GRAPHIC: President of Syria Gas Bomb Attack on Children and Others in SYRIA (04/04/2017)
Government chemical attack in an opposition-held town in northern Syria killed dozens of people on Tuesday, leaving residents gasping for breath and convulsing in the streets and overcrowded hospitals. If confirmed, it would be the deadliest chemical attack in four years.
The United States blamed the Syrian government and its patrons, Russia and Iran, on Tuesday for one of the deadliest chemical weapons attacks in years in Syria, one that killed dozens of people in Idlib Province, including children, and sickened scores more.
A senior State Department official said the attack appeared to be a war crime and called on Russia and Iran to restrain the government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria from carrying out further chemical strikes.
Britain, France and Turkey joined Washington in condemning the attack, which they also attributed to Mr. Assad’s government. The United Nations Security Council was scheduled to be briefed on the attack on Wednesday.
One of the worst atrocities attributed to the Syrian government since President Trump took office, it poses a potential policy dilemma for the administration, which would like to shift the focus in Syria entirely to fighting the Islamic State.
Just days ago, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson said that Mr. Assad’s fate “will be decided by the Syrian people,” and Nikki R. Haley, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, said that “our priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out.”
On Tuesday, the White House called the attack a “reprehensible” act against innocent people “that cannot be ignored by the civilized world.”
But Sean Spicer, the White House spokesman, said the slaughter was unlikely to change the United States’ posture toward Mr. Assad because of the “political realities” in Syria.
“There is not a fundamental option of regime change as there has been in the past,” Mr. Spicer told reporters. “Somebody would be rather silly not acknowledging the political realities that exist in Syria. What we need to do is to fundamentally do what we can to empower the people of Syria to find a different way.”
He added that “these heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the last administration’s weakness and irresolution.”
“President Obama said in 2012 that he would establish a ‘a red line’ against the use of chemical weapons and then did nothing,” Mr. Spicer said.
Russia has insisted that it had no military role in the strike. But the State Department official, who briefed reporters on Tuesday, said that Russian officials were trying to evade their responsibility because Russia and Iran were guarantors of the Assad government’s commitment to adhere to a cease-fire in the peace talks the Kremlin helped organized in Astana, Kazakhstan, this year.
The official said that it appeared Russia was unable or unwilling to hold the Syrian government to the agreed cease-fire.
He reiterated that the attack on civilians appeared to be a war crime. The official, who could not be identified under the State Department’s protocol for briefing reporters, also asserted that even before the alleged chemical strike, the Trump administration had shelved the idea of cooperating militarily with the Assad government against the Islamic State.
Witnesses to the attack said it began just after sunrise. Numerous photographs and graphic videos posted online by activists and residents showed children and older adults gasping and struggling to breathe, or lying motionless in the mud as rescue workers ripped off victims’ clothes and hosed them down. The bodies of least 10 children lay lined up on the ground or under a quilt.
A few hours later, according to several witnesses, another airstrike hit one of the clinics treating victims, who had been farmed out to smaller hospitals and maternity wards because the area’s largest hospital had been severely damaged by an airstrike two days earlier.
Rescue workers from the White Helmets civil defense organization said that many children were among at least 50 dead and 250 wounded. Radi Saad, who writes incident reports for the group, said that volunteers had reached the site not knowing a chemical was present, and that five of them had suffered from exposure to the substance.
While chlorine gas attacks have become almost routine in northern Syria, this one was different, medical workers and witnesses said. Chlorine attacks usually kill just a few people, often those trapped in an enclosed space, and the gas dissipates quickly.
Via. NY TIMES