Hundreds Reportedly Killed In Possible Chemical Weapons Attack in Syria

Dashiell Bennett, The Atlantic Wire
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Dashiell Bennett, The Atlantic Wire
Aug. 21, 2013, 4:02 a.m.

NEW YORK — Just days after U.N. in­spect­ors ar­rived in Syr­ia to in­vest­ig­ate the pos­sible use of chem­ic­al weapons, op­pos­i­tion act­iv­ists al­lege that as many as 650 people have been killed in a pois­on gas at­tack. Two anti-As­sad op­pos­i­tion groups say that a large rock­et at­tack in Dam­as­cus on Wed­nes­day morn­ing was ac­tu­ally a chem­ic­al weapons at­tack launched by the re­gime. If the re­ports are con­firmed, it could also be one of the dead­li­est single in­cid­ents of the en­tire war. Syr­ia’s state me­dia agency denied the claims.

There are wildly dif­fer­ing re­ports on the cas­u­al­ties — from “dozens” to 213 to over 650 — and still no form­al con­firm­a­tion on the cause of death, but wit­nesses and re­port­ers on the ground con­firm that some kind of at­tack took place in the Syr­i­an cap­it­al and that chil­dren are among the dead. Re­u­ters re­ports that their own pho­to­graph­ers have taken im­ages that “showed scores of bod­ies in­clud­ing of small chil­dren, laid out on the floor of a med­ic­al clin­ic with no vis­ible signs of in­jur­ies.” (You can see one such im­age here, though you should be warned that it is very graph­ic and the ori­gin of the im­age is un­con­firmed.) A lack of ob­vi­ous wounds would sug­gest that some kind of pois­on­ing may the cause.

Re­u­ters also quotes a nurse say­ing the vic­tims “ar­rived with their pu­pils dilated, cold limbs and foam in their mouths,” which are typ­ic­al sym­bols of gas at­tack vic­tims.

Ac­cus­a­tions of chem­ic­al weapon use have been leveled at both sides dur­ing the two-and-a-half-year con­flict, but noth­ing has been al­leged on this scale. Amer­ic­an, Brit­ish, and French sources have all claimed months ago to have found evid­ence that Bashar al-As­sad’s forces have crossed the “red line” by us­ing nerve gas and oth­er agents, but no in­ter­na­tion­al ac­tion has yet been taken against the re­gime, mostly be­cause of Rus­sia’s re­fus­al to al­low a U.N. Se­cur­ity Coun­cil res­ol­u­tion.

On Sunday, United Na­tions in­spect­ors ar­rived in the coun­try to in­vest­ig­ate pre­vi­ous claims of chem­ic­al weapon use, which makes the tim­ing of this new­est at­tack all the more curi­ous. Brit­ish For­eign Sec­ret­ary Wil­li­am Hag­ue has already asked that those same in­spect­ors be giv­en im­me­di­ate ac­cess to the site of Wed­nes­day’s at­tack in or­der to in­vest­ig­ate the new claims. They are stay­ing at a Dam­as­cus hotel just a few miles from where the at­tack re­portedly took place.

Re­prin­ted with per­mis­sion from the At­lantic Wire. The ori­gin­al story can be found here.

What We're Following See More »
Trump: Clinton “Doesn’t Have The Stamina” to be President
1 hours ago

At the end of the debate, moderator Lester Holt asked Donald Trump if he stands by his statement that Hillary Clinton didn't have the look of a president. Trump responded by saying Holt misquoted him, instead saying that Clinton "doesn't have the stamina." Clinton responded by saying that when Trump visits 112 countries as secretary of state, he can talk to her about stamina.

Trump: Clinton Camp Started Birtherism
1 hours ago

Donald Trump, when pressed by Lester Holt on why he finally admitted that President Obama was born in America, repeated his widely debunked claim that it was started by Hillary Clinton.

Conversation Shifts to Race
2 hours ago

Hillary Clinton went point by point on how race can so often determine the treatment that people receive, mentioning recent shootings in Tulsa and Charlotte, calling for restored trust between communities and police, and demanding criminal justice reform. Trump responded by calling for law and order and touting his endorsements from police unions. He then said that “African Americans are living in hell,” saying they are just walking down the street and getting “shot ... being decimated by crime."

During Debate, Trump Site Appears to Be Down
2 hours ago

Just as Hillary Clinton was inviting debate viewers to visit her site for real-time fact checking, there appeared to be a problem with Donald Trump's own campaign website. For about a 15-minute period, a blank page or an error message appeared when we tried to load the Trump site.

Trump Comes Out Swinging
2 hours ago

Donald Trump has come out in the first segment of this debate raring to go. Trump has interrupted nearly every answer being given by Hillary Clinton, talking over her time and again. Clinton is sticking to her guns, smiling while Trump speaks and then calling on people to go to her website and see the fact checking being done.