Russian and Iran-backed Syrian Dictator Bashar al-Assad is using warplanes to drop suspected chlorine-laden bombs on a nearby suburb, wounding at least 80 people, most of them women and children.
Tuesday’s attack took place in a neighborhood called Sukkari, according to activists and aid workers in the rebel-held part of the city of Aleppo.
“Most of those injured were women and children,” Ibrahem Alhaj, a member of the Syria Civil Defense first responders’ team who arrived at the scene shortly after the attack, told the Associated Press (AP). “It is a crowded neighborhood.”
Among the 10 people who were in critical condition is a pregnant woman, AP reports.
“Volunteer emergency response worker from the Syria Civil Defence said he had reached the scene of the Aleppo attack on Tuesday shortly after a helicopter had dropped barrels containing what he said were four chlorine cylinders,” reports BBC.
AP acknowledged that it was unable to independently verify the recent report of the use of chemical weapons by the Iran and Russian-backed Syrian government, noting that “it was not clear how it was determined that chlorine gas was released.”
Accusations involving the use of chlorine and other chemical weapons are not unprecedented in Syria’s civil war, and both sides, including the Assad regime and opposition groups like the terrorist Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) have denied using them while blaming the other for using it as a weapon of war.
In Tuesday’s attack, a medical report from one of the hospitals in the besieged eastern rebel-held part of Aleppo was shared with journalists via text messages. It said at least 71 persons, including 37 children and 10 women, were treated for breathing difficulties, dry cough, and that their clothes smelled of chlorine. The report said 10 of the patients are in critical care, including a pregnant woman.
News reports of the most recent alleged use of chlorine bombs by the Syrian government comes almost two weeks after the United Nations-backed Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) determined that Assad still has the capability to launch chemical weapon attacks, noting that its inspectors discovered the presence of previously undeclared chemical weapon agents.
In a two-page summary of a classified report submitted to the UN, the OPCW said most of the 122 samples that it collected at multiple sites in Syria “indicate potentially undeclared chemical weapons-related activities.”
Furthermore, the OPCW also concluded that Assad used chlorine in at least two separate instances — once in April 2014 and again in March 2015.
Assad’s use of chlorine as a weapon violates the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2235, which calls for international action in the case of continued chemical weapons use by the Syrian dictator.
“Chlorine is a common industrial chemical, but its use in weapons is banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention,” points out BBC. “If high concentrations of the chemical enter the lungs it can cause death.
While opposition activists and health workers have accused the Assad regime of another chlorine attack in Aleppo back in August, the Syrian regime’s ally Russia has accused rebels of using the “toxic” chemical agents at government-held areas, also in Aleppo.
Kurdish troops in Iraq have also accused ISIS of using chemical weapons.