Children died in ‘chlorine attack’ survivor claims

The scene of an alleged government air strike in Aleppo yesterday. Picture: Getty
The scene of an alleged government air strike in Aleppo yesterday. Picture: Getty
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MEMBERS of the UN Security Council were moved to tears as the first eyewitness to the latest suspected chlorine attacks on civilians in Syria emerged from the country to give a graphic account of dying children.

A Syrian doctor who treated victims from a half a dozen attacks over the past month, Mohamed Tennari, was helped out of the country by the United States, which arranged for the closed-door briefing.

He showed a video of a suspected chlorine attack on 16 March in his town of Sarmin in Idlib province, with images of three children, aged from one to three, dying despite attempts to resuscitate them.

The medical area was so cramped that one of the children was lying on top of their grandmother, who also died.

“Everyone smelled bleach-like odours” and heard the sound of helicopters, Mr Tennari told the Security Council members after showing the video. He said most of the victims had been women and children.

The US and other Security Council members have repeatedly blamed the Syrian government for such attacks, saying no one else in the grinding civil war has helicopters to deliver the toxic chemicals.

Yesterday, Mr Tennari met Russia’s UN delegation as the US and other council members try to persuade the Syrian government’s top ally to stop using its veto power against proposed action on the four-year conflict.

Another doctor at the briefing, Zaher Sahloul, who leads the Syrian American Medical Society, said: “These are humans who can be affected. Everyone agrees children should not be killed.”

He said he had visited the sites of a number of the recent attacks in Syria over the weekend.

Every country in the 15-member council brought up the need for accountability in the sometimes deadly attacks, except for Russia and allies China and Venezuela, Mr Sahloul said. He said every council member had been affected by the video and briefing, and “some of them cried”.

But turning that emotion into action that the council can agree on remains a challenge.

US ambassador Samantha Power said: “What we’ve done today is brought individuals who can testify to what happened, brought the facts to the council in as rapid and moving a way as we could do. And it is now, in our view, incumbent on the council to go further than we have been able to come to this point, to get past the old divisions.”

The council last month approved a resolution condemning the use of toxic chemicals in Syria and threatening action against any violations, but the UN’s most powerful body seems stuck because there is no way to formally assign blame for attacks.

Neither the UN nor the global chemical weapons watchdog, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, has a mandate to assign blame for the attacks.