Douma chemical attack

Douma chemical attack
Part of the Rif Dimashq offensive (February–April 2018), Siege of Eastern Ghouta, Syrian Civil War
Douma is located in Syria
Douma
Douma
Location of Douma within Syria
TypeChemical attack
LocationDouma, Rif Dimashq Governorate, Syria
33°34′16″N 36°24′17″E / 33°34′16″N 36°24′17″E / 33.57111; 36.40472
Date7 April 2018
06:30[citation needed] (UTC+03:00)
Executed bySyrian Arab Army (accused)[1][2]
Casualties48–85[3][4] killed
500+[5][6] injured

On 7 April 2018, a chemical attack in the Syrian city of Douma reportedly killed at least 70 people.[5] It was unclear what chemical had been used. Medics on the ground reported smelling a chlorine-like substance, but said the patients' symptoms and the large death toll pointed to a more noxious substance such as nerve agent sarin.[7] The attack was attributed to the Syrian Army by rebel forces in Douma, non-governmental aid and medical workers there, and by a number of countries, including the United States, most NATO members, and the European Union.[8][9] Syria and Russia's defense ministries stated that "the attack did not happen and video evidence for it was staged and directed by British intelligence".[10][11]

On 14 April 2018, the United States, France and the United Kingdom carried out a series of military strikes against multiple government sites in Syria.

On 6 July 2018 an interim report was issued by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Various chlorinate organic chemicals (dichloroacetic acid, trichloroacetic acid, chlorophenol, dichlorophenol, bornyl chloride, chloral hydrate etc.) were found in samples, along with residues of explosive, but the designated laboratory 03 stated that no CWC-scheduled chemicals or nerve agent related chemicals were detected. In September 2018 the UN Commission of Enquiry on Syria reported ; 'Throughout 7 April, numerous aerial attacks were carried out in Douma, striking various residential areas. A vast body of evidence collected by the Commission suggests that, at approximately 7.30 p.m., a gas cylinder containing a chlorine payload delivered by helicopter struck a multi-storey residential apartment building located approximately 100 metres south-west of Shohada square. The Commission received information on the death of at least 49 individuals, and the wounding of up to 650 others.'[12]

Background

The Syrian Arab Republic's forces have used chemical weapons many times before - according to Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and United Nations investigations.[13][14][15] Human Rights Watch has documented 85 chemical weapons attacks in Syria since 2013.[16] People reported incidents of chemical weapons use specifically in Douma in January 2018; Russia vetoed a potential United Nations mission to investigate.[17][18] The Arms Control Association reported two smaller chlorine gas attacks in Douma on 7 March and 11 March.[19]

Douma had been under rebel control since 18 October 2012,[20] and, with the rest of the Eastern Ghouta region, under siege since April 2013.[21] The Rif Dimashq offensive (February–April 2018), code-named Operation Damascus Steel, a military offensive launched by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies on 18 February 2018 to capture the rebel-held territory.[22][23] The Jaysh al-Islam rebel coalition controlled Douma.[24][25][26][25][26] By mid-March, rebel territory in Eastern Ghouta had reduced to three pockets, one in the south around Hamouria held by Faylaq al-Rahman; a second in the west around Harasta held by Ahrar al-Sham; as well as Douma in the north held by Jaysh al-Islam.[27] In the second half of March, the other two pockets were secured via evacuation deals between the rebels, Syria, and Russia.[28][29][30] On 31 March, the last of the evacuations was conducted and the Syrian army declared victory in Eastern Ghouta, while the rebels that were still holding out in Douma were given an ultimatum to surrender by the end of the day.[31]