Saturday 7 December 2019

New Syrian gas attack claims

Assad denies using chlorine – and blames enemies for chemical attacks

Women, affected by what activists say was a gas attack, receive treatment inside a makeshift hospital in Kfar Zeita village in the central province of Hama
Women, affected by what activists say was a gas attack, receive treatment inside a makeshift hospital in Kfar Zeita village in the central province of Hama
Smoke rises after what activists say was a gas attack in the town of Latamna in Hama province
Syrian president Bashar Assad


Opposition activists in Syria have posted a video of what they say is chlorine gas floating through the streets of a village and they accuse President Bashar al-Assad of mounting a chemical weapons campaign.

Sources said the village of Kfar Zeita, in the province of Hama, 125 miles north of Damascus, has been the focus of a two-month assault in which chlorine gas canisters have been dropped out of helicopters.

The government denies its forces have used chlorine or deadlier poisonous gases and blames all chemical attacks on rebels waging the three-year uprising against Assad.

The Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has opened an investigation into the alleged chlorine attacks, more than a dozen of which have been reported since April 11 in several areas.

Text accompanying the opposition video said it was filmed on Thursday in Kfar Zeita by the Revolution General Commission opposition group.

It showed green-yellow gas in a street. A man runs away from the gas cloud with a woman who is holding a cloth to her mouth. Another man in camouflage trousers and wearing a gas mask calls out for a car to assist the woman. A voice off screen says: "Chlorine gas bombing. Yellow smoke."

A freelance photographer told Reuters he arrived at the scene of the attack an hour after a helicopter dropped the bomb.

"The smell of chlorine was very obvious. It smelt like vinegar, or bleach. I started to cough and hyperventilate. My eyes were burning," he said.

One of his photos showed the woman who was running away from the gas in the video. She was being treated with oxygen at a field hospital.

"There were 70 wounded people," he said. "Those who were at the impact site fainted."

Activists said Kfar Zeita was attacked twice on Thursday, as well as the village of Al-Tamana'a in northwest Idlib province.

The alleged attack took place on the same day that Russia and China vetoed a resolution to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court for possible prosecution of war crimes.

Assad agreed with the United States and Russia to dispose of his chemical weapons after hundreds of people were killed in a sarin gas attack on the outskirts of the capital last August.

Chlorine is likely to be less lethal than sarin but its use as a weapon is still illegal under a global chemical weapons convention that Syria has signed.

Its use would also breach the terms of the deal with Washington and Moscow, itself now weeks behind schedule, with roughly 7pc of Assad's chemical arsenal still inside Syria. (© Reuters)

Irish Independent

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