Syria gas attack video moves UN Security Council envoys to tears
by Daily Sabah with Reuters
ISTANBULApr 18, 2015 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Daily Sabah with Reuters
Apr 18, 2015 12:00 am
Members of the United Nations Security Council teared up on Thursday when Syrian doctors showed a video of failed attempts to resuscitate three children after a chlorine gas attack in March, prompting renewed calls for accountability. The children, aged 1, 2 and 3, their parents and grandmother were killed in the March 16 attack on Sarmin village in northwest Idlib province, said Dr. Mohamed Tennari, director of the field hospital where the family was taken. Government and opposition forces in Syria have denied using chlorine 'barrel bombs,' which the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) says are dropped from helicopters. The Syrian air force is the only party in the conflict known to have helicopters. Tennari, Dr. Zaher Sahloul, President of the Syrian American Medical Society, and Qusai Zakarya, a survivor of a sarin gas attack in Ghouta near Damascus in August 2013, briefed the informal closed meeting organized by the United States.
The Security Council failed last year to refer the civil war in Syria, now in its fifth year, to the International Criminal Court for possible prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Syrian ally Russia, backed by China, vetoed the move. The attack on Sarmin came 10 days after the 15-member council condemned the use of chlorine as a weapon in Syria and threatened to take action if it was used again. Chlorine is not a prohibited substance, but its use as a weapon is banned under the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, which Syria joined in 2013. A fact-finding mission of the OPCW is examining the Sarmin attack but it is not mandated to ascribe blame.
It was previously confirmed that the regime used the chemicals several times. OPWC says it has evidence of the use of chlorine gas in repeated attacks by regime forces in Syria. The OPWC said there had been a "spate of new allegations" of chlorine attacks. The regime agreed to destroy its chemical weapons a year ago following global outrage over a sarin gas attack in Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, in August 2013 that killed hundreds – the worst attack of its kind for quarter of a century. However, opposition groups claim the regime has not handed over all of its chemical stockpile and still uses chemical weapons against its people. Although the U.S. and other Western countries had attempted to prevent the regime from using chemical weapons last year and even considered military intervention, their efforts remained insufficient.
On Aug. 21, 2013, it was the first time that the regime of Syrian president Bashar Assad killed dozens in rebel-held areas in the suburbs of Syria's capital, Damascus, by attacking with chemical weapons. The fired rockets were carrying the nerve agent sarin. The U.N. described the attacks as the worst chemical weapon use in the 21st century. U.S. President Barack Obama threatened to carry out punitive airstrikes against the Syrian government, touching off a flurry of diplomacy that eventually resulted in al-Assad accepting a U.S.-Russia brokered deal to relinquish his chemical arsenal. U.N. inspectors conducted a swift investigation that determined rockets loaded with sarin had been fired from an area where the Syrian military has bases. Over the past 11 months, a joint mission by the U.N. and OPCW has overseen the removal of Syria's entire declared chemical stockpile of 1,300 metric tons (1,430 tons) from the country. Although the world condemned the Assad regime, even U.N. inspectors were not authorized to declare who was officially responsible. According to activists, the regime continued using chemical weapons, and still holds a big amount of the similar weapons.
In March 2011, Syrians were emboldened enough to raise their voices against the dictatorship. However, the regime's response was not as peaceful as the protests, and the country was subsequently dragged into a deadly civil war after opposition groups took up arms against the government. The Syrian civil war has now entered its fifth year and has caused the death of more than 200,000 people and at least 60,000 are missing. The war has also displaced nearly 10 million people. While the international and regional powers continue endless discussions, the regime does not just use conventional weapons, but also chemical weapons. About 13.6 million people, equivalent to the population of London, have been displaced by conflicts in Syria and Iraq, many without food or shelter, the U.N. refugee agency revealed. The 13.6 million include 7.2 million displaced within Syria – an increase from a long-held U.N. estimate of 6.5 million, as well as 3.3 million Syrian refugees abroad, 1.9 million displaced in Iraq and 190,000 who have left to seek safety. The vast majority of Syrian refugees have gone to Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey. Western countries have been frequently criticized by aid agencies and the U.N. for not opening their borders to the Syrian refugees as the most developed countries have received the least number of refugees.