(Washington, D.C.) — Six months after an alleged poison gas attack, UN chemical weapons inspectors have just arrived in Syria. Time magazine asks whether they are on a “fool’s errand” — too little, too late? But now it appears they may have arrived just in time. There are widespread reports this morning of a much larger chemical weapons attack by the Assad government against rebel forces near Damascus.
- Reuters reports upwards of 200 people have been killed, including women and children.
- The UK Independent puts the number of dead at 650 people.
- The Associated Press is reporting that as many as 1,100 people have been killed.
- [For the latest developments, go to the Reuters live Syria blog which I’m finding quite helpful.]
The Assad regime has denied that any chemical weapons have been used.
In separate news — possibly related — the Israeli government deployed a new Iron Dome rocket/missile defense system in central Israel, in the Sharon valley overnight. Is the Israeli government becoming concerned the Assad regime could launch chemical attacks on Israel?
Please join me in praying for peace and stability in Syria. With more than 100,000 Syrians dead in this horrific civil war, let us pray for the victims and their families. Let’s pray for the Christians there to be brave and to boldly preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ — that God offers individuals good news of forgiveness and eternal life and hope for their souls in sharp contrast to the evil all around them. And please pray with me that the Lord will show the Church how to do more to help our brothers and sisters in Syria, as well as how to help the suffering Muslims of Syria.
- “Anti-government activists accused the Syrian government of pounding areas east of Damascus, the capital, with rockets carrying poison gas early Wednesday, filling local hospitals with dead and wounded,” reports the New York Times. “Amateur videos posted online showed men and children sprawled out on hospital beds and on tile floors, some not moving, while others were being treated by medics with hand-pump respirators. The source of the images could not immediately be verified and the government of President Bashar al-Assad denied using chemical weapons.”
The attacks came the day after a team sent to Syria by the United Nations to investigate allegations of chemical weapons use was to begin working. Numerous allegations of chemical weapons use have surfaced during the civil war between the forces of Mr. Assad and rebels seeking his ouster, but none have been verified by outside institutions.
In London, the British government, which supports the rebels, said it would raise the reported chemical attacks with the United Nations Security Council, potentially broadening the diplomatic implications of the reported attack.
Unlike the videos often uploaded after government attacks, the images on Wednesday showed very little blood, as few of the patients appeared to have conventional injuries. Activists claimed that women were among the victims.
In one video, medical workers were shown moving through what appeared to be a room full of apparently lifeless young men in their underclothing. Two others showed children, one of them motionless and staring, the other seeming to twitch uncontrollably….
- An activist reached in the Damascus suburb of Erbeen via Skype said the attack began at 2 a.m., when rockets struck surrounding areas. He and his colleagues rushed to evacuate the wounded, and they had to break down doors of homes to get them out.
- “I saw many children lying on beds as if they were sleeping, but unfortunately they were dead,” said the activist, who gave his name as Abu Yassin, adding that he believed the number of dead was in the hundreds….
- In a statement on Wednesday, the British foreign secretary, William Hague, said he was “deeply concerned by reports that hundreds of people, including children, have been killed in airstrikes and a chemical weapons attack on rebel-held areas near Damascus.”
- “These reports are uncorroborated and we are urgently seeking more information. But it is clear that if they are verified, it would mark a shocking escalation in the use of chemical weapons in Syria,” he said, urging the Syrian government to allow the United Nations team currently in Syria “immediate access” to the location of the claimed attacks.
KEY HEADLINES TO TRACK:
- Syria conflict: ‘Chemical attacks’ kill hundreds (BBC)
- Chemical weapons attacks kill hundreds in Syria, rebels and activists allege (NBC News)
- Syria: 650 die in ‘Chemical weapons attack’, activists claim (UK Independent)