25 Aug 2015

ISIS ‘chemical weapons attack’ victims treated

ISIS is believed to have used chemical weapons in an attack on a civilian area in northern Syria last week, according local aid groups and rebels, and video footage.

The Syrian American Medical Society says that 50 shells fell on civilian areas north of Aleppo in Marea last Friday. It says that the town “is on the frontline of fighting between ISIS and non-state armed groups” and that “local sources suspect ISIS forces of conducting the attack”.

The group reported “more than 50 civilians exhibiting symptoms of chemical exposure. Initial symptoms included respiratory irritation, wheezing, coughing, irritation and redness of the eyes and mucous membranes, skin irritation, and severe itching.”

Médecins Sans Frontières also confirmed that it had treated victims of the attack and videos of the aftermath seen by Channel 4 News show patients and doctors describing similar symptoms following an attack in the same area.

An eyewitness said “we saw a yellow colour in all the places where the bombs fell, and a very bad smell … the smell stayed strong for 24 hours after bombing.”

A doctor in a video posted by local media further said “the smell is not normal and caused some suffocation to some people.”

The emerging reports of a chemical weapons attack, thought to have been conducted by ISIS, come on the day that images of an ancient temple destroyed by ISIS were widely distributed, destruction that was labelled as a ‘war crime’ by UNESCO.

Hussein Nasir, a spokesman for a Syrian rebel group, the Shami Front told the New York Times: “At least half of the 50 mortar and artillery shells fired by ISIS contained poisonous mustard gas.”

‘[We] treated “four patients exhibiting symptoms of exposure to chemical agents … MSF strongly condemns the use of chemical weapons, which constitute a serious violation of international humanitarian law’ – Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Border)

MSF said the patients, who were all from one family, were treated one hour after the attack. They were reported to have come from the town of Marea, north of Aleppo, that was targeted by the attack.

Pablo Marco, MSF’s programme manager in Syria said that it was not possible with lab work to at this stage confirm the cause of the symptoms, but that “the patients’ clinical symptoms, the way these symptoms changed over time, and the patients’ testimony about the circumstances of the poisoning all point to exposure to a chemical agent.”

U.S. authorities has said previously that it believed that ISIS had used mustard gas against Kurdish forces in both Iraq and Syria this summer, which was the first suggestion of the group using chemical agents.