Syrian Civilians Hit By Another Chlorine Attack

In this Sunday, July 31, 2016 photo, provided by the Syrian anti-government activist group Aleppo Media Center (AMC), shows Syrians help an injured man, center, after airstrikes hit Aleppo, Syria. (Aleppo Media Center via AP)
In this Sunday, July 31, 2016 photo, provided by the Syrian anti-government activist group Aleppo Media Center (AMC), shows Syrians help an injured man, center, after airstrikes hit Aleppo, Syria. (Aleppo Media Center via AP)

Around 80 Syrians were treated at a local hospital in Aleppo on Tuesday for the aftereffects of a chlorine attack perpetrated by the Syrian government. Among those injured in the attack were women and children.

“Symptoms included dyspnea (difficulty breathing), dry coughing, and vomiting,” the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) said in a statement. “Among the victims, 10 were critically injured, including a pregnant woman in her last trimester.”

Local doctors told the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based Syria monitoring operation, that the regime had dropped poison-filled barrel bombs over the city.

The Assad regime has repeatedly used barrel bombs in liberated areas in Syria. The regime says they are targeting terrorists, but thousands of civilians have been killed in the process. The use of barrel bombs has been known by the international community for more than a year now.

“A United Nations and Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons inquiry seen by Reuters last month found that Syrian government forces were responsible for two toxic gas attacks in 2014 and 2015 involving chlorine,” NBC reported.

Last September, Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, called on the international community to stop Assad’s use of barrel bombs.

“It is a recruitment bonanza for ISIS because the group can claim to be standing up to these atrocities,” he told a UN panel.

Meanwhile, the Syrian opposition has drawn up a plan for political transition. The three-phase plan would entail a full ceasefire during a six month negotiation phase between the Assad regime and the opposition, a transition period lasting a year and a half where a transitional governing body would be formed along with a new constitution and the departure of Assad and his old guard, and post-transitional elections under UN supervision.

Syria watchers doubt the plan will be taken seriously by the regime side. “[T]he regime in Damascus will dismiss it, because President Bashar al-Assad seems more secure in the capital than at any other time since the war started,” BBC’s Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen said from Damascus.

Iran and Russia have backed Assad since the war began in 2011. Neither country would likely approve of the opposition’s plan. Russia’s air force has bombed liberated areas in Syria, and Iran has sent in ground troops to bolster Assad’s forces. Both developments have stoked heavy resentment by supporters of the opposition and a new government sans-Assad would likely be unfriendly to Russia and Iran.

“The war gets more complicated every year,” Bowen said. “Regional superpowers, and the world’s most powerful countries have intervened. Dozens of different, and sometimes overlapping rebel groups operate on the battlefields. All have their own agendas. It’s a mini world war. No wonder diplomacy fails.”