The White Helmets relief organization has reported that 150 people had been killed and 1,000 injured in a chemical attack on civilians in the town of Douma in Syria’s eastern Ghouta. The report cited a Syrian rebel group which said the Assad regime forces had dropped a barrel bomb containing sarin on the town.
Meanwhile, it appears that the Russian government began working on a pushback propaganda campaign last Friday, in advance of the chemical attack on Douma, as appears from a story in TASS published April 6, “Russian top brass warn al-Nusra, Free Syrian Army plotting chemical attacks in Syria.”
According to the report, the victims’ symptoms are typical of exposure to sarin gas, such as difficulty breathing, vomiting and foaming from the nose and mouth.
The White Helmets said that entire families were suffocated from the poisonous gas while they were hiding in their cellars in Douma.
The US State Dept. issued a statement calling on Russia to end its “unmitigated support” for the criminal Syrian regime and join the international community in preventing new, barbaric chemical weapons attacks.
“We continue to closely follow disturbing reports on April 7 regarding another alleged chemical weapons attack, this time targeting a hospital in Douma, Syria,” the State Dept. said in a press release. “Reports from a number of contacts and medical personnel on the ground indicate a potentially high number of casualties, including among families hiding in shelters. These reports, if confirmed, are horrifying and demand an immediate response by the international community.”
The State Dept. noted that “the regime’s history of using chemical weapons against its own people is not in dispute, and in fact nearly one year ago on April 4, 2017, Assad’s forces conducted a sarin gas attack on Khan Sheikhoun, which killed approximately 100 Syrians.”
It added that “the Assad regime and its backers must be held accountable and any further attacks prevented immediately. Russia, with its unwavering support for the regime, ultimately bears responsibility for these brutal attacks, targeting of countless civilians, and the suffocation of Syria’s most vulnerable communities with chemical weapons. By shielding its ally Syria, Russia has breached its commitments to the United Nations as a framework guarantor. It has betrayed the Chemical Weapons Convention and UN Security Council Resolution 2118. Russia’s protection of the Assad regime and failure to stop the use of chemical weapons in Syria calls into question its commitment to resolving the overall crisis and to larger non-proliferation priorities.”
The Russian government has kept mum on the story so far, other than a cryptic comment by the official Intefax news agency Saturday night, saying, “Jaysh al-Islam militants still control Douma city in eastern Ghouta – Russian Military.”
According to the TASS story, on Friday, Major-General Yuri Yevtushenko, head of Russia’s center for the reconciliation of conflicting parties in Syria, warned that Syrian rebel groups Jabhat al-Nusra and the Free Syrian Army were planning chemical attacks using chlorine in areas under their control, including Daraa’s district of Al-Balad.
Yevtushenko said that “the militants plan to photograph and video the alleged effects of chemical weapons and show the clips to the public at large to blame government troops for civilians casualties, as well as to provide excuses for their own actions to disrupt ceasefire in Daraa.”
For the record, the White Helmets’ report insisted that the symptoms they saw on the victims of the attack on Douma did not resemble those of a chlorine attack.