More than thirty-five civilians have been killed and more than 500 injured by a poisonous gas attack launched by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces against the rebel-held town of Douma. Syrian army helicopters had dropped several barrel bombs filled with chemicals on Douma, in eastern Ghouta, the last rebel-held stronghold in Syria. The Syrian army used both chlorine and nerve agents in the attack.
More than thirty-five civilians have been killed and more than 500 injured by a poisonous gas attack launched by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces against the rebel-held town of Douma.
A Syrian army helicopter had dropped several barrel bombs filled with chemicals on Douma, in eastern Ghouta, the last rebel-held stronghold in Syria.
The toxic chemicals used by the Syrian army has not yet been identified.
“Entire families in shelters gassed to death in Douma, eastern Ghouta, hiding in their cellars, suffocated from the poisonous gas bringing the initial death toll to more than 40,” the Syrian White Helmets voluntary rescue group wrote on Twitter on Sunday.
The New York Times reports that the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations (UOSSM) said that the death toll was expected to rise to “well over 100.” UOSSM also reported that the attack had injured over 500 in eastern Ghouta.
Following the chemical attack, the Russian-backed Syrian government forces have pressed ahead with a ground military offensive to take the last opposition enclave near the capital, Damascus. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that new airstrikes were continuing against neighborhoods in eastern Ghouta on Sunday.
The medical relief organization Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) said that a chlorine bomb hit Douma hospital, killing six people, and that a second attack with “mixed agents,” including nerve agents, had hit a building nearby.
Basel Termanini, the U.S.-based vice president of SAMS, told the news agency Reuters the total death toll in the chemical attacks was at least 35.
SOHR director Rami Abdulrahman said he could not confirm whether chemical weapons had been used, but that at least 80 civilians were killed on Saturday in Douma, having suffocated in the smoke caused by dropping conventional weapons.
The U.S. State Department said on Saturday evening it was monitoring the situation and that Russia should be blamed if chemicals had been used.
“The regime’s history of using chemical weapons against its own people in not in dispute,” a State Department official said in a statement, referring to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“Russia ultimately bears responsibility for the brutal targeting of countless Syrians with chemical weapons,” the statement said.