About the Incident
On April 7, 2018, the city of Douma in Syria was the target of a chemical weapons attack. The city had been under siege by Syrian government forces for weeks prior to the attack and had already endured heavy shelling and bombing.
Reports indicated that chlorine gas bombs were dropped by helicopters on residential areas of Douma during the early morning hours, killing at least 42 people and injuring hundreds more.
The chemicals used in the attack are thought to have included chlorine gas as well as a sarin nerve agent. Witnesses reported seeing yellow smoke rising from rockets launched into civilian districts of Douma, with some victims suffering suffocation and convulsions after inhaling the toxic gases released by these rockets. Medical personnel attending to victims described symptoms such as foaming at the mouth and difficulty breathing, consistent with exposure to chemical agents.
An Official Statement by the UK Government
The following is a statement from James Cleverly, Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, United Kingdom, Antony Blinken, Secretary of State, United States of America, Catherine Colonna, Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs, France, and Annalena Baerbock, Federal Foreign Minister, Germany:
Today, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) released a report that found the Assad regime responsible for the deadly chemical weapons attack on Douma on April 7, 2018. The report refutes the Russian claim that it was an opposition attack.
The report concludes that there are reasonable grounds to believe that, around 19:30 local time on April 7, 2018, at least one Mi-8/17 helicopter of the Syrian Arab Air Force, departing from Dumayr airbase and operating under the control of the Tiger Forces, dropped two yellow cylinders which hit two residential buildings in a central area of the city releasing chlorine killing 43 named individuals and affecting dozens more.
This report marks the ninth instance of chemical weapons use independently attributed to the Assad regime by UN and OPCW mechanisms.
Our governments condemn in the strongest terms the Syrian regime’s repeated use of these horrific weapons and remain steadfast in our demands that the Assad regime immediately comply with its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and relevant UN Security Council resolutions. Syria must fully declare and destroy its chemical weapons program and allow the deployment of OPCW staff to its country to verify it has done so.
The report also points out that the OPCW’s Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) received credible information, corroborated through multiple sources, that Russian forces were co-located at Dumayr airbase alongside the Tiger Forces. The IIT also obtained information that, at the time of the attack, the airspace over Douma was exclusively controlled by the Syrian Arab Air Force and the Russian Aerospace Defence Forces.
We call on the Russian Federation to stop shielding Syria from accountability for its use of chemical weapons. No amount of disinformation from the Kremlin can hide its hand in abetting the Assad regime. In the aftermath of Syria’s chemical attack on April 7, 2018, Russian military police helped the Syrian regime obstruct OPCW access to the site of the attack and attempted to sanitize the site. Russian and Syrian troops also staged photographs later disseminated online in an attempt to support its fabricated narratives of this incident.
We commend the independent, unbiased, and expert work of the OPCW staff, and condemn the use of chemical weapons anywhere, by anyone, under any circumstances. We also reaffirm our commitment to hold accountable the perpetrators of all chemical weapons attacks in Syria and beyond.
The OPCW report has firmly established the Assad regime’s responsibility for the deadly chemical weapons attack on Douma in 2018. Our governments condemn this abhorrent use of chemical weapons and call upon Russia to stop shielding Syria from accountability.
We stand firm in our commitment to hold accountable those responsible for all instances of chemical attacks, and we commend the independent work of OPCW staff members who have worked hard to uncover these atrocities.
It is now up to us as a global community to ensure that justice is served by taking meaningful action against those guilty of using such inhuman methods of warfare. Only then can we prevent further civilian suffering and bring an end to this terrible conflict once and for all.
Sources: THX News, UK Government, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office & The Rt Hon James Cleverly MP.