The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) expressed concerns with evidence of recent chemical attacks in southern Syria against civilian targets and civilian neighborhoods.
Field staff working with the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) reported the use of a chemical agent in a recent attack in Erbin, Eastern Ghouta. The exact chemical agent remains unknown as field staff stated that the gas did not have an odor similar to that of previous chlorine attacks.
Children Treated on July 27 in Eastern Ghouta
The chemicals affected four individuals and caused one death. Patients presented with shortness of breath, shivers, watery eyes, miosis, loss of consciousness, mild disorientation, and loss of bladder control. The past few days have seen a significant increase in government airstrikes on the towns of Eastern Ghouta. Initial reports indicate that there have been multiple fatalities and severe injuries from attacks on Douma and Saqba.
Patient receiving treatment on August 6 in Eastern Ghouta
On August 6, SAMS field staff reported a similar attack on the Jobar neighborhood of Eastern Ghouta. Patients who were brought to a SAMS-supported field hospital were experiencing identical symptoms. There were three injuries and one reported death from this incident. The injuries are believed to have been caused by mines containing chemical agents. The SAMS field hospital took blood samples from affected patients for further analysis. The Jobar neighborhood had previously been targeted by additional chemical attacks on July 27, leaving 41 injured, including women and children, and on July 30, which caused one death and ten injuries.
SAMS is particularly horrified by these events given the August 7 adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2235, establishing a Joint Investigative Mechanism to identify perpetrators of chemical attacks in Syria. While this resolution is a significant step, continued chemical attacks show the immediate and pressing need for an attribution mechanism that can deter chemical attacks and ensure perpetrators are held responsible once they are identified.
Patient receiving treatment on August 11 in Eastern Ghouta
Since the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2209 condemning chlorine as a weapon in Syria in March of this year, there have been continued and escalating violations in the form of chlorine-filled bombs dropped from helicopters. SAMS is gravely concerned about ongoing violations of international humanitarian law, in the forms of chemical agent use, indiscriminate and targeted attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure, and the targeting of hospitals and medical facilities.
Dr. Zaher Sahloul, SAMS’s past President, said, “We are concerned that a large attack, potentially to the scale of the August 2013 attack in Eastern Ghouta, is impending unless the UN Security Council enforces its own resolutions.” Syrians will continue to suffer if the international community does not prioritize civilian protection. The UN must hold perpetrators accountable for these direct violations of international law and UN Security Council Resolutions 2118 and 2209, and act with urgency to protect civilians from continued attacks.
The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) is a non-political, non-profit, professional and medical relief organization that represents Syrian American medical professionals in the United States and supports doctors working on the front lines of crisis relief in Syria. SAMS supports hospitals and health workers 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, provides professional and educational trainings to Syrian physicians, and delivers medicine and medical supplies to vulnerable communities in Syria.