Hundreds Reported Killed in Chemical Attacks in Syria

There are very disturbing reports out of Syria of a chemical weapons attack on a rebel stronghold outside of Damascus. Here’s an eyewitness account from CNN.

A man who referred to himself as volunteer first responder Abu Gazi said he heard rockets unlike any that he’d heard before.

He went to Zamalka, the closest area to him that was hit. Over a few hours, his vision blurred, and he lost vision and felt paralyzed. At one point, he said, he collapsed.

Abu Gazi said he was with a doctor at a field hospital in Arbeen who reported 300 people dead and 500 wounded.

The opposition Local Coordination Committees in Syria claimed that poisonous gases killed more than 650 people.

The symptoms, he said, included unconsciousness, foaming from the nose and mouth, constricted pupils, fast heartbeat and difficulty breathing.

The ones who died asphyxiated, he said.

This video, posted to YouTube, seems to back up the claim. You can see lifeless bodies that show no outward sign of injury.

If the death toll is as high as these early reports claim, this would be the single deadliest use of chemical weapons in warfare since the Iran -Iraq war, and the first large-scale use of chemical weapons against civilians since the Halabja massacre of Kurds in 1988.

The timing of this attack is particularly appalling given that a UN Chemical Weapons Inspection team was finally granted permission to enter Syrian territory this week. They are on the ground in Damascus, but their freedom of movement is constrained by the Syrian government.  The  government apparently calculated that they could deploy chemical weapons with impunity–even though there is a UN team nearby. They have probably calculated that the UN team will request access to the site of the massacre, and that they can deny the team access without fearing much pushback from the Security Council.

Sadly, they are probably correct.