Doctors Confirm 7 Chlorine Attacks in Syria, 3 Allegedly Launched From the Ground
Due to widely reported cases of the Syrian government dispensing Chlorine gas on its citizens, The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations (OPCW-UN) has opened yet another investigation. Al-Tammanah Bombings
On April 12th and 18th, around 11:30pm in the al-Tammanah region, helicopters dropped barrel bombs containing what is most likely chlorine gas on small towns along the major highway connecting Aleppo and Damascus. The barrels, unlike those filled with TNT, released a dense, yellowish, toxic smoke upon impact. Due to these two attacks taking place at night when no major military clashes were occurring the targets appear to have been primarily citizens. In the first attack 4 out of the 35 affected people died. There were no fatalities during the second attack, though 30 people were reported by local field hospitals to have sustained injury.
Two more barrels loaded with chlorine gas were dispensed around noon on both April 21st and May 22nd in the rebel controlled area between Ma'aret Al-N'uman and Morek in the north. On April 21st the barrels were dropped behind rebel lines, heavily affecting citizens as well as rebel soldiers. Citizens reported a strong smell of chlorine permeating for roughly a kilometer from the point of impact. Local physicians reported to the Syrian American Medical Society that 250 people were affected. Two died due to respiratory failure. A large number of sheep and other livestock have also died in the neighboring area from similar ailments.
Videotape of suffering patients and dying livestock has been captured. Residual material from the chemical barrel bombs has also been collected and is waiting evaluation by the French government. Treating physicians have thoroughly documented the events as well as the varying intensity of symptoms experienced by individuals exposed to the chemical agents. A medical director from a regional filed hospital, stated that, "patients presented with shortness of breath, dyspnea, nonproductive cough, irritation of the mucous membrane, variable degrees of agitation and hallucinations, occasional nausea and vomiting, All of which are symptoms typical to chlorine exposure.
According to treating physicians no physical samples could be saved from patientsÂ due to the makeshift field hospital's lack of access to the necessary tools needed to preserve the substances. And while pretty much impossible to verify, several corresponding reports have also been made by people who claim to have over heard communication between the pilot and center of command.
Of particular interest are three attacks in Harasta, a suburb of Damascus that took place on March 27th, April 11th, and April 16th. "The weather in these days was warmer and no winds were observed.â€ Reported Dr. H (abbreviated for his protection), an emergency physician from the Harasta field hospital. All of three attacks happened along borders separating besieged areasÂ from other neighborhoods. Local citizens told the medical staff thatÂ the chemical bombs were smaller in size than those previously reported and were fired from ground levels.
"The three events took place while civilian volunteers were trying to cross to another area in order to obtain food or medical supplies" claim local activists. Mild explosions, then dense, white yellowish irritating gas, with an odd smell, was observed.
According to Dr. H. 's documents, the first attack took place before midnight. 25 people were affected, resulting in a total of seven deaths.The second attack happened in the early afternoon. 11 people were affected and no casualties reported. The third attack also occurred in the early afternoon. 15 people were affected and one person died. In all three cases, activists in the area were able to collect samples of the soil in the affected area and document the names of the victims.
According to Dr. H. hospital patients received supportive care with bronchodilators and oxygen therapy. Some patients responded to treatment in as quickly as 3 hours. Some took a couple days. The people who had suffered severe exposure, presenting with oxygen levels below 60% of typical capacity, unfortunately did not show any response to therapy or mechanical ventilation. Most of these severe cases died within two days of exposure despite being transferred to regional intensive care units.
"In each attack people presented with the exact same symptoms of agitation, hallucinations, respiratory distress, tachycardia, and nausea." Reports Dr. H.
In the vast majority of these cases the symptoms resolved after supportive treatment. "There was a total of eight deaths, mainly due to high concentration exposure causing cardio-pulmonary arrest."
Such symptoms are typical of chlorine gas exposure. Yet despite the overwhelming evidence of war crimes committed by Assad, these attacks don't appear to be ending anytime soon. And as a few reports surface of Â children with congenital malformation born to mothers who were exposed to Sarin gas last year, it's clear that even when the fighting stops, new effects of chemical warfare will still be seen in Syria.