Chlo­rine gas bombs dropped on Syr­ian town

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - National News/worldwide -

A HE­LI­COPTER dropped con­tain­ers of toxic gas overnight on a town in Syria’s Idlib prov­ince, a res­cue ser­vice op­er­at­ing in rebel-held ter­ri­tory said yes­ter­day.

Raed Saleh, head of the Syr­ian Civil De­fence group, told Al Jazeera that 33 civil­ians, in­clud­ing 18 women and 10 chil­dren, were brought to a lo­cal hospi­tal af­ter the at­tack.

“Just be­fore mid­night he­li­copters dropped five ex­plo­sive bar­rels con­tain­ing cylin­ders of chlo­rine and shards of metal on neigh­bor­hoods in Saraqeb,” he said.

“We sus­pect it was chlo­rine be­cause of the smell and the na­ture of the in­juries — suf­fo­ca­tion and burn­ing, red eyes. Mem­bers of the civil de­fence brought them all to the nearby hospi­tal.”

The group, a net­work of vol­un­teer search and res­cue work­ers also known as the White Hel­mets that op­er­ates ex­clu­sively in rebel-held ar­eas, posted a video on YouTube pur­port­edly show­ing a num­ber of men strug­gling to breathe and be­ing given oxy­gen masks by res­cue work­ers.

Two of the in­jured were in crit­i­cal con­di­tion, Saleh said.

The Syr­ian gov­ern­ment and its Rus­sian al­lies were not im­me­di­ately avail­able for com­ment.

“In Saraqeb… this is not the first time that activists have re­ported bar­rels bombs be­ing dropped that con­tain chlo­rine gas. We were told of an at­tack that hap­pened last May, also in Saraqeb. And then, also, there was an at­tack … that hap­pened just a month prior… close to Saraqeb,” Al Jazeera’s Mo­hammed Jamjoom, re­port­ing from Gaziantep along the Turkey- Syria border, said.

“This area is very close to the part of Idlib in which the Rus­sian he­li­copter was downed yes­ter­day. We’re told it’s about 15km from where the he­li­copter went down in rebel-held ter­ri­tory.”

Rus­sia’s de­fence min­istry said a Rus­sian he­li­copter was shot down near Saraqeb on Mon­day, killing all five sol­diers on board, in the big­gest of­fi­cially ac­knowl­edged loss of life for Rus­sian forces since they started op­er­a­tions in Syria in Oc­to­ber 2015.

The he­li­copter came down in Idlib prov­ince, roughly mid-way be­tween Aleppo and the Rus­sian air force base at Kh­meimim, near the Mediter­ranean coast.

“Sev­eral activists are won­der­ing if this is a re­tal­ia­tory at­tack for the down­ing of the he­li­copter,” said Jamjoom.

No group has claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for shoot­ing down the he­li­copter.

Syria’s gov­ern­ment has re­peat­edly been ac­cused of drop­ping bar­rel bombs loaded with chem­i­cals, on rebel-held ar­eas.

Since the con­flict be­gan in 2011, there have more than 160 chem­i­cal at­tacks in Syria, ac­cord­ing to the Syr­ian Amer­i­can Med­i­cal So­ci­ety.

“The 161 doc­u­mented chem­i­cal at­tacks have led to at least 1,491 deaths and 14,581 in­juries from chem­i­cal ex­po­sure,” SAMS said in a re­port pub­lished in March.

Another 133 chem­i­cal at­tacks were re­ported in ad­di­tion to the 161 doc­u­mented in the re­ported, but SAMS said the claims “could not be fully sub­stan­ti­ated”. — Reuters.

Syr­i­ans look at civil de­fence work­ers us­ing a dig­ger to look for sur­vivors in the rub­ble of col­lapsed build­ings fol­low­ing re­ported air strikes in Aleppo’s rebel-held neigh­bour­hood of Tariq al-Bab (AFP Photo)

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