More than 100 injured in alleged Aleppo chlorine attack, doctors say
More than 100 people — including dozens of children — were admitted to hospital following a devastating bombing in rebel-held eastern Aleppo in which barrels of chlorine were allegedly dropped, medical groups say and activists say.
The US-based Syrian American Medical Society, which supports one of three hospitals in Aleppo where the victims were taken, said one person was killed by the barrel bombs dropped during the alleged chemical attack on the Sukkari neighborhood Tuesday.
At least 37 children and ten women were among those hospitalized, the Aleppo Free Doctors Committee said.
The victims were struggling to breathe, coughing harshly and had the smell of chlorine on their clothes, the Aleppo Free Doctor’s Committee said.
Most were discharged after several hours, but ten people remained in intensive care, including a pregnant woman in her last trimester whose unborn child was showing a weak pulse, the committee claimed. CNN cannot confirm the authenticity of the reports.
Children among victims
Harrowing footage distributed by the Syrian Civil Defense — also known as the White Helmets — showed young children and other victims being rushed to the hospital in the arms of rescuers, gasping desperately for air as they are given oxygen masks.
Footage purporting to be of the blast site moments after the attack showed barrels lying on top of what’s left of destroyed buildings.
The video also shows a boy being washed with a hose by rescuers after being pulled from the rubble as the sirens of ambulances wail around him.
Another video by the Aleppo Media Center shows a man laying almost lifeless at the same hospital as medics try to pump oxygen into his lungs.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported the attack, saying that medical sources accused regime warplanes of pounding the Sukkari neighborhood with barrel bombs “laden with poison gas.”
The Syrian government has denied using chlorine gas for military purposes in the past.
Previous chlorine use confirmed by UN
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was stripped of the majority of his chemical arsenal in 2013 after the U.S. threatened an attack due to their alleged use in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, leading to a multinational deal under which the weapons were removed.
However the deal did not remove stocks of chlorine, a dual-use chemical which has industrial applications, but can also be used as a crude chemical weapon, delivered by improvised barrel bomb.
The Assad regime has been repeatedly accused of using chlorine gas as a chemical weapon, and a UN investigation determined in late August found that regime forces had twice carried out chlorine attacks.
Secretary of State John Kerry said last year that he was “absolutely certain” that the Syrian government had attacked its own people with chlorine — an accusation the Syrian regime has denied.
Syria and its ally Russia have accused Islamist militants of using chlorine in the past. UN investigators also said last month that it had found that ISIS had used mustard gas in the battlefield.
“The systematic use of chemical weapons in Syria with impunity for perpetrators has become the ‘new normal,'” the Syrian American Medial Society said in a statement Tuesday.
Aleppo, pre-war Syria’s largest city and commercial hub, has been divided for years into areas under rebel and regime control. The city has been heavily hit by intensifying violence in recent months following the failure of a American- and Russian-brokered “cessation of hostilities” earlier this year.