Middle East

Friday 1 August 2014

Children die in agony from Syrian gas attacks

Witnesses reveal horror of chemical attacks on villages

Ruth Sherlock Reyhanli

Published 26/04/2014|02:30

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THE full horror of President Assad's gas attack blitz emerged yesterday as witnesses of the gruesome fall-out revealed their stories.

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It took most of the afternoon for Mahmud Hashash to die, writhing, gasping for breath and spluttering blood as the chlorine gas corrupted his six-year-old lungs.

The doctors did all they could to save him. Using a nebuliser and oxygen pump, they fought the noxious chemical that was burning his throat and capillaries.

But still he died.

So too did his sister, Maryuma (16). His mother Sana (30) is in intensive care.

The Hashash family are all victims of the new weapon of choice of President Bashar al-Assad's regime. In a throwback to the First World War, the Syrian army is now filling barrel bombs with chlorine gas and dropping them on towns and villages in an attempt to crush a renewed opposition offensive in the civil war.

An investigation – comprising testimony from doctors who treated the wounded, relations of the victims and eye-witnesses – has found evidence of the regime's continued and systematic use of chemical weapons, despite having signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, which bans the use of such substances.

In the northern province of Idlib, the attacks have become a near daily reality. In the past two weeks, eight separate such bombings have caused hundreds of casualties, most of them civilians, and are, increasingly, claiming lives.

PANDEMONIUM

In Mahmud's case, an explosive barrel loaded with chlorine gas landed on the kitchen of his home in the village of Talmenes in Idlib at about 10.30am on Monday.

"I saw a helicopter drop two barrel bombs on Talmenes," said Muheed (22), who is Mahmud's uncle. "Only one of the barrels exploded, but it sent a huge cloud of yellow smoke in the air."

Abu Muhanna, a doctor, who spoke using a pseudonym, went to the field clinic to help treat the casualties. "It's a small clinic and, in minutes, there were over 70 patients, he said."

Chlorine gas affects the respiratory system, irritating the throat and burning the lungs, which fill with liquid, so victims will suffocate or drown.

Film from activists and residents at Talmenes field hospital captures the pandemonium, as desperate residents flood through the doors of the clinic. Women and children are lying on the floors sucking on oxygen masks. Another film shows animals lying dead near the attack site.

President Bashar al-Assad agreed to a deal brokered by Russia and America to dispose of Syria's chemical weapons stockpile after hundreds of people were killed in a sarin gas attack on the outskirts of Damascus last August.

The deal averted Western military intervention against the Syrian regime after the US and European allies blamed Mr Assad's forces.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has so far removed over 80pc of the declared weapons stockpile – which does not include chlorine gas. But the end-of-mission deadline on Monday is being overshadowed by evidence that the Syrian army is once again resorting to chemical weapons. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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