Over the course of 2 weeks, Assad regime backed by Russian forces intensified their attacks and airstrikes across Syria. (Noting that this does not mean the attacks and airstrikes have ever stopped). Mass killing of civilians were reported across Idlib city, Idlib suburb, Aleppo suburb, Damascus suburb, and Hama suburb.
Idlib province and northern Aleppo suburbs, which are liberated areas, are considered among the most populated areas with internally displaced civilians. Families forcibly displaced by Assad from areas in Damascus suburbs, Eastern Aleppo, and Al Waer district in Homs are all currently living in this area. The fact that these civilians were not only forced by the Assad regime extensive bombardment and siege to leave their houses but also now are targeted in their place of displacement shows the humiliating failure and shame the international community monitored throughout every agreement to evacuate any revolutionary area besieged by Assad, transferring civilians from a death to the other.
In the escalation of Assad attacks the past 2 weeks, 4 hospitals were targeted by airstrikes and destroyed. They are:
- Kufranbel Surgical Hospital in Kufranbel, Idlib suburb. It was targeted by several Assad/Russia airstrikes, putting it out of service.
- Latamneh Surgical Hospital in Latamneh town, Hama suburb. It was targeted by Assad helicopters that dropped chlorine TNT barrels, leading to the injury to the whole medical cadre and to the death of a patient and Doctor Ali Darwish.
- Kufrnabudeh Hospital in Hama suburb, funded by UOSSM, got targeted by Assad airstrikes, destroying major parts of it and putting it out of service.
- Al Ma’rra Hospital in Ma’ret Al Numa’n, Idlib suburb. It was targeted by several Assad airstrikes, leading to its destruction and to the loss of extremely vital medical equipment. Footage of destruction is linked here.
As nearly most of the vital medical centers and hospitals in Idlib and Hama suburb got targeted over the span of a week, Assad forces launched a number of consecutive chlorine gas TNT barrels dropped by helicopters. Latamneh Surgical Hospital was destroyed by chlorine TNT barrel a week ago, but it didn’t stop there.
According to the director of Idlib Health Directorate, who held a press conference today citing the consecutive chemical attacks carried out by Assad regime, said in his statement: (Below is translation of first 2 minutes of the press conference)
“On Monday 3.4.2017 at 11:00 P.M, Latamaneh town in Hama suburbs was targeted by Assad helicopters that dropped TNT barrels with gas – most probably chlorine gas – suffocating 22 civilians. No deaths were reported.
On Monday 3.4.2016 at 9:15 P.M, Hubait town also in Hama suburb was targeted by Assad helicopters that dropped TNT barrels with gas – most probably chlorine gas – suffocating 17 civilians. No deaths reported.
Today morning, Tuesday 4.4.2017 at 6:30 A.M, Khan Shaykhoun in Idlib suburb was targeted by Assad warplanes with gases – most probably chlorine gas and Sarin gas – killing 50 documented civilians and more than 300 suffocated/injured. Most of the Idlib’s medical centers are packed with affected civilians. The death toll is likely to rise since there are many critical cases and because we do not have enough medical supplies and medicines to treat all these people. We have a scarcity in masks and supplies; during the past months, we sent countless calls to the international organizations and World Health Organizations to aid us with these needed supplies but there was barely any response. The message Assad is sending is blatant: Assad wants to kill all forms of life in liberated areas.
Khan Shaykhoun is a city in the southern suburb of Idlib province, an area where hundreds of internally displaced civilians currently live, most of them from Hama and its suburb, who fled the extensive Assad airstrikes that have been targeting Hama suburbs. At 6:30 A.M on Tuesday, several Assad airstrikes targeted the city, instantly killing and suffocating countless civilians, many of them children and women. Syrian Civil Defense volunteers rushed to the scene to salvage the civilians to medical centers. The symptoms that doctors reported were all similar:
-Pinpoint pupils unresponsive to light
-Patients in coma
-Convulsions, specially in limbs
-Excessive salivary secretions
-Chest tightening and difficulty breathing (asphyxia)
-No smell of chlorine
These symptoms are highly consistent with the previous Assad chemical massacre launched against Eastern Ghouta in Damascus suburbs, killing and suffocating thousands of civilians in August 2013. Chemical attack on Eastern Ghouta was carried out by Sarin gas, which is a colorless, odorless organophosphorus compound that is a highly potent nerve agent and typically causes severe asphyxia that eventually becomes fatal unless treatment is administered.
Doctor Shajul (speaking in English) in one if Idlib’s hospitals that previously received countless chlorine-affected patients, reported of the different symptoms he saw on patients from today’s Sarin gas attack.
Another Doctor from a medical center says:”We received many patients today after a gas attack on Khan Shaykhoun this morning. All patients were in a coma and showed very clear signs of asphyxiation.” Footage also shows the devastating symptoms on the civilians affected.
Activist and citizen journalist Hadi Al Abdullah reports from the northern district of Khan Shaykhoun where the attack took place. Hadi speaks to Syrian Civil Defense volunteer Khaled who cited: (Below is a translation to the volunteer’s account of what happened)
Minute 1:50 in report: In early morning hours, Assad airstrikes hit a northern district in Khan Shaykhoun city with 4 rockets: 3 rockets and the 4th carrying toxic gases. The attack led to the suffocation of many civilians; nearly 250 civilians suffered from suffocation symptoms ranging from mild to severe 70 other civilians were killed.
Minute 3:05 in report: We were called and Khan Shayhoun Syrian Civil Defense group that first arrived to the scene came to help without knowing that it was a toxic gas attack; this led to the suffocation of more than 4 Syrian Civil Defense volunteers. Another group then headed to the area and we offered first aid and sent the patients to the medical points for treatment.
Activists and news centers shot several extremely distressing footage of the aftermath right after the attack and the arrival of Syrian Civil Defense volunteers. Civilians suffocating from the gas all showed similar horrifying symptoms of asphyxia and convulsions at the scene; several others were in a coma. All civilians were washed with water and had their clothes removed.
After the chemical attack on Khan Shaykhoun, the regime then launched airstrikes on Syrian Civil Defense Khan Shaykhoun center, whose volunteers were among the first to arrive to the scene of chemical attack, and Syrian Civil Defense center in Hubait in Hama suburb, destroying them both and rendering them out of service. Syrian Civil Defense reported no injuries. (Photos of the destruction in the centers can be found in Syrian Civil Defense tweet here).
Assad and Russian forces then launched 8 airstrikes on one of the last standing hospitals in Idlib, Al Rahmeh Hospital, destroying major parts of it. Doctors and media activists were inside the hospital when the attack happened. Footage below shows moment the hospital got targeted by airstrikes whilst activists Yaman Khatib and Fadi Al Halabi were reporting from inside.
Escalation hasn’t only targeted Idlib and Hama suburbs but also Eastern Ghouta. Yesterday, 3.3.2017, more than 30 civilians were killed and tens others were wounded by more than 60 airstrikes that targeted several towns including Saqba, Hamureye, and Douma. Today, 4.4.2017, Assad warplanes renewed their bombarding on Eastern Ghouta towns, killing 15 civilians in Saqba and wounding tens of other civilians. Eastern Ghouta’s siege makes it extremely difficult to treat the massive amount of civilians with severe, life-threatening injuries. Medical conditions in Eastern Ghouta are dire to the extent that more than 4 kidney failure patients died in last 2 months and children are suffering from Measles due to the lack of vaccines.
Many videos of aftermath of Assad airstrikes on Kufrbatnah, Douma, Saqba, and Salqeen could be found on Syrian Civil Defense Damascus Suburb Facebook Page.
AFP reported Francois Hollande accuses Assad regime of today’s chemical massacre. But what comes next for Syrians? Isn’t there an end to Assad? A closure? Justice? Will we wait for yet another major massacre? Does it really differ whether Syrians bleed to death by normal Assad airstrikes or suffocate to death by Assad’s chemicals that supposedly were “confiscated” after 2013 chemical massacre?