Syrian opposition town hit by new chemical attack

Syrian opposition town hit by new chemical attack
The Syrian regime has been accused of launching a new chemical attack on a Syrian opposition town with more than a dozen citizens suffering the effects of chemical burns.
3 min read
22 January, 2018
Syria's Douma has been hit by repeated chemical attacks [AFP]

A Damascus suburb was targeted by chemicals Monday for the second time in two weeks, with the heavily-populated civilian town of Douma hit in a suspected chlorine gas attack.

Children were among at least 21 casualties suffering from burns and breathing difficulties inside the opposition enclave of Douma, Eastern Ghouta.

President Bashar al-Assad's regime has been accused by the UN and human rights groups of being behind multiple deadly poison gas attacks on Syrian towns and villages over the past seven years.

"After regime forces fired rockets into the western part of the city of Douma, white smoke spread, causing 21 cases of suffocation," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

"Residents and medical sources talk of chlorine gas," Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.

The White Helmets and activists shared footage showing the victims being treated from the effects of the gas.

An AFP correspondent in Douma also reported babies, wrapped in blankets, being rushed to hospital, some of them screaming.

A doctor at the hospital - who gave his first name as Bassil - said patients were suffering "respiratory irritation, breathing difficulties, coughing and reddening of the eyes".

"We noticed that they smelled like bleach, or chlorine, and we stripped them of their clothes," he told the agency.

It comes less than two week after a similar attack targeted the outskirts of Douma when seven people suffered suffocation.

Human Rights Watch head Kenneth Roth accused the Syrian regime of using chlorine gas during the siege of Eastern Ghouta.

The Damascus suburb of around 400,000 people has been besieged by regime forces since 2013, in an attempt to strangle the rebel region into submission. Chronic food, fuel and medicine shortages have been reported.

Eastern Ghouta was targeted with nerve gas in the same year, killing hundreds of civilians.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the UN blamed the Syrian regime for a more deadly sarin gas attack on the opposition-held village of Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib in April 2017.

As many as a hundred civilians were killed and it triggered an unprecedented US missile strike on the airbase believed to be the source of the nerve gas attack which has been widely attributed to Assad's regime.

The regime was also accused of using chlorine gas in at least three different areas of northern Syria in 2014 and 2015.

The UN has called for those reponsible for the attacks to be brought to justice. 

Around 500,000 people have died and millions made homeless in seven years of fighting in Syria, which was sparked when regime forces brutally put down peaceful protests in 2011.

Agencies contributed to this story.