‘Signs of chemical attack’ in Syria

‘Signs of chemical attack’ in Syria

Eyewitnesses in town of Saraqib tell of helicopters that dropped poison gas; local doctors say eight people injured

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A victim of an alleged chemical attack in Jobar, Syria, in April. (photo credit: screenshot/YouTube)
A victim of an alleged chemical attack in Jobar, Syria, in April. (photo credit: screenshot/YouTube)

A BBC correspondent in Syria reported Thursday that eyewitnesses had informed him of a chemical weapons attack by government aircraft in the northern town of Saraqib.

Two helicopters dropped devices on the town, which is located southwest of Aleppo, as it came under bombardment from regime forces, the report said.

Doctors at a local hospital said that they treated eight people who had breathing problems or constricted pupils. One woman, Maryam Khatib, died of her injuries, while her son Mohammed  was reportedly injured when he rushed to attend to her.

A doctor who treated Khatib said her symptoms were similar to poisoning caused by organophosphates, ingredients used in nerve gases and insecticides.

The son told the BBC’s Ian Pannell that there was a “horrible, suffocating smell” and that he lost his eyesight for three or four days.

Witness described one of the devices as being a “box-like container with a hollow concrete casing inside.” The BBC reported that it had received videos purportedly of the scene that supported the accounts by locals.

One video also showed a white powder next to canisters on the ground; however, the BBC was unable to verify the content of the videos. Samples of the material have been sent for testing in Britain, France, Turkey and the United States.

On Wednesday, UK Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman stated that chemical weapons had been used in at least two attacks in Syria.

The US government has intimated that the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime against its own people would potentially constitute the crossing of a “red line” for possible military intervention. Still, US President Barack Obama claimed two weeks ago that the intelligence about the use of chemical weapons in Syria was insufficient.

The Syrian government and opposition forces have both blamed each other for an attack in Aleppo in March and another in Homs in December 2012 in which chemical weapons were allegedly used.

Earlier in May the UN panel looking into war crimes in Syria backed down from a claim it had made that rebel forces used chemical weapons.

Syria has asked the UN to investigate only the Aleppo attack, whereas UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon insists on investigating both incidents, creating a sticking point that has so far prevented an inquiry from proceeding.

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