Volunteer doctors with the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) have protested the use of chemical weapons targeting civilians in Syria. At least five bombings using chemical weapons have taken place over several Syrian cities during the past two weeks, SAMS officials report.
By Ray Hanania
Medical doctors and volunteers working with the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) have protested against the continued use of chemical weapons in the conflict in Syria against civilian cities and targets.
Although no specific group is charged with using the chemical weapons, it is believed the attacks are being orchestrated by the government of Syria using military planes and helicopters, although that has not been confirmed.
SAMS officials said they are “gravely concerned about the ongoing use of chemical agents as a weapon in Idlib,” which is located in northwestern Syria. SAMS officials said they have protested to the United Nations asking the UN Security Council to act quickly to protect Syrian civilians from the use of internationally prohibited chemical agents.
They have asked that the attacks be investigated to determine who is involved and to prevent further use of the weapons of mass destruction, although only the military under Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has access and use of helicopters and fighter jets.
“Reports from SAMS-supported field hospitals in Idlib show that there have been at least five instances of chemical attacks over the last ten days, including a chlorine attack last night during which two people were reportedly killed,” said Dr. Zaher Sahloul, President of SAMS.
“SAMS is extremely concerned that this pattern of chemical agent use will continue and escalate in the Idlib suburbs, particularly the Sarmin and Binnish areas. The international community needs to act with urgency and use all means necessary to protect the people of Syria from further use of chemical weapons in the face of a pattern of noncompliance.”
Sahloul is an Associate Clinical Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, a member of the Illinois State Muslim Advisory Council, and a member of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrants and Refugee Rights (ICIRR). He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management.
- At around 2 AM today, a SAMS supported field hospital in Sarmin started receiving patients with symptoms of chlorine exposure, Sahloul said.
Civil defense staff reported that a barrel filled with chlorine gas was dropped from a helicopter over the western side of Sarmin city. There were five patients who had to be treated for severe chemical agent exposure, including a seven-year-old girl. In total, field sources report 20 victims and two deaths from the attack.
On Tuesday, a barrel bomb with suspected chlorine gas was dropped on the city of Binnish, northeast of Idlib City, he said.
Over 30 people were treated at a field hospital in Binnish, and several had to be transferred to neighboring locations. Most of the injured were children, women, and elderly; seven of the cases were considered severe. Victims experienced shortness of breath, foaming at the mouth, nausea, and burning of the eyes and throat.
Two barrels bombs were also dropped from helicopters on the village of Qaminas in Sarmin, Idlib. At least 20 victims were diagnosed and treated for exposure to chlorine gas. It was very difficult for emergency rescue workers to save victims or assess the scene because government helicopters and planes continued to circle the area.
On Monday, a bomb hit the city of Sarmin at around 2am, and shortly after a SAMS supported field hospital in Sarmin started receiving patients with symptoms of chlorine exposure. The field hospital saw three severe cases.
“This is in addition to last Monday night’s attack, when the SAMS supported field hospital in Sarmin treated over 100 people for chemical agent exposure, and a family of six was killed,” Sahloul reported in a press release distributed Thursday March 26, 2015.
Victims from all five attacks showed symptoms of chlorine gas exposure. SAMS is concerned that without an immediate international response and engagement, the pattern of chemical agent use will continue and potentially lead to large-scale chemical weapons attack in Idlib. Field hospitals in Idlib are in desperate need of protective gear, oxygen, and antidotes to prepare for future chemical agent responses, and SAMS calls for an immediate scale up in medical aid delivery to the Idlib area.
Twenty days ago, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2209, which condemned in the “strongest terms” any use of chlorine as a weapon in Syria. SAMS calls upon the UN Security Council and U.S. government to act with urgency to prevent chemical weapons attacks.
“This pattern of chemical weapons use is in direct violation of international law, of UN Security Council Resolutions 2118 and 2209, and the United States’ red line,” said Dr. Zaher Sahloul.
“We fear that the situation could rapidly escalate, potentially to the scale of August 2013’s chemical attack in Eastern Ghouta, or even worse. The world should not wait for another Srebrenica massacre or Halabja chemical attack before it intervenes.”
The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) is a non-profit, non-political, professional and medical relief organization that represents Syrian American medical professionals in the United States. SAMS is working on the front lines of crisis relief in Syria and neighboring countries to alleviate suffering and save lives.
Through its rich network within the United States and in Syria, SAMS organizes medical missions to Syria, provides professional and educational trainings to Syrian physicians, and delivers medicine and medical supplies to local hospitals and vulnerable families in Syria.