LATEST: Expert: Symptoms Of Attack Victims, as Described by Field Hospital Doctor, Are “Consistent With Anti-Cholinesterase Agent” Like Sarin
Wednesday started with the news that at least 50 civilians had died in a regime attack with “poisonous gases” that hit at 3 AM local time in several towns in East Ghouta near Damascus. Activists began posting video after video showing rows of victims, some dead and others dying. Videos of dying men, women and children — all apparently suffocating — emerged. Doctors and volunteers in field hospitals in several East Ghouta towns reported they were overwhelmed by the flood of victims and that they were running out of medicines — atropine and hydrocortisone — to treat the victims. By late afternoon, with no response from the U.S., activists reported the death toll had risen to 1,360 in a “poison gas” attack — not only on at least three towns in East Ghouta, but also on al-Moadimiyah in West Ghouta. Activists posted videos showing victims being buried in mass graves.
Meanwhile, the regime began a co-ordinated assault on the towns hit by the first wave of attacks, with ferocious airstrikes, artillery and mortar strikes in what appeared to be an all-out offensive to gain control over the capital’s periphery after a “dynamic stalemate” of over a year. Activists reported that regime troops had moved into position for a likely ground offensive after any chemicals had dispersed.
The international reaction? Russia issued a statement referring to a single attack by a homemade rocket, launched from an “opposition-controlled area”. Turkey angrily called for international action against the regime, while the U.S. and Britain were cautious, expressing “concern”. Late Wednesday, an emergency UN Security Council meeting produced only a call for a “prompt investigation” into the claimed chemical weapons attack — Russia and China blocked any resolution with stronger language and a demand for action.
Latest updates, from top to bottom:
An activist in Zamalka shows a large missile fired by Assad’s forces onto the East Ghouta town on Thursday.
Photographs tweeted by Syria-based activist @JadBantha showing livestock dead after Wednesday’s attacks in Irbeen in the Damascus suburbs:
— Jad Bantha (@JadBantha) August 22, 2013
— Jad Bantha (@JadBantha) August 22, 2013
Expert: Symptoms Of Attack Victims, as Described by Field Hospital Doctor, Are “Consistent With Anti-Cholinesterase Agent” Like Sarin
A medical expert has told EA that the symptoms listed by a doctor in a field hospital in Jobar who treated victims of Wednesday morning’s attacks are “consistent with exposure to an anti-cholinesterase agent (including sarin).
The symptoms include: breathing difficulty (dyspnea) and suffocation, general convulsions, nausea and vomiting, meiosis (constriction of the pupil),increased salivary secretion.
The same field hospital doctor said his staff provided “episodic care only” to patients because of limitations but treatment included atropine, high concentration direct oxygen, antispasmodics, bronchodilators, painkillers and anti-emetics.
The medical expert told EA that exposure to sarin is treated with atropine, benzodiazepines, and 2 PAM chloride (pralidoxime) as well as oxygen.
Reported testimony from doctors and eyewitnesses said that those who tried to hide from the attack by going into basement shelters presented with more severe symptoms or died because they had a higher dose as the gas was heavy. The medical expert said that sarin is heavier than air and for that reason tends to settle.In addition, enclosed spaces concentrate the agent making exposure greater.
Footage from Thursday shows regime shelling of the Moalemeen Tower (“Tower of Teachers”) in Jobar, Damascus, from positions on Mount Qasioun.
While we are used to Syrian State media posting “all is well” stories while carrying out military operations, SANA on Wednesday shocked even us, with this tweet inviting readers to a “Ladies Pool Party” and a Poetry Night in Damascus. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Culture, undaunted by the attacks, invited readers to an “Autumn Fair”.
— SANA English (@SANA_English) August 21, 2013
China, which joined Russia in blocking any UN Security Council resolution beyond the weakest of declarations, has issued a cautious statement on Wednesday’s attack on the Damascus suburbs:
It does not matter what side in Syria uses chemical weapons, China resolutely opposes it.
At present, the UN’s chemical weapons inspection team for Syria is on the ground beginning its investigations, and (China) hopes that the team fully consults with the Syrian government and maintains an objective, impartial and professional stance, to ascertain what really happened.
Meanwhile, Russia has tried to pin blame on the insurgency with assertions of “foreign mercenaries” and “illegal armed forces [which] cannot change the situation”.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich pressed the idea of an “international peace conference”, proposed by the US and Russia in the spring and repeatedly delayed, while maintaining “Syrian government confirms willingness to cooperate with UN experts, it will provide logistics and ‘scope of activity'”.
As the regime offensive continues against towns in the Damascus suburbs hit by Wednesday’s “poison gas” attacks, activists have posted new footage of airstrikes in Douma and of an insurgent strike on regime forces in Muadamiyyeh As-Sham:
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters in Berlin on Thursday that “all red lines” had been crossed in Syria.
“All red lines have been crossed but still the U.N. Security Council has not even been able to take a decision. This is a responsibility for the sides who still set these red lines and for all of us,” Davutoglu, Reuters report.
State media continues to push the line — followed also by Assad’s allies Russia and Iran — that insurgents carried out Wednesday’s chemical attacks in the Damascus suburbs, using a report on Thursday of the UN Security Council’s call for “clarity” to imply that an investigation would reveal the culprits were “terrorists”.
SANA reports that the UN Security Council wanted to “reveal the truth” about allegations of chemical weapons use, segueing into this statement:
The General Command of the Army and Armed Forces said that biased channels of misdirection and bloodshed have, as they always do, made false allegations that the Syrian Army used chemical weapons in Damascus Countryside.
Iran Media: There Was No Chemical Weapons Attack…But IF There Was, “Terrorists” and “Takfiris” Did It
Press TV uses the rather weak resolution from the United Nations last night to set out Iran’s line on the Syrian attacks on Wednesday that killed at least 1360 people near Damascus: “Chemical Attack in Syria Yet to Be Confirmed: UN Security Council“.
The report emphasizes, “The Syrian government and the army denied any role in the alleged chemical attack,” and then turns to Moscow for support: “Russia also called for an objective and professional investigation into the alleged attack, adding that previous such reports have proven false.”
State news agency IRNA quotes Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, “If the news is correct, the crime has certainly been committed by terrorist and takfiri [heretic] groups, because they have actually shown that they are ready to commit any crime.”
Zarif, speaking to Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu by phone, reportedly continued, “The UN inspectors are in Damascus and the government has successfully driven back the terrorists. Why should they do such a move and that the criminal act had been done by the terrorists, because escalating [the] crisis in Syria and internationalisng it is in their favour.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian echoed, “The Syrian people will have a decisive victory against the terrorists and the takfiris, and Iran will defend the legitimacy of the Syrian people against the Zionists.”
The Shaam News Network has produced English-subtitled videos of the immediate aftermath of Wednesday’s attacks in East Ghouta, Damascus in which over 1,300 people died.
Warning — the videos include some distressing scenes.
Video uploaded on Thursday claims to show insurgents from the Free Syrian Army hitting a regime BMP in Muadamiyyeh As-Sham.
The footage, if authentic, shows that the regime has sent armored vehicles into the Damascus suburb.
WARNING — GRAPHIC
Footage posted on Thursday claims to show bodies of regime troops killed during clashes in Jobar, Damascus this morning, as part of a regime offensive against insurgents in the capital’s suburbs.
The Assad regime is continuing to hit towns in East Ghouta with heavy airstrikes and artillery fire, activists report.
France Says International Community Must “Respond With Force” If Chemical Weapons Allegations Prove True
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Thursday that the international community would need to respond with force — but not with ground troops — should allegations that the Assad regime was responsible for a chemical attack on civilians be proved true.
“There would have to be reaction with force in Syria from the international community, but there is no question of sending troops on the ground,” Fabius told French television network BFM.
Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said Wednesday that the alleged chemical weapons attacks near Damascus were a “serious escalation”.
Eliasson made the comments after briefing an emergency UN Security Council meeting about Wednesday’s attacks.
Activists are reporting on Thursday morning that the regime is continuing its offensive against several areas in the Damascus countryside hit Wednesday by a “poison gas” attack. There is a marked reduction in the number of activist videos from this region, indicating that many civilians have fled.
According to the reports, the Free Syrian Army has taken control of the Tumaa regime checkpoint between Al Qaboun and Zamalka after fierce clashes with regime forces. Activists report that the clashes ended when insurgents launched a suicide operation that demolished the checkpoint.
What is notable about this report is that the FSA have never — as far as we are aware — carried out suicide attacks, although FSA brigades have operated in collaboration with Islamist brigades who have carried out such attacks.
Earlier on Thursday, activists reported fierce clashes at the Al Kazieh checkpoint in Damascus, through which regime forces were trying to break through into Al Qaboun.
Shaam News Network reports that early on Thursday morning, two huge explosions hit the eastern part of Damascus, causing smoke and dust to rise over the town.
In the Al-Qaboun neighborhood, where there has been a “dynamic stalemate” for months as regime forces tried to wrest control of the area from insurgents, activists report that the regime has launched two surface-to-surface missiles this morning.
In Moadamyeh As-Sham, the site of one of the first wave of attacks on Wednesday, regime forces have continued artillery shelling. This footage, posted on Thursday, shows destruction after the attack:
Wednesday afternoon and evening saw a wave of protests across Syria against what citizens called a “chemical massacre” in the Damascus suburbs. There were particularly large numbers of protests in and around Aleppo.
Protest in Ibeen Sama’an, Idlib Province:
Candlelit Vigil in Ma’arat Misrin, Idlib Province:
Angry protest in As-Sukari, Aleppo City:
Night protest in Hanano, Aleppo City:
Marches through the Aleppo’s eastern neighborhoods: