International News

Chlorine attack reported in Syria after Russian warning

A suspected new chemical attack has reportedly hit the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta just after Russia warned that militants were planning a gas attack there to pin it on the Syrian government.
Militant sources were quoted as saying that several people suffered symptoms consistent with exposure to chlorine gas in the al-Shayfouniya area on Sunday, and one child was killed.
The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is sympathetic to militants, said 14 civilians had suffered breathing difficulties after a Syrian warplane struck the village in the Eastern Ghouta region.
The London-based center quoted victims, ambulance drivers and others as saying that they had smelt chlorine after “an enormous explosion” in the area.
“At least 18 victims were treated with oxygen nebulizing sessions,” Reuters news agency quoted an unidentified militant source as saying.
The Syrian government has consistently denied using chemical weapons in the war that will soon enter its eighth year.
For years, foreign-backed militants have appeared to release chemical substances in the areas close to the site of government airstrikes and capture the aftermath on videos.
On Sunday, videos released by militants depicted a child’s corpse wrapped in a blue shroud, and several bare chested men and young boys appearing to struggle for breath, with some holding nebulizers to their mouths and noses.
The suspected gas attack came just after the Russian Defense Ministry warned Sunday that militants were preparing to use toxic agents in Eastern Ghouta so they could later accuse Damascus of employing chemical weapons.
Last April, the United States fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Syria in response to what it claimed was a chemical weapons attack that killed more than 100 people.
The Syrian army is currently in the midst of an operation to drive violent Takfiri militants out of Eastern Ghouta from where they launch mortar attacks on Damascus.
A ceasefire announced by the UN Security Council on Saturday does not apply to the areas held by Daesh, al-Qaeda and al-Nusra Front along with “individuals, groups, undertakings and entities” associated with the terrorist groups.
On Sunday, Iran’s Chief of Staff Major General Mohammad Baqeri said that the architects of the ceasefire had it passed at the UN in order to forestall the Syrian army’s eradication of terrorists in the Damascus suburbs.
“The West and supporters of the terrorists insisted that this ceasefire be put in place,” he said of the resolution which demands a 30-day ceasefire across Syria to allow for humanitarian aid deliveries and medical evacuations.
“We will adhere to the ceasefire resolution; Syria will also adhere,” Baqeri said, while noting that parts of the suburbs of Damascus, which are held by the terrorists, are not covered by the ceasefire and clean-up operations will continue there.
The Syrian government surrendered its stockpiles of chemical weapons in 2014 to a joint mission led by the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which oversaw the destruction of the weaponry.
Western governments and their allies however have never stopped pointing the finger at Damascus whenever an apparent chemical attack has taken place.
In April, a suspected sarin gas attack hit the town of Khan Shaykhun in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, taking at least 80 lives. Accusing Damascus, the US then launched several dozen Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian air base.
Earlier in February, French President Emmanuel Macron said if the use of chemical weapons against civilians were proven in Syria, “France will strike.”