Syria Daily: Assad Regime’s Chemical Attack Kills 100+

April 05 – By Scott Lucas – eaworldview – A chemical attack by the Assad regime’s warplanes on a town in northwest Syria has killed more than 100 people and wounded more than 300.

The attack on Khan Sheikhoun in southern Idlib Province occurred about 6:30 a.m. A local doctor and then the Union of Medical Care Organizations, a coalition of international aid agencies that funds hospitals in Syria, put out the rising toll of deaths and injuries. Rescuers tried to save people in the streets by hosing off the chemical agent from clothing and skin. However, victims — many of them children — died on the spot, half-undressed after the failed attempt at revival, or in Khan Sheikhoun’s only clinic.

The rescue attempt was further hindered in what appeared to be a coordinated effort to destroy any medical services. The clinic was hit by up to eight strikes, and the civil defense headquarters was also damaged.

The regime has regularly carried out chemical attacks, despite the supposed handover of all chemicals after its August 2013 use of sarin near Damascus that killed more than 1,400 people. Chlorine has been since spring 2014, and increasingly in recent months, on opposition areas in Hama, Aleppo, and Idlib Provinces. An attack near ISIS-held Palmyra in central Syria killed at least 85 people.

However, Monday’s attack — through munitions dropped from an Su-22 warplane, according to some local sources — was distinct in the apparent use of a nerve agent, separate from or in combination with chlorine. Victims suffered convlusions and foaming at the mouth while displaying pinpoint pupils, a sign of poisoning by an organophosphate like sarin.AFP photographer Mohamed Al-Bakour described the scene as he arrived at a small hospital in Maarat al-Num’an, about 15 km (9 miles) from Khan Sheikhoun:

When I get to the hospital, a foul smell hangs over the place. I can’t quite put my finger on it. Children are lying on beds and medics are frantically trying to save them. It’s a small hospital in Maaret al-Numan, where I live, about 15 kilometers from Khan Sheikhun where the attack took place. They are putting oxygen masks on the children. It’s mayhem — the children crying, the medics barking orders.

Regime Denial, International Condemnation

Inspection teams travelled from Turkey on Wednesday afternoon to begin testing to determine the exact nature of the chemical used.A US Government official said Washington believed sarin was used, “almost certainly” by regime forces.

The Syrian military — as will all other chemical attacks — denied responsibility. The Russian Defence Ministry initially said its pilots had not carried out the strikes. It later put out a confusing, unsupported statement that the regime’s air force had destroyed a warehouse, east of Khan Sheikhoun, where chemical weapons were being produced and stockpiled before being shipped to Iraq.It was unclear whether the Russians were claiming that the deaths in the town had been caused by the supposed bombing of the warehouse.Iran, Assad’s other essential ally, limited itself to repeating the Syrian military’s denial.The international community condemned the Assad regime, with France, the UK, and the US proposed a Security Council resolution. The draft text says the regime must provide an international investigation with flight plans and logs for Tuesday, the names of all helicopter squadron commanders, and access to airbases.

Turkey threatened to break off its recent cooperation with Russia on political maneuvers, through a phone call from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.UN envoy Staffan de Mistura also pointed to regime responsibility, saying the “horrific” chemical attack had come from the air. Syrian opposition member Basma Kodmani criticized the attack as a “direct consequence” of recent statements by American officials, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, which suggested the Trump Administration now accepts that Assad will remain in power.French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the incident was a deliberate test of the Trump Administration and urged Washington to clarify its position on Assad.

Trump’s statement, issued after some hesitancy by the White House, focused on his predecessor Barack Obama, blaming him for not enforcing a declared “red line” against the use of chemical weapons and labelling the attack “a consequence of the past administration’s weakness and irresolution”.