French Reporters Catalogue Syrian Chemical Warfare Attacks

Reporters for LeMonde have catalogued what appears to be increasing use of chemical weapons against rebels by the Syrian government’s forces including attacks experienced personally by the reporters:

At first, there is only a little sound, a metallic ping, almost a click. And in the confusion of daily combat in Jobar’s Bahra 1 sector, this sound didn’t catch the attention of the fighters of the Tahrir al-Sham (‘Liberation of Syria’) Brigade. ‘We thought it was a mortar that didn’t explode, and no one really paid attention to it,’ said Omar Haidar, chief of operations of the brigade, which holds this forward position less than 500 meters from Abbasid Square.

Searching for words to describe the incongruous sound, he said it was like ‘a Pepsi can that falls to the ground.’ No odor, no smoke, not even a whistle to indicate the release of a toxic gas. And then the symptoms appear. The men cough violently. Their eyes burn, their pupils shrink, their vision blurs. Soon they experience difficulty breathing, sometimes in the extreme; they begin to vomit or lose consciousness. The fighters worst affected need to be evacuated before they suffocate.

The attacks are reported over a wide area in and around Damascus. The claim is that initial probing chemical attacks by the Syrian government were followed by accelerated use after the United States, France, and Britain failed to respond to the initial attacks.

FILED UNDER: Middle East, Quick Takes
Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.

Comments

  1. DC Loser says:

    I don’t know what to make of this LeMonde reporting. Some of the symptoms they describe, like the shrinking of the pupils, are indicative of nerve agent. But the pictures they show of the Syrian rebels having only gas masks and no skin protection (like what soldiers in the military have to wear in MOPP environment) are laughable defenses against nerve agents. A pinhead sized drop of sarin on your exposed skin will kill you within minutes. From what they describe, it looks more like some form of tear gas. If the Syrians were using sarin, all these people would be dead.

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    The description sounds somewhat like phenacyl chloride. Although that has been used historically for riot control it’s largely been replaced with other, less toxic agents. It can cause death, particularly at high concentrations.

  3. DC Loser says:

    Lachrymatory agents like tear gas is a tricky category since they are legal to use for internal security situations. The Syrian government can claim their use as part of a law enforcement effort against criminals.

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