Syrian Government Accused Of Using Chlorine Gas On Civilians

Sep 7, 2016
Originally published on September 7, 2016 11:25 am
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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And even as diplomats are trying to hammer out a renewal of a ceasefire in Syria with little to show so far for those efforts, activists reported yesterday that chlorine gas was used against civilians in Aleppo. NPR's Alice Fordham in Beirut has more. And a warning - this report contains the sound of children in distress.

ALICE FORDHAM, BYLINE: Activists and doctors say the chlorine was dropped in an airstrike on a rebel-held part of Aleppo, affecting about a hundred people. Dr. Mohamad Katoub, from the Syrian American Medical Society, is just over the border in Turkey.

MOHAMAD KATOUB: About 40 of them were kids, and there were about 15 women. The symptoms were very clearly chlorine attack.

FORDHAM: The rescue organization known as The White Helmets, which operates in opposition areas, released a video of children in hospitals struggling for breath.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHILDREN CRYING)

FORDHAM: The White Helmets say at least one person died overnight. Katoub, the doctor, says his organization has counted 167 chemical weapons attacks in the course of Syria's civil war. He estimates 90 percent of them were conducted by the regime. The regime denies using chemical arms. But last month, a report by the U.N. and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons found that at least two chemical attacks have been committed by the Syrian regime. The U.S.'s National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said, quote, "it is now impossible to deny that the Syrian regime has repeatedly used chlorine as a weapon against its own people." Given the public condemnation, Katoub says it is infuriating that doctors are still treating patients inhaling chlorine gas.

KATOUB: Well, frustrated is not enough to describe because we were frustrated a year ago, but now we are looking for alternatives.

FORDHAM: He's not talking about political or military alternatives. Katoub says his organization is trying to fortify their hospitals against attacks, get better gas masks, that kind of thing, because he believes no one is coming to help. Katoub says there's no international will to do anything. Alice Fordham, NPR News, Beirut. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.