supporting them” had made the “false allegations” as part of a “dirty media warfare on Syria”.
The reports of chemical weapons attacks were, the General Command said, “a desperate attempt to cover up the defeats they are suffering on the ground” and were a sign of “their hysteria, disorder and breakdown”.
The General Command also urged insurgents “to turn themselves in to the authorities before it’s too late.”
Residents in Salqin, Idlib Province, protesting on Wednesday against this morning’s alleged chemical weapons attacks in several areas of the Damascus countryside. Activists claim that around 1,300 people have died in the attacks.
The Guardian carries the testimony of an opposition activist at a field hospital in al-Nashabia in East Ghouta:
The hospital is in a bad situation. We lack a lot of equipment which can help us to help the civilians. We have a shortage of facilities, of specialists, doctors who can treat these civilians. We’re lacking lots of medicines. The doctors they use their highest powers to save the lives of civilians.
Most of the victims are suffocating, hearts are stopping, [they have] dilation of the eyes, difficulty breathing, trembling of the muscles, delirium. Most of them are paralysed, they can’t move. Unfortunately, most of them are children and women – small children are dying.
We continue to be overwhelmed by more and more footage of the aftermath of Wednesday morning’s attacks on several areas of the Damascus suburbs. This video, which appears to have been posted shortly after one of the attacks, which began at 3 AM local time, shows some of the extent of the carnage.
Shocked and grieving family members in Douma hold up dead babies and children killed in this morning’s attacks:
In Daraya, medical workers try to treat some of those injured in this morning’s attacks:
Victims in Ain Terma, some of whom show great distress and cannot breathe:
A doctor shows the symptoms of a victim of the attacks:
Rows of bodies in Daraya, victims of today’s attack:
A child victim is taken to a makeshift medical center in Eastern Ghouta. Bodies of other victims lie on the ground:
Activists are reporting that residents of Fares Al-Khouri street — a large thoroughfare running through the Jobar neighborhood in Damascus — are fleeing their homes amid intensified regime mortar attacks and clashes between the Free Syrian Army and regime forces.
CNN interviewed a man who acted as a volunteer first responder, Abu Gazi, in Zamalka, one of the Damascus suburbs attacked.
CNN quote Abu Gazi as saying that he heard “rockets unlike any that had been heard before”.
He went to Zamalka, the closest area to him that was hit. Over a few hours, he experienced blurry and a loss of vision and felt paralyzed. At one point, he said he was unable to hold himself up and collapsed.
Abu Gazi said he was with a doctor at a field hospital in Arbeen who reported 300 dead and 500 wounded.
The symptoms, he said, included unconsciousness, foaming from their nose and mouth, constricted pupils, fast heartbeat and difficulty breathing. The ones who died asphyxiated, he said.
Activist group the Unified Human Rights Office have put the death toll in Eastern Ghouta at 1,128 with thousands more wounded, some critically.
The group quotes activists from medical centers in the area, who gave the following casualty figures:
Saqba: 69 victims.
Kafr Batna: 150 victims.
Douma: 150 victims.
Hamoriyyah: 300 victims.
Erbeen: 63 victims (30 children, 16 women and 17 men).
Jisreen: 16 victims including 3 children.
Zamalka : 400 victims.
Ain Tarma: 75 victims.
Harasta: five victims including a woman.
The activists said that at least 100 more people have been killed in Muadamiyyat Ashaam in West Ghouta.
The Local Coordination Committees report more than 755 people have died from the regime attacks on Ain Tarma and Zamalka in Eastern Ghouta and al-Moadamiyeh in Western Ghouta.
The toll is expected rise amid shortages of medical staff and equipment in the field hospitals across the Damascus suburbs.
The regime, pushed to explain the large number of casualties in the Damascus suburbs, has blamed insurgent mortar strikes for at least some of the deaths.
A number of citizens, including children, were injured Wednesday in mortar shells fired on al-Moadamiyeh town in Damascus Countryside.
An official source told SANA reporter that terrorists targeted with mortar shells the citizens’ houses in the eastern neighborhood of al-Moadamiyeh, wounding 11 citizens, including a number of children.
A medical source at al-Muwasat Hospital in Damascus said 7 children were injured in the shells, among them is a 9 year old boy who is in a critical condition.
The regime has also begun to publicize its military offensive in the Damascus suburbs, with SANA reporting that Assad’s forces carried out “a series of operations against the armed terrorist groups in the villages of Jouber, Irbin and Zamalka in Damascus Countryside, killing a number of terrorists and destroying their hideouts.”
SANA also reports that “terrorists were killed and injured in Daraya city and al-Moadamiya town, asserting that their weapons and ammunition were also destroyed.”
The Turkish Foreign Ministry has issued a statement denouncing the attacks in Damascus and urging the UN chemical weapons team in Syria to investigate:
We observe with deep concern that a great number of civilians lost their lives as a result of the attacks perpetrated through use of chemical weapons by the Regime Forces in the East Ghouta and Western Ghouta zones of Damascus, Syria last night (20 August).
These allegations must be clarified immediately. The Mission of Investigation by the UN experts in Syria, established to investigate the accuracy of the allegations concerning the use of chemical weapons in Syria and still continuing to work in this country, must investigate the allegations in question and present its findings as well.
If the allegations are true, it is inevitable that the international community should take the required stand and react against this unacceptable atrocity which constitutes a crime against humanity.
Footage of aerial attacks on Irbeen, Damascus on Wednesday as part of what appears to be a coordinated offensive by the regime against the Syrian capital.
A statement by a member of a medical committee in Jobar, Damascus, following the alleged chemical weapons attacks in several suburbs of the Syrian capital on Wednesday morning. The speaker discusses what happened.
More footage of Assad’s offensive against Damascus on Wednesday. This video shows an aerial attack on the Damascus suburb of Daraya.
Footage of heavy rocket and artillery attacks on Jobar and Eastern Ghouta:
Activists are also reporting heavy airstrikes in Muadamiyyat Ashaam, west of Daraya.
Activists from the Shaam News Network report that large military regime reinforcements have left Aqraba and are heading towards Jobar in Damascus.
Wednesday’s intensified and coordinated attacks by the regime against Damascus, including the large attacks that have left hundreds dead, come after ongoing fighting in the strategic Jobar neighborhood. In the past few days, insurgents based in Jobar have intensified attacks against regime positions in Damascus, particularly in the Al Abbasiyin area.
Activists from Saqba, Damascus, posted this photostream of images (warning, graphic) of victims of Wednesday morning’s chemical weapons attacks in Damascus suburbs.
The Assad regime has dismissed as “baseless” Wednesday’s reports of an alleged chemical weapons attack near Damascus, and blamed al-Jazeera, al-Arabiya and Sky News for broadcasting falsehoods.
State news agency SANA quoted a “source” as saying those TV channels”are involved in the shedding of the Syrians’ blood and supporting terrorism”, and that the reports were designed “to distract the UN chemical weapons investigation commission away from its mission.”
SANA is reporting a “media source” as saying that the Assad regime denies using chemical weapons to hit Damascus suburbs on Wednesday. So far the report is just a news ticker, with no further details.
SANA does report, however, that the “Syrian Arab Army snuffed out scores of terrorists, including foreigners, in a series of operations in Daraa countryside” including in Mleha.
SANA adds that the regime “eliminated terrorists” in Barzeh and Jobar, Damascus.
Footage of the aftermath of the attack in Maadmiyeh As-Sham in Daraya near the Mezzeh military airport, near Damascus.
[Credit: Shaam News Network]
Child victims of Wednesday mornings attacks in Jobar. The children do not have visible physical injuries but are semi-conscious or unconscious with breathing difficulties.
The Shaam News Network, an activist news agency operating out of Syria, made this statement about the attacks, with details of when and where they occurred. Shaam also note that the siege of Damascus has made it far harder for victims to receive medical treatment:
At around 3:30 a.m. Damascus time on Wednesday, August 21, 2013, Assad forces struck Jobar, Zamalka, ‘Ain Tirma, and Hazzah in the Eastern Ghootah region with chemical weapons. At least 375 innocent men, women and children were killed in less than an hour.
Those who tried to render aid to injured were largely unsuccessful given that the chemical weapon used caused debilitating symptoms, as well as the ferocity of continuing attacks with other types of weapons, including mortars, rockets and heavy artillery. Many medical staff members and volunteers were killed in the attacks.
Furthermore, the regime’s stifling siege on the area had already severely crippled medical services and the availability of any life-saving medication or treatment. Shortly after the first round of attacks on the aforementioned areas, regime forces began striking the city of Muaddamiyyat Ashaam located in the Damascus Rural province. Dozens more civilians were killed and hundreds of others injured in the second round of attacks.
The Local Coordination Committees — a network of local opposition activists — have issued this statement about Wednesday’s attacks on areas in Damascus:
Hundreds of martyrs as well as casualties, majority of whom are civilians, among them dozens of women and children as a result of the barbaric use of poisonous gases by the criminal regime in the towns of Eastern Ghouta earlier today, as the locals in these areas were horrifically subjected to the chemical weapons which led to suffocation of the children and overcrowding field hospitals with hundreds of casualties amid extreme shortage of medical supplies to rescue the victims, particularly Atropine.
The Local Coordination Committees in Syria urgently call on all of the humanitarian international organization, including the Red Cross, Red Crescent, human rights and international community’s organizations to act immediately to save the lives of the civilians in Damascus’ Ghouta and rescue the casualties, as well as to end the medical and nutritional siege imposed on these heavily-populated areas, as the Eastern Ghouta was also shelled by warplanes following the chemical attack that is still ongoing which led to hundreds of casualties and victims, among them entire families.
We also call on the international community, despite its inaction and procrastination, to work and put an end to the massacres against the Syrian People, in which the regime has used every internationally and morally prohibited weapon amid a deplorable silence and stalemate, indirectly giving the regime a green light to continue using chemical weapons against civilians to this day.
We have decided to post the graphic footage of the aftermath of the alleged chemical attacks not to shock but because we feel it is essential to document this event.
Warning — Graphic Images.
There is more footage of children injured in Wednesday’s regime attacks on areas in East Ghouta, Damascus. These images are taken in Mleha, where the victims were taken for treatment. The children do not appear to have suffered physical wounds typical of a conventional attack but are unconscious or semi-conscious and have breathing difficulties. Local field hospitals are overwhelmed by the number of victims pouring in for treatment.
After months of “dynamic stalemate” in and around Damascus, Wednesday’s massive and concerted attacks on areas both east and west of the city point to a push by the regime to break insurgent encirclement of the capital.
The move also comes in the wake of increased insurgent attacks out of Jobar on regime positions in Al Abbasiyin, Damascus, which the regime said Tuesday caused several civilian deaths.
This footage from Monday shows insurgents attacking regime positions from the Jobar Police Department:
With reports of a possible chemical weapons strike in areas east of Damascus, activists report heavy airstrikes on targets to the west. This footage from Muadamiyyat Ashaam from Wednesday morning shows one of the airstrikes:
As reports of the death toll in the claimed chemical weapons attacks in Damascus continue to rise, activists in neighboring Jobar report that the regime has struck the area with more than 100 explosive shells on Wednesday morning.
Jobar activists report more than 100 explosives struck their area since early morning. #Syria
— Shakeeb Al-Jabri (@LeShaque) August 21, 2013
Over the past days insurgents in Jobar, which borders Zamalka, the site of one of the attacks, have launched heavy attacks on regime positions in Al Abbasiyin in Damascus.
The death toll is expected to rise farther.
Warning: Graphic Video of Dead Children
Warning: Graphic Video of Treatment of children in East Ghouta
The Local Coordination Committees claim that at least 280 people, many of them women and children, have been killed in this morning’s regime attack in Zamalka and Ain Tarma in the East Ghouta area near Damascus.
There are also claims of deadly shelling of Maadamiyeh in West Ghouta.
The LCC alleges that the shelling in East Ghouta included “poisonous gases”.
Victims were taken to field hospitals and medical points in Kafr Batna, Irbeen, Douma, Hamourieh and Dariya.
This footage (WARNING — GRAPHIC) shows victims being taken by ambulance to a center in Dariya:
Rows of victims in Irbeen (WARNING — GRAPHIC):
This video, taken in Irbeen, shows a child distressed after the attack. She repeats “I’m alive! I’m alive!”
— samer (@samersniper) August 21, 2013
— Majd Arar (@MajdArar) August 21, 2013
Video — some of it too graphic to post — has been posted on YouTube of children killed by a regime strike on the Eastern Ghouta area near Damascus.
Unconfirmed claims are being made that the young were victims of a chemical attack.
(Warning: Video may be disturbing — injured children)
Regime forces and insurgents have fought a months-long battle, punctuated by shelling by the Syrian military, in Eastern Ghouta.
Syrian State media are headlining a claimed mass killing of civilians by insurgents during the recent offensive in northern Latakia Province in western Syria.
State News agency SANA posts pictures of army units shrouding charred and decomposed bodies, but gives no location of details of the “citizens” slain. It asserts, “Some of the victims were stabbed with sharp objects, while others had their throat slit, and some were shot to death.”
State TV is also featuring the alleged incident:
Insurgents launched a major offensive in the area more than two weeks ago, capturing a series of villages and high points in the mountains, but the regime has claimed that Syrian forces have re-taken most of the territory in the past week.<