Palmyra Syria – As the latest Islamic State’s offensive in the southern region surrounding the city of Palmyra enters into its fifth day, grim reports of yet another suspected chemical attack on the citizenry are developing. The Islamic State linked Amaq News agency began reporting earlier today that up to 85 people, mostly women and children have been killed during the suspected chemical attack with up to 200 more suffering breathing problems from what Amaq News described as “a result of a Russian air attack with sarin gas.”
Both Russian and Syrian spokespersons vehemently denied the news outlets claims with Damascus stating that “[T]he conclusions of that investigation were wrong,” and purely based in fiction. However, The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights(SOHR) monitoring group paralleled the Islamic State linked news outlets claim by reporting that scores of dead littered the area near the town of Uqayribat in the eastern providence of Hama where heavy bombing from Russian coalition aircraft had been reported throughout the last 24 hours. SOHR was able to gather ground reporting that the dead lay with no visible signs of injuries and were what looked like mostly civilians.
Sarin gas is a man-made chemical weapon which is classified as a ‘nerve agent’ by the Center for Disease(CDC). Extremely toxic and rapid acting, sarin was developed in Germany in 1938 as a pesticide then after seeing its accidental effects on the living, was cultivated into a chemical weapon of war and terror. Signs and symptoms of sarin exposure encompass nausea, vomiting, chest pain and tightness followed by an uncontrollable cough and rapid breathing. Continued exposure to large amounts results in painful convulsions and paralysis which leads to the victim drowning in their own saliva and vomit as respiratory failure kicks in. Both Amaq and Hama Media Center are describing the lesser albeit still agonizing symptoms of the 200 survivors of the suspected chemical attack being treated in the surrounding hospitals in and around Palmyra.
Russia and its cohort Syria have stepped up their bombardment on suspected ISIS positions around Palmyra since the jihadists retook the city on Sunday. SOFREP reported earlier that the Islamic State had claimed to have shot down a Syrian air force MiG-23 as it was taking off from the Et Tifor airbase on the outskirts of Palmyra’s city center. War planes along with attack helicopters piloted by Russian coalition pilots along with advisors are camped within the airbase in support of Assad regime governmental forces currently fighting for control of the region. The reports of ISIS now in full control of the city of Palmyra along with Syrian forces abandoning its positions and retreating back to defensive positions around the airbase could be the reason for the intense aerial bombing that is taking place within the city and surrounding areas in order to beat back the Islamic State’s push towards the airbase itself. Assad regime forces have all but halted their offensive to retake Aleppo and have began pushing forces to the south to thwart ISIS’s thunder-clap like surprise attack on Palmyra and its vast oil fields. The Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations International(UOSSM) in Syria isn’t waiting for confirmation from the international community to call this latest report as ‘war crime.’ Stating “Targeting civilians and medical facilities with chemical weapons is a war crime.” – “We ask the OPCW [Organisation for the Prohibition Of Chemical Weapons] to fulfill its mandate and launch an immediate investigation into this attack and hold perpetrators responsible for these grievous violations to international law. ”
If this latest attack does ring true and is in fact a chemical attack, then it should be labeled a war crime and will be added to the Assad regime’s long list of chemical weapons attacks within Syria since the onset of the Syrian Civil War in 2012. Previously, the United Nations found clear evidence that sarin gas was used in multiple locations surrounding Damascus, with the worst attack occurring in the suburban city of Ghouta in 2013 where the city was struck with rockets and artillery shells containing the toxic nerve agent, claiming at least 1,000 innocent civilian lives.
Featured image courtesy of Al Jazeera.