Syrian dictator Bashar Assad is accused of using chemical weapons against his own people in the latest horrific development in the civil war raging in that country. The conflict started in 2011 and has claimed tens of thousands of lives.
International aid groups claim forty-eight people, many of them children, were killed in the city of Douma in Eastern Ghouta on Saturday. Ghouta is a suburban area of Damascus, the Syrian capital. Douma was the last rebel-held town in the area. A deal was reportedly reached for rebels to evacuate the town and surrender control of the town on Sunday.
Late Saturday, dozens of Syrians began streaming into local hospitals and clinics complaining of burning eyes as well as breathing problems. Antigovernment forces began circulating videos of victims who had died from apparent suffocation, many with white foam coming from their mouths and nostrils.
The Assad regime denies using any chemical weapons and accuses rebels of conducting a false-flag operation meant to illicit international reaction. Syria’s strongest allies, Russia and Iran also denied their involvement.
“The spread of bogus stories about the use of chlorine and other poisonous substances by government forces continues,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “The aim of such deceitful speculation, lacking any kind of grounding, is to shield terrorists and to attempt to justify possible external uses of force.”
“The Islamic Republic of Iran strongly condemns the use of such (chemical) weapons by any party and anywhere in the world,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said. The allegations that the Assad regime is behind the attack “is not compatible with reality,” he said.
International condemnation however, was quick.
The British Foreign Office called for an investigation and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called for emergency meetings of the United Nations Security Council to review the incident. Two meetings Security Council meetings were scheduled for today.
In the U.S. President Trump, in rare public criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin, blamed Russia and Iran for the attack. “Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria. Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad,” he wrote on Twitter.
“Big price…to pay. Open area immediately for medical help and verification. Another humanitarian disaster for no reason whatsoever. SICK!” he added.
The President said his administration was considering taking military action against the Syrian regime for the attack. “We are studying that situation extremely closely, we are meeting with our military…and we’ll be making some major decisions in the next 24-48 hours,” the President said in comments prior to a Cabinet meeting this morning.
“This is about humanity. We’re talking about humanity. And it can’t be allowed to happen,” he said.