Syrian army bombs Damascus suburbs after allegedly using chemical weapons on them

Friday, August 23, 2013

After the Syrian government denied the army used chemical weapons against the densely populated eastern Ghouta region of Damascus on Wednesday, armed forces heavily bombed the neighborhood yesterday.

Reports say anywhere between 100 and 1,300 people were killed in Wednesday's alleged chemical attack, but there are no reports of injuries or deaths in yesterday's bombings. Many of those killed appeared to be children. Some of the pictures and video coming out of the country don't show blood and dismembered bodies, but instead show, according to witnesses, those who died from apparent suffocation; some were foaming at the mouth and others were having convulsions. One video posted to YouTube purportedly shows a young girl who survived the alleged attack, yelling "I’m alive, I’m alive." At one point, according to The Washington Post, the girl even tries to convince the hospital official she is still alive.

The bombings come as United Nations observers began to arrive to investigate claims of chemical weapons use elsewhere in the nation. According to Russian officials, the Syrian government is ready to give UN observers "maximum cooperation" while they perform their investigation.

"We hope that the results will clarify the issue and will help to dispel numerous speculations around the alleged use of the Syrian chemical weapons while simultaneously creating a positive background for the moves towards the start of the political process of settlement of the Syrian crisis," Aleksandr Lukashevich, Russia's foreign minister, said yesterday. Syrian officials say the alleged chemical attack was staged and carried out by rebel forces to "draw attention to their cause" ahead of the arrival of UN observers.

Deputy Secretary-General of the UN, Jan Eliasson, called the alleged chemical attack 'shocking' and hopes the Syrian government will allow UN observers into the neighborhood as soon as possible.

"We see the need to investigate this as soon as possible; no matter what the conclusions, this represents a serious escalation with grave humanitarian and human consequences," said Eliasson who also added there is no confirmation that chemical weapons were used in Wednesday's bombing.

A previous attempt by the UN to end the violence in Syria failed. In May of 2012, a UN convoy was hit by an IED (improvised explosive device) while a human rights group reported a Syrian military attack on civilians at a nearby funeral in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province. Later that year in August, a 300 person team left the country after their mandate expired, and was never renewed. Commander of the 2012 observation team General Babacar Gaye expressed frustration against both the Syrian armed forces and rebels for not allowing the UN to complete its mission.

"Initially the ceasefire was respected, violence decreased and we were able to do our work throughout the country, [but] by the middle of June it was clear that the parties were no longer committed to the ceasefire and the result has been an escalation in violence," said Gaye in 2012.

The UN's 2012 mandate was to; "monitor a cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties [and to] monitor and support the full implementation of the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States six-point-plan." Part of the plan included both sides working and cooperating with the UN special envoy, commitment to ceasing hostilities, and the Syrian army ceasing troop and tank movements against rebels in "population centers" throughout the country.