Douma chemical attack
|Douma chemical attack|
|Part of the Rif Dimashq offensive (February–April 2018), Siege of Eastern Ghouta, Syrian Civil War|
|Location||Douma, Rif Dimashq Governorate, Syria
|Date||7 April 2018
06:30 (UTC+03:00)
|Executed by||Syrian Arab Army (accused)
On 7 April 2018, a chemical attack in the Syrian city of Douma reportedly killed at least 70 people. On-site medics said a mixture of chlorine gas and sarin was used in the attack. The attack was attributed to the Syrian Army by islamist terrorist forces in Douma, non-governmental aid and medical workers there, and by a number of countries, including United States, most NATO members, and the European Union. Syria and Russia's defense ministries said the attack did not happen and video evidence for it was staged and directed by British intelligence.
On 14 April 2018, the United States, France and the United Kingdom carried out a series of military strikes against multiple government sites in Syria.
Bashar al-Assad's forces have used chemical weapons many times before - according to Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and United Nations investigations. Human Rights Watch has documented 85 chemical weapons attacks in Syria since 2013. People reported incidents of chemical weapons use specifically in Douma in January 2018; Russia vetoed a potential United Nations mission to investigate. The Arms Control Association reported two smaller chlorine gas attacks in Douma on 7 March and 11 March.
Douma had been under islamist control since 18 October 2012, and, with the rest of the Eastern Ghouta region, under siege since April 2013. The Rif Dimashq offensive (February–April 2018), code-named Operation Damascus Steel, a military offensive launched by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies on 18 February 2018 to capture the terrorist-held territory. The Jaysh al-Islam islamist coalition controlled Douma. By mid-March, rebel territory in Eastern Ghouta had reduced to three pockets, one in the south around Hamouria held by Faylaq al-Rahman; a second in the west around Harasta held by Ahrar al-Sham; as well as Douma in the north held by Jaysh al-Islam. In the second half of March, the other two pockets were secured via evacuation deals between the rebels, Syria, and Russia. On 31 March, the last of the evacuations was conducted and the Syrian army declared victory in Eastern Ghouta, while the rebels that were still holding out in Douma were given an ultimatum to surrender by the end of the day.
The chemical attack in Douma reportedly happened on 7 April 2018. The Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations, a humanitarian organization that supervises medical services in the region, attributed seventy deaths to the attack. On-site medics reported chlorine gas and sarin nerve agent caused the deaths. A video from the scene showed dead men, women, and children with foam at their mouths. The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) reported over 500 injured people at Douma "were brought to local medical centers with symptoms indicative of exposure to a chemical agent." SAMS also said a chlorine bomb struck a Douma hospital, killing six people, and that another attack with "mixed agents" affected a building nearby. According to the Syrian opposition groups, witnesses also reported a strong smell of chlorine and said effects appeared stronger than in previous similar attacks. Syrian opposition activists also posted videos of yellow compressed gas cylinders that they said were used during the attack. Based on the symptoms and the speed with which the victims were affected, medical workers and experts suggested either a combination of chlorine with another gas or a nerve agent was used. Several medical, monitoring, and activist groups—including the White Helmets—reported Syrian Army helicopters dropped barrel bombs on the city of Douma. The bombs, suspected to be filled with chemical munitions such as chlorine gas and sarin, caused severe convulsions in some residents and suffocated others.
The day after the chemical attack, all rebels controlling Douma agreed to a deal with the government to surrender the area.
In the early hours of 9 April 2018, an airstrike was conducted against Tiyas Military Airbase. Two Israeli F-15I jets reportedly attacked the airfield from Lebanese airspace, firing eight missiles, of which five were intercepted, according to claims by Russia. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor, at least 14 people were killed and more were wounded. Al-Masdar News reported seven Iranian soldiers among the dead.
On 10 April, member states proposed competing UN Security Council resolutions to handle the response to the chemical attack. The U.S., France, and UK vetoed a Russian-proposed UN resolution. Russia had also vetoed the U.S.'s proposed resolution to create "a new investigative mechanism to look into chemical weapons attacks in Syria and determine who is responsible."
On 14 April, France, the United Kingdom and the United States launched airstrikes against four Syrian government targets in response to the attack. The airstrikes were claimed to successfully destroy the chemical weapons capabilities of Syria. Nevertheless, according to Pentagon, Bashar al-Assad still retains the ability to launch chemical weapons attacks.
On 10 April, the Syrian and Russian governments invited the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to send a team to investigate the attacks. The investigators arrived to Douma on April 14, however Russian and the Syrian governments blocked the OPCW investigation team from entering Douma, saying they can not guarantee their safety.
On 17 April, the OPCW was promised to gain access to the site, but had not entered Douma and was unable to carry out the inspection because a large crowd gathered at one site while their reconnaissance teams came under fire during a reconnaissance to visit the other site of the purported chemical weapons attack. According to OPCW director, “On arrival at site one, a large crowd gathered and the advice provided by the UNDSS was that the reconnaissance team should withdraw,” and “at site two, the team came under small arms fire and an explosive was detonated. The reconnaissance team returned to Damascus.” However, the OPCW statement did not lay blame on any party for the incident. The United States believes the Syrian government is stalling the OPCW to give itself time to remove evidence.
On 19 April, OPCW still was unable to access the sites. According to US State Department spokeswoman, there was "credible information" that "Russian officials are working with the Syrian regime to deny and to delay these inspectors from gaining access to Douma,” and "to sanitize the locations of the suspected attacks and remove incriminating evidence of chemical weapons use."
On 16 April, Robert Fisk of The Independent website visited the site of the attack under the supervision of the Syrian government and "drifted off" on his own to investigate. He was told by doctor Rahaibani, who was also living with his family in the area at the time when the reported incident happened, that the apparent victims seen in the video globally distributed, originating from the White Helmets, were not gassed but instead suffered hypoxia from dust after intensive shelling by the Syrian government artillery. He also characterized the panic as unnecessary and blamed it on opposition activists. The credibility of Fisk's account has been disputed.
CBS journalist Seth Doane also traveled to Douma on 16 April, where a neighbor reported a choking gas that smelled like chlorine. A man took him to the alleged site of the impact and showed where the remains of a missile rested.
France – On 12 April, French President Emmanuel Macron said he has proof that the Syrian government attacked the town of Douma with chemical weapons and at least used chlorine. The BBC quotes U.S. officials as saying urine and blood samples taken from victims have tested positively for traces of chlorine.
Iran – The Foreign Ministry of Iran spokesman said: "While the Syrian army has the upper hand in the war against armed terrorists, it is not logical for them to use chemical weapons. Such claims and accusations [about chemical weapons use] by the Americans and some Western countries signal a new plot against the government and nation of Syria and is an excuse for military action against them."
On 10 April, U.S. President Donald Trump, UK Prime Minister Theresa May, and French President Emmanuel Macron said in a statement following joint telephone calls that they had "agreed that the international community needed to respond to uphold the worldwide prohibition on the use of chemical weapons".
Russia – On 13 March 2018 the Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, Valery Gerasimov, said the Russian military had "reliable intelligence" that suggested the rebels holding Eastern Ghouta, along with the White Helmets activists, were preparing to stage and film a chemical weapons attack against civilians, which the U.S. government would blame on the Syrian forces and use as a pretext to bomb the government quarter in Damascus. In the event that the lives of Russian servicemen should be threatened by U.S. strikes, Gerasimov said Russia would respond militarily — "against both the missiles and the platforms from which they’re launched". Gerasimov′s statement was interpreted by Nic Robertson of CNN as an indication that the chemical attack in Douma had been planned by Russia in advance as an asymmetric warfare tactic in response to reactions by the West after the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal.
The Russian Foreign Ministry on 8 April denied chemical weapons had been used. A few days later, the Russian military said members of the White Helmets organization filmed a staged attack, and Russian experts who researched the site on 9 April had detected no trace of any chemical weapons. Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Russia had evidence of the 'United Kingdom's direct involvement' in the organization of what he referred to as 'the provocation in Eastern Ghouta'. On 13 April, the Russian Ministry of Defence said Britain "staged" the attack in order to provoke U.S. airstrikes. On April 16, Aleksandr Shulgin, Russian envoy to Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Russia had "irrefutable evidence" that the attack in Douma was staged by UK secret services and “pseudo-humanitarian NGOs” that work under foreign adversaries of the Syrian government.
On 18 April, Russian state RT TV broadcast aired an interview with Hassan Diab, a boy who the TV program said was featured before in a hospital video taken by the White Helmets. Diab said that "they were filmed being doused in water and given other simulated medical treatment at the hospital."
Saudi Arabia – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the use of chemical weapons, and stress the need for a peaceful solution based on the principles of the Geneva Declaration and UN Security Council resolutions.
Turkey – A spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the "Syrian regime must give account for the attacks in various regions of the country at different times,” and called upon the international community to address war crimes and crimes against humanity.
United Kingdom – Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said regarding reports on chemical attacks that "these latest reports must urgently be investigated and the international community must respond" and that "investigators from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons [are] looking into reports of chemical weapons use in Syria have our full support. Russia must not yet again try to obstruct these investigations". He also condemned the use of chemical weapons in general, adding that "those responsible for the use of chemical weapons have lost all moral integrity and must be held to account."
United States – President Donald Trump condemned the attack on Twitter, heavily criticizing Russia over it, saying "many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL [sic] attack in Syria. Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price to pay. Open area immediately for medical help and verification. Another humanitarian disaster for no reason whatsoever. SICK!" Trump canceled his trip to the 8th Summit of the Americas, sending Vice President Mike Pence in his place.
On 11 April, via Twitter, President Trump told Russia to "get ready" for "nice and new and 'smart' missiles," adding, "You shouldn't be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!" Vasily Nebenzia, Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, said the United States would "bear responsibility" for any "illegal military adventure" they conducted. The following day, Trump appeared to soften his resolve, tweeting he "[n]ever said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all!" On 14 April, France, the United Kingdom and the United States launched airstrikes against four Syrian government targets in response to the attack.
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis stated the U.S. is still waiting on the OPCW investigation, but that there were "a lot of media and social media indicators that either chlorine or sarin was used" in Douma.
European Union – In a statement, the EU said "the evidence points towards yet another chemical attack by the regime" and "it is a matter of grave concern that chemical weapons continue to be used, especially on civilians. The European Union condemns in the strongest terms the use of chemical weapons and calls for an immediate response by the international community". It also called for the United Nations Security Council to identify the perpetrators and for Russia and Iran to influence Assad against launching such attacks.
United Nations – On 10 April 2018, the United Nations Security Council failed to adopt three competing resolutions on an inquiry into the chemical attack, with Russia and the United States clashing over the issue and exchanging military threats.
The World Health Organization released a statement, with a reference to outside medical sources, that  43 people died while suffering "symptoms consistent with exposure to highly toxic chemicals."
- List of massacres during the Syrian Civil War
- List of Syrian Civil War barrel bomb attacks
- Syria chemical weapons program
- Hubbard, Ben (8 April 2018). "Dozens Suffocate in Syria as Government Is Accused of Chemical Attack". The New York Times.
- "Syria 'chemical attack': France's President Macron says he has proof". BBC News. 12 April 2018. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
- CNN, Tamara Qiblawi and Frederik Pleitgen,. "Trump's Syria threat dismissed on streets of Damascus".
- "Death toll rises to 85 in Syria East Ghouta chemical attack". Middle East Monitor. 9 April 2018.
- "Suspected Syria chemical attack kills 70". BBC News. 8 April 2018. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
- Graham, Chris; Krol, Charlotte; Crilly, Rob; Ensor, Josie; Swinford, Steven; Riley-Smith, Ben; Emanuel, Louis (8 April 2018). "Russia blames Israel for attack on Syrian air base as pressure mounts over gas atrocity". Retrieved 9 April 2018 – via www.telegraph.co.uk.
- Editorial, Reuters. "Trump says ordered precision strikes against Syria chemical weapons..." U.S. Archived from the original on 14 April 2018. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
- Gearan, Anne; Ryan, Missy (13 April 2018). "U.S. launches missile strikes in Syria". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 14 April 2018.
- Russian top brass reports it has proof of UK’s involvement in Douma chemical incident TASS, 12 April 2018.
- Envoy to OPCW says Russia found participants of staged 'chemical attack' video in Syria TASS, 16 April 2018.
- News, ABC. "Timeline of chemical weapons attacks in Syria".
- Editorial, Reuters. "Timeline of investigations into Syria's chemical weapons". Reuters.
- "A timeline of Syria's chemical weapons use in civil war".
- McCarthy, Niall. "How Many Chemical Attacks Have Been Documented In Syria? [Infographic]".
- CNN, Richard Roth,. "Things got heated between the US and Russia today at the UN". Retrieved 9 April 2018.
- U.S. has no evidence of Syrian use of sarin gas, Mattis says. PBS, 2 February 2018
- Kimball, Daryl; Davenport, Kelsey (April 2018). "Timeline of Syrian Chemical Weapons Activity, 2012–2018". Arms Control Association.
- Di Giovanni, JANINE (18 October 2012). "Denial Is Slipping Away as War Arrives in Damascus". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 October 2012.
- "UN convoy delivers aid to Eastern Ghouta amid 'calm'". BBC News. 9 March 2018.
- "Syrian government air strikes kill 71 and wound 325 in 24 hours, monitor says". Independent. 19 February 2018. Retrieved 20 February 2018.
- "Syria forces ready for assault on rebel enclave". France 24. 18 February 2018. Retrieved 20 February 2018.
- "Which rebel groups are fighting in Syria's eastern Ghouta?". Deutsche Welle. 20 February 2018.
- "Reports of Douma evacuation deal 'not true': council member". Al-Jazeera. 1 April 2018.
- "Who are the rebel groups fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government forces in Eastern Ghouta?" SBS News. 2 March 2018.
- Syria war: Thousands flee Eastern Ghouta as army advances, BBC, 15 March 2018
- Thousands flee Ghouta rebel enclave as Syria army advances, AFP
- Editorial, Reuters. "Syrian rebels agree to evacuate town in Ghouta: sources". Reuters. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
- "Ceasefire deal agreed in Syria's eastern Ghouta". 23 March 2018.
- News, ABC. "Syrian army declares victory as rebels vacate most of Ghouta".
- "Syria war: Trump condemns Syria for 'chemical attack' on Douma". BBC. 8 April 2018. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
- "Dozens killed in apparent chemical weapons attack on civilians in Syria, rescue workers say". Washington Post. 8 April 2018. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
- "Dozens dead in suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria". dw.com. 8 April 2018. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
- "Chlorine, sarin or something else? The big questions in the alleged Syrian chemical weapons attack". Washington Post. 11 April 2018. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
- "Syrian rebels evacuated from Douma reach northwest: monitor". Reuters. 10 April 2018.
- "UK, US and France agree to HIT BACK over Syria chemical attack". 10 April 2018.
- "Suspected Syria chemical attack kills 70". 8 April 2018 – via www.bbc.com.
- "Syrian government accused of using nerve agents as death toll from Douma 'chemical weapons attack' rises". 8 April 2018.
- Almasy, Steve (8 April 2018). "Dozens dead in possible gas attack in Syria; regime denies allegation". CNN.
- Loveluck, Louisa; Cunningham, Erin (8 April 2018). "Dozens killed in apparent chemical weapons attack on civilians in Syria, rescue workers say". The Washington Post.
- "Assad's deadly nerve gas that leaves victims foaming at the mouth before suffering seizures and death". The Sun. 11 April 2018.
- "Syria chemical attack would be the eighth since Trump took office". USA Today.
- "America vows to respond to a suspected chemical attack in Syria". The Economist. 9 April 2018. Retrieved 10 April 2018.
- Syria conflict: Strikes hit Syrian airfield, state media report, BBC, 9 April 2018
- Syria says suspected U.S. missiles fired at air base; Washington denies strike, Reuters, 9 April 2018
- Russia Says Israel Carried Out Missile Attack on Syrian Base, Bloomberg, 9 April 2018
- "Russia, Syria blame Israel for deadly strike on Syrian air base". Times of Israel. 9 April 2018. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
- "Israeli attack on T-4 Airbase killed 7 Iranian soldiers". Al-Masdar News. 10 April 2018.
- "USA, France and UK Vetoed Russian Resolution On Syria In U.N. Security Council". National Public Radio.
- "Russia vetoes Syria chemical weapons inquiry". Sky News.
- "Trump launches air strikes on Syria in wake of chemical attack". ABC News. 14 April 2018. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
- Russia, Syria Trying To 'Sanitize' Chemical Attack Site, U.S. Says, by RFE/RL, April 19
- "OPCW Will Deploy Fact-Finding Mission to Douma, Syria". www.opcw.org.
- Editorial, Reuters. "Syria invites OPCW to investigate alleged chemical attack in Douma". U.S. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
- "МИД Франции: эксперты ОЗХО до сих пор не допущены в Думу". Радио Свобода.
- Wintour, Patrick; Borger, Julian (16 April 2018). "Syria: chemical weapons inspectors barred from Douma site". the Guardian.
- "Chemical Weapons Experts Blocked From Site of Syria Attack, Officials Say". New York Times. 16 April 2018. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
- "OPCW chemical weapons investigators enter Douma after being 'blocked'". 17 April 2018.
- Deutsch, Anthony. "U.N. team fired upon in Syria while visiting suspected chemical sites". Reuters.
- "OPCW: Fact-finding team still outside Syria's Douma". Al Jazeera News. 19 April 2018. Retrieved 20 April 2018.
- "Chemical weapons coverup suspected in Syria as inspectors remain blocked". Washington Times.
- Fisk, Robert (16 April 2018). "The search for truth in the rubble of Douma - and one doctor's doubts over the chemical attack". The Independent.
- Philp, Catherine; Spencer, Richard (18 April 2018). "Critics leap on reporter Robert Fisk's failure to find signs of gas attack". The Times. Retrieved 22 April 2018. (subscription required)
- Palmer, Bethania (21 April 2018). "Critics Slam Viral Stories Claiming Douma Chemical Attack Victims Died from 'Dust'". Snopes. Retrieved 22 April 2018.
- "We couldn't breathe": Inside Douma, Syria, the site of apparent chemical attack, CBS, April 16, 2018, 6:31 PM
- "Macron: Assad regime used chemical weapons on Syria's Douma". Deutsche Welle. 12 April 2018. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
- "Macron 'has Syria chemical attack proof'". 12 April 2018 – via www.bbc.com.
- "Iran condemns chemical weapons attacks, denies Syria’s role". Al-Monitor. 9 April 2018.
- "MPs caution May against Syria action without Commons vote". The Guardian. 11 April 2018. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
- "Qatar calls for urgent international probe into chemical weapons use in Syria". The Peninsula. 8 April 2018. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
- "Russia says U.S. plans to strike Damascus, pledges military response". Reuters. 13 March 2018.
- "Russian military threatens action against the US in Syria". CNBC. 13 March 2018.
- "Российские военные предупредили о подготовке боевиками провокации с химоружием в Восточной Гуте". Interfax. 13 March 2018.
- Боевики как повод для атаки: Россия готова ответить на удар США по Дамаску RIA Novosti, 13 March 2018.
- "Russian officials warn of possible military clash with US over Syria". The Guardian. 10 April 2018.
- Robertson, Nic (March–April 2018). "How Putin is bamboozling the West". CNN.
- "Moscow calls 'chemical attack' in Douma 'fake news,' warns against Syrian intervention". RT. 8 April 2018. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
- Генштаб РФ объявил об отправке в Думу российской военной полиции NEWSru, 11 April 2018.
- White Helmets staged Douma ‘chemical weapons attack’ on civilians — Russian General Staff TASS, 11 April 2018.
- "Russia blames UK for Syria chemical attack that killed dozens, many of them children". usatoday.com. Associated Press. 13 April 2018. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
- Россия обвинила спецслужбы Великобритании и их "старших союзников из Вашингтона" в постановке химатаки в Думе NEWSru, 16 April 2018.
- Roth, Andrew (20 April 2018). "Last Damascus rebels bombarded as Assad presses advantage in Syria". the Guardian. Retrieved 21 April 2018.
- "Saudi Arabia condemns Douma chemical attack". Arab News. 8 April 2018. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
- "Foreign Ministry: Allegations of using chemical weapons unconvincing stereotype – Syrian Arab News Agency". sana.sy. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
- "Turkey condemns use of chemical weapons in Syria's Douma". Reuters. 8 April 2018. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
- "Those behind Douma chemical attack will pay, Erdoğan says". Hurriyet Daily News. 10 April 2018. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
- "Boris Johnson demands international response to reported Syria poison gas attack". Belfast Telegraph. 8 April 2018. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
- @realDonaldTrump (8 April 2018). "Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria. Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price..." (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- @realDonaldTrump (8 April 2018). "....to pay. Open area immediately for medical help and verification. Another humanitarian disaster for no reason whatsoever. SICK!" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Bierman, Noah (10 April 2018). "Trump, facing twin crises, will skip South America summit". Los Angeles Times.
- "Trump warns Russia on Syria missile threat". BBC News. 11 April 2018. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
- Gearan, Anne; Wagner, John; Ryan, Missy (12 April 2018). "Trump signals a more deliberate approach on Syria, reviews options for possible attack". The Washington Post. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
- Defense Secretary James Mattis says attack on Syria "is not yet in the offing" CBS News, 12 April 2018
- Mattis says: 'I believe there was a chemical attack in Syria' Reuters, 12 April 2018
- "EU calls for response to 'yet another chemical attack' in Syria". Reuters. 8 April 2018.
- Security Council fails to adopt three resolutions on chemical weapons use in Syria UN, 10 April 2018.
- U.S., Russia clash at U.N. over chemical weapons attacks in Syria Reuters, 9 April 2018.
- "WHO concerned about suspected chemical attacks in Syria". World Health Organization. 11 April 2018.