At least 86 people have died, including 20 children, and hundreds wounded – in a suspected chemical weapons attack in the northern province of the rebel controlled city of Idlib. The attack has been described as the largest chemical attack in Syria since 2013. The United States, France and Britain have accused the Syrian government of carrying out the attack and have proposed a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning it.
U.N. war crimes investigators have said that if the suspected chemical attack is confirmed, that it constitutes a “serious violation of international law.” Russia had initially claimed that the chemical attack was actually gases that were released after an airstrike hit a depot where rebels were making chemical weapons. Later, a spokesperson for Russian President Vladimir Putin called the gassing of civilians a “dangerous and monstrous crime” but did not name anyone as the perpetrator.
Syrian journalist Hadi Abdullah, who was a victim of the attack that occurred at dawn on Tuesday, described it in an interview. “We were attacked with four strikes” “When people went to help, they were choked with the poisoned gas.” Abdullah described his symptoms of a massive headache with blaring pain in his eyes, trouble breathing and a persistent runny nose as minor in comparison to others.
He described the horrifying scene in the aftermath of the strike as chaos with crying, people being stripped and washed in the streets and children suffocating and dying in the streets as white liquid frothed from their open mouths. He said many were wandering the streets in search of loved ones-not knowing if they had been taken for medical treatment or were already dead. In one case, he said, an entire family – parents and three children, were found dead in their beds from the initial alleged chemical attack.
According to Syrian Dr. Khaled Al Milaji- the initial medical summaries following the attack indicated that the substance used was “more than just chlorine,” and that they strongly suspect “sarin or worse” was also utilized. Sarin is next to impossible to detect, due to its clear, tasteless and non-odorous nature. Atropine – a medication used intravenously to treat certain types of nerve agent exposure – was distributed as widely as possible, but the best chance one had of survival was being relocated to safer area in the northern part of the region.
Just days before the chemical attack, the Trump administration said it would no longer seek the ouster of Bashar al-Assad but afterwards, President Trump said that it had altered his position on Syria and its leader Bashar al-Assad. A mere 63 hours after the chemical attack, understandably shaken by photos of infants and children dying- President Trump gave the order to unleash 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Al Shayrat airfield- where attack was launched from.
The intent of the US strike was to “send a message” to the Assad regime. Russia’s Foreign Ministry quickly condemned the U.S. assault, saying it threatened international security. Russia-the Syrian regime’s main ally, has pledged to help strengthen Syria’s air defenses and suspend its “deconfliction agreement,” which prevents Russian and U.S. planes from coming into conflict over Syria.