News & views | 24 January 2018 | by Wilbert van der Zeijden


Despite Trump’s Threats, Chemical Attacks Continue in Syria

By Eliot Higgins, Bellingcat. The research for this publication was supported by PAX.

Following the attack ordered by Donald Trump on Syria’s Shayrat Airbase in response to the April 4th 2017 Sarin attack in Khan Sheikhoun, the lack of press reports about chemical weapon attacks in Syria may lead the casual observer to assume chemical weapon use in Syria had ceased, until the January 22nd 2018 chlorine attack in Damascus. Regarding the January 22nd 2018 attack, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated that “Only yesterday more than 20 civilians, mostly children, were victims of an apparent chlorine gas attack”, and that “The recent attacks in Eastern Ghouta raise serious concerns that Bashar al-Assad may be continuing to use chemical weapons against his own people.”

However, while the January 22nd attack caught the attention of Rex Tillerson and the media, many more attacks have been alleged throughout 2017 and into 2018, with many attacks reported after the US airstrikes on Shayrat Airbase. Since the beginning of the year at least 4 attacks have been reported, with 2 in Damascus, and 1 in Idlib.

The January 13th attack was investigated by Syrians for Truth and Justice (STJ), which described it as the “first attack in 2018 when chlorine gas is used as a weapon in Ghouta”. According to statements in the STJ report, the attack occurred around 6am, with the chlorine delivered using surface to surface rockets, with several civilians injured, mostly women and one child. Reports of chlorine use in Damascus are unusual in that many other reports of chlorine use have involved the use of chlorine cylinders dropped from helicopters, initially using a barrel bomb casing and detonator, but more recently using nothing more than gravity to break open the cylinders and release the chlorine.

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