Syria Feature: 161 Chemical Attacks in the Conflict

PHOTO: Victims of the Assad regime’s chemical attacks near Damascus, August 2013

The Syrian American Medical Society has issued a report documenting 161 chemical weapons attacks from the start of Syria’s conflict in March 2011 to the end of 2015.

The report, A New Normal: Ongoing Chemical Weapons Attacks in Syria, is based on first-hand accounts from physicians and health workers. It cites 1,491 deaths and 14,581 injuries from chemical exposure.

SAMS said another 133 chemical attacks could not be fully substantiated.

Of the 161 confirmed incidents, 77% have occurred after the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 2118 in September 2013, passed weeks after the Assad regime’s sarin attacks near Damascus killed more than 1,400 people.

Despite the UN framework for the destruction of the regime’s declared chemical weapons stockpiles, the Syrian military has continued to use chlorine in barrel bombings. In 2015, there were 69 chemical attacks, the highest annual total to date. At least 58 chlorine attacks occurred after UNSC Resolution 2209 in March 2015, which condemned chlorine gas as a weapon.

The SAMS notes that the first use of chemical weapons was in Homs in December 2012. The attacks escalated in 2013, especially in Damascus, Aleppo, and Homs Province, before the August assaults near the capital.

Almost all of the attacks were by the Syrian military, although the SAMS notes the start of accusations in summer 2015 against the Islamic State, accusing the group of the use of mustard gas and chlorine.

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Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.


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