Syrian rebels claim Assad used chemical weapons, over 1000 dead

posted at 8:41 am on August 21, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

A Syrian human-rights group claims over 1000 deaths from an artillery attack on suburban Damascus from Bashar al-Assad’s army, and claims that poison gas was part of the attack.  France has called for a UN investigation, while the Syrian government denies using any such weapons:

France’s president demanded the United Nations be granted access to the site of Wednesday’s alleged attack, while Britain’s foreign secretary said if the claims are verified it would mark “a shocking escalation of the use of chemical weapons in Syria.”

The heavy shelling early Wednesday pounded the capital’s eastern suburbs of Zamalka, Arbeen and Ein Tarma, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group. The intensive bombardment as well as the sound of fighter jets could be heard by residents of the Syrian capital throughout the night and early Wednesday, and gray smoke hung over towns in the eastern suburbs.

Observatory director Rami Abdul-Rahman said the activists in the area said “poisonous gas” was fired in rockets as well as from the air in the attack. He added that he has documented at least 100 deaths, but said it was no clear whether the victims died from shelling or toxic gas.

CBS has more, with the claims rising to 1,000 or more:

The Syrian opposition said Wednesday that state security forces had launched intense artillery and rocket barrages on the eastern suburbs of the capital Damascus, claiming that hundreds of people died in what was being called a “poisonous gas” attack.

George Sabra, deputy head of the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition, said at a news conference that 1,300 people were killed as shells rained down on the capital’s eastern suburbs of Douma, Jobar, Zamalka, Arbeen and Ein Tarma.

The opposition Local Coordination Committees said hundreds of people were killed or injured in the shelling, and a nurse at a health center in Douma put the death toll at 213.

The Associated Press offers one reason for skepticism:

A 20-member U.N. chemical weapons team is currently in Syria to investigate three sites where chemical weapons attacks allegedly occurred over the past year. Their presence raises questions about why the regime — which called the claims of the attack Wednesday “absolutely baseless” — would employ chemical agents at this time.

There are other reasons for skepticism, too.  Syrian rebels have been trying to get the US and the West to intervene on their behalf for two years, without much success thanks to their affiliation with al-Qaeda. The only way that the US will make that kind of intervention will be to prevent or punish the use of WMDs, which actually didn’t work earlier this year.  The US has talked about funding the rebels and may or may not be providing training to the more-respectable secular elements within their ranks, but nothing more tangible has been produced so far.  Another claim of a chemical-weapons attack will put pressure on Barack Obama and the West to enter into the fray.

The US isn’t saying much yet:

A senior U.S. administration official said the United States had no official confirmation that chemical weapons were used in recent attacks in Syria.

“If true, it would be further evidence of unconscionable brutality by a desperate man and a desperate regime,” the official said, referring the Assad government.

On the other hand, videos taken of the dead and wounded point to something other than a conventional attack. CNN provided an update for viewers earlier this morning, and notes the high casualty rates and the lack of external injuries as reasons to suspect that the rebels may be right:

Jeff Dunetz notes that the Arab League has now demanded an investigation, and has more raw video (Note: these images are disturbing):

If the UN determines that Assad used chemical weapons on the suburb of his own capital, should the US intervene?  Jeff says yes — but only to take out the chemical weapons stores:

Overall the US has no dog in this hunt. It is a battle between the Syrian Govt. which is a Russian satellite, and the rebels who are mostly controlled by al Qaeda. However if weapons of Mass destruction are used the US (and the world) may legitimately look for a way to disarm/destroy those weapons so they cannot be used again.  America’s only  fundamental interest is those chemical weapons and making sure they don’t fall into the hands of the rebel forces who work for al Qaeda, the al-Nusra Front.

Ted Cruz said the same thing earlier this summer, but that’s easier said than done. We’d need a rather large footprint to seek out and destroy those weapons, and we’d probably be taking fire from both sides while doing it. If we want to do a more robust intervention, then we’d better be prepared to put a lot of boots on the ground for the long haul.  Who’s up for another Iraq?


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All muslims lie. It’s what they do to push their garbage religion. They would also kill their own children and blame it on their enemy if they thought it would help islam. Let them keep killing each other.

Flange on August 21, 2013 at 8:45 AM

The question may not be whether a chemical agent was used, but rather, who used it. Is it totally impossible that Syrian rebels haven’t taken over a base that had chemical weapons? Or gotten some on their own?

Zaggs on August 21, 2013 at 8:45 AM

We’d need a rather large footprint to seek out and destroy those weapons, and we’d probably be taking fire from both sides while doing it. If we want to do a more robust intervention, then we’d better be prepared to put a lot of boots on the ground for the long haul. Who’s up for another Iraq?

If we want to keep those weapons out of the hands of the rebels, we don’t need a footprint at all. Just support Assad. Yes, he’s a murderous tyrant. He’s also the lesser of the two evils in Syria.

AngusMc on August 21, 2013 at 8:47 AM

By any chance would these be the WMD’s that the Bush administration said that Saddam Hussein moved into Syria ahead of inspections? You know the made-up, non existant, WMD’s?

BettyRuth on August 21, 2013 at 8:47 AM

obama and hillary will send another sternly worded memo.

crash72 on August 21, 2013 at 8:47 AM

Smart Power!

*sips coffee*

BigGator5 on August 21, 2013 at 8:48 AM

Retaliation for foreign-trained fighters entering Syria from Jordan. That’s a game changer and Assad knows it.

Aplombed on August 21, 2013 at 8:48 AM

Why would Assad risk using it now when he clearly has the upper hand and the US is staying on the sidelines? I wouldn’t put it past the ‘rebels’ to use this as a way of gaining our support, weapons, money etc. etc. etc.

AmeriCuda on August 21, 2013 at 8:49 AM

Red line, what red line.

wheelgun on August 21, 2013 at 8:50 AM

Yeah great, a screencap showing a guy displaying a dead baby to the camera, thanks for that; I think I’ll pour a few fingers of whiskey into the coffee.

Right about now Dog Eater is saying “Ixnay on the hemicalcay eaponsway”, the last thing he wants is to be asked any difficult questions about his tough guy red line.

Bishop on August 21, 2013 at 8:51 AM

Hooray for Pallywood!

NotCoach on August 21, 2013 at 8:54 AM

I remain skeptical.

If Assad really is using chemical weapons he’s not getting much bang for his buck. The argument against chemical weapons is that they are so deadly. But here we see just a few bodies allegedly killed by poison gas. Assad could achieve the same effect with machine guns or bombs.

I believe the rebels are cold-blooded and ruthless enough to gas a few of their own people so they can blame Assad. Or just fake a few deaths/injuries from poison gas.

I see no compelling reason for US involvement.

myiq2xu on August 21, 2013 at 8:54 AM

More camera time for John McCain to demand the U.S. act first and ask questions later.

jon1979 on August 21, 2013 at 8:56 AM

…or here?

NotCoach on August 21, 2013 at 8:56 AM

“A senior U.S. administration official said the United States had no official confirmation that chemical weapons were used in recent attacks in Syria.”

Parse that puppy real careful like…it is dip-speak for “yeah, they did it but there is not much if anything we can do about it at this stage of the game.”

Culda sworn John F. Kerry had already settled that whole Syrian thing…and that Israel/Palestinian thing…nothing says peace like Heinz ketchup on yer falafel…

What with the chaos in Yemen, Libya, Tunisia tumblin’ down, again, Cairo a major mess, a disaster, really, Sudan and South Sudan going at it, still, those much-publicized Israel-Palestine peace talks going nowhere, fast, on our dime, (not a peep lately about them, wonder why?) and this Syria thing, you’d think that a foreign policy expert such as John Kerry could make short work of it.

Oh?

Yeah, you’re right.

That word…work…JFK does not do work.

But, do try the ketchup on the falafel…to die for.

coldwarrior on August 21, 2013 at 8:57 AM

Egypt is hogging their publicity and chemicals are the line in the sand that Obama has laid out there. Obama might want to stop advertising his bench marks since these folks won’t hesitate to test him so we can all watch him fold.

Cindy Munford on August 21, 2013 at 8:58 AM

McCain heard about this and got a sudden hankering for liver and onions.

Bishop on August 21, 2013 at 8:58 AM

I can more easily believe that the terrorists (alleged Syrian rebels) created the attack themselves as propaganda. They’ve done all sorts of these things before in order to gain the images they need to further their agenda.

These people have no regard for human life, not even the lives of their supporters if it will help further their own cause. In Lebanon, the blew up one of their own ambulances to make a staged scene trying to blame Israeli warplanes for attacking medical sites.

If any chemicals were used, I would first say they were chlorine or older stolen weapons used by the rebels themselves, and NOT from the Syrian government. The videos do not support an attack by the alleged weapons (Sarin) that Assad is said to possess. A Sarin gas attack would be far more reaching and not be leaving ANY survivors in the area.

Let them all fight it out among themselves. We have no business being there. We have no national interests that are served by intervention in Syria, or in Egypt. Let them kill each other off. Heck, if it’s such a big problem, then why aren’t the other arab states intervening?

TKindred on August 21, 2013 at 8:58 AM

On a serious note I trust no stories at all out of Syria. The Pallywood method has been adopted by the entire region, and nothing reported from there can be taken at face value. It’s unfortunate, but if chemical weapons were used we will have to wait for awhile to find out for sure.

NotCoach on August 21, 2013 at 8:58 AM

Obama war

Yeah Hillary is going to love this

cmsinaz on August 21, 2013 at 8:59 AM

I seem to recall evidence the rebels used chemical weapons themselves, as well as most of the evidence being (charitably) exaggerations. I’ll put it this way, if a Syrian rebel told me the sky was blue, I’d go outside to check.

Steve Eggleston on August 21, 2013 at 9:00 AM

I’m glad to see that my stash is being put to good use.
@ZombieSaddamHussein

ted c on August 21, 2013 at 9:00 AM

A Syrian human-rights group claims over 1000 deaths from an artillery attack on suburban Damascus from Bashar al-Assad’s army

Isn’t that just like kids. One of the Arab Spring children is getting all the attention this week so another decides to act up just so they get noticed.

Happy Nomad on August 21, 2013 at 9:00 AM

sarc of course

ted c on August 21, 2013 at 9:01 AM

Cindy Munford on August 21, 2013 at 8:58 AM

Remember, always, Obama is that President who has said in public many times, “Do not call my bluff.”

They have.

He folded.

They know it.

coldwarrior on August 21, 2013 at 9:03 AM

It’s a good thing Bambi won that Nobel Peace Prize.

Otherwise Assad would be shaking in his boots!

Cause they only give out that prize to people who don’t believe in using to force to secure peace.

Lance Murdock on August 21, 2013 at 9:05 AM

Not to sound cold blooded, but if less than 100 were killed I would be skeptical of this claim.
However, claiming over 1,000 deaths and being able to document that number sheds a different light on the claim.

Difficult to fake a number like that.

Jabberwock on August 21, 2013 at 9:06 AM

Question: wouldn’t chlorine gas affect eyes, as well as lungs?

OldEnglish on August 21, 2013 at 9:06 AM

In Egypt we are supporting the military coup that isn’t a coup against those supporting the legally elected government that we hailed when it deposed a dictator we had supported for years.

In Syria we are supporting the rebels affiliated with Al Qaeda against the dictator we’ve left alone for years.

Who the hell knows who we support in Lybia (and the CIA isn’t talking).

I can not recall a time when foreign policy was so muddled.

Happy Nomad on August 21, 2013 at 9:07 AM

Isn’t that just like kids. One of the Arab Spring children is getting all the attention this week so another decides to act up just so they get noticed.

Happy Nomad on August 21, 2013 at 9:00 AM

Sounds like American liberal groups. When the envirowhackos get a lot of attention, some anti-Second group issues a ‘press release’.

I can’t see much reason for Assad to use chemicals. Gas is an area weapon, mainly useful to repel a huge mass attack or dislodge a main defensive force when outnumbered six or seven to one. It’s like an act of desperation, when all other measures failed or are likely to. Given the political ramifications, I can’t imagine Assad being stupid enough to go penny-ante.

Liam on August 21, 2013 at 9:07 AM

Of course somebody used chemical weapons.Do you think they care what the rest of the world thinks?

docflash on August 21, 2013 at 9:08 AM

Another claim of a chemical-weapons attack will put pressure on Barack Obama and the West to enter into the fray.

Why? Why should the US feel the need to intervene when there are no good choices?

Happy Nomad on August 21, 2013 at 9:10 AM

I can’t see much reason for Assad to use chemicals. Gas is an area weapon, mainly useful to repel a huge mass attack or dislodge a main defensive force when outnumbered six or seven to one. It’s like an act of desperation, when all other measures failed or are likely to. Given the political ramifications, I can’t imagine Assad being stupid enough to go penny-ante.

Liam on August 21, 2013 at 9:07 AM

Good points. I suspect that this is more press release than it is an actual atrocity. Sorta like the way American weapons only seem to hit hospitals, orphanages, and wedding parties (according to the reporting afterward).

Happy Nomad on August 21, 2013 at 9:13 AM

“France’s president demanded the United Nations be granted access to the site of Wednesday’s alleged attack”…

What the hell is France going to do about it? Stop sending them croissants???

patman77 on August 21, 2013 at 9:13 AM

If the UN determines that Assad used chemical weapons on the suburb of his own capital, should the US intervene?

Then it means Assad is in desperate straights.

If Syrians use up all the chemical weapons on each other, I’m going back to my coffee and paper.

rbj on August 21, 2013 at 9:15 AM

They know it.

coldwarrior on August 21, 2013 at 9:03 AM

The question is, does he know it or care. It has always been his goal to diminish the US, I just wondered how he would handle his own belittlement in the process. Maybe he isn’t the narcissist we thought. At any rate, I don’t see an upside for the U.S. in all of this.

Cindy Munford on August 21, 2013 at 9:17 AM

What the hell is France going to do about it? Stop sending them croissants???

patman77 on August 21, 2013 at 9:13 AM

My guess is that France would send it their chemical weapons salesmen to see if Assad needs to restock.

Flange on August 21, 2013 at 9:17 AM

Dont care — let the savages destroy each other.

Jeddite on August 21, 2013 at 9:21 AM

Ummm…. the 400 SAMS taken from Benghazi and were headed for Syria… ??

/Just askin.

Key West Reader on August 21, 2013 at 9:22 AM

If it is really 1000+ dead, then this might be the real deal. Otherwise it is just smack talk by the Rebels.

Johnnyreb on August 21, 2013 at 9:23 AM

If the UN determines that Assad used chemical weapons on the suburb of his own capital, should the US intervene? Jeff says yes — but only to take out the chemical weapons stores:

Can the UN be trusted? I say no.

Besides, if Assad wins those chemical weapons still won’t be falling into the hands of AQ-supported ‘rebels’. Only if they take over, and if the US is worried about that gas falling into the wrong hands, should we take action to destroy them. That would be in legitimate American national interest.

Liam on August 21, 2013 at 9:24 AM

Sorry to say, but that is some of the least convincing footage I’ve ever seen, on a par with some of the Palliwood offerings. That said, the tragic infant being waved about did seem lifeless, but that hardly proves the gas assertion, versus blast injury from the shelling. And to judge from several video’s, how is it that this gas apparently only affects slender young males?

People are dying in Syria, and that will include women and children – no one is contesting that. But this hardly makes a case for proving the use of gas agents.

bofh on August 21, 2013 at 9:27 AM

Maybe they are just dying to get Obamacare?

coldwarrior on August 21, 2013 at 9:30 AM

Yes, he’s a murderous tyrant. He’s also the lesser of the two evils in Syria.

AngusMc on August 21, 2013 at 8:47 AM

Well in that case perhaps we should just start shooting at both sides. Be simpler if anyone carrying a weapon suddenly became a target.

Oldnuke on August 21, 2013 at 9:39 AM

coldwarrior on August 21, 2013 at 8:57 AM

Any guesses on how long before the whole region goes up in smoke.

Oldnuke on August 21, 2013 at 9:43 AM

Oldnuke on August 21, 2013 at 9:43 AM

Depends on how committed the money guys (the Gulf, Saudi Arabia) really are.

We no longer count for much out there.

On its present path?

Lots of variables.

Before the end of Obama’s current term.

Iraq goes down first.

Then Syria…and not in a good way.

Then open season. Real old time “death to the infidels” stuff.

Look to China to be the peacemaker.

Look for a China-Russia coalition becoming the guarantor of “stability” in the region.

As Quasimodo famously said, “This is just a hunch.”

coldwarrior on August 21, 2013 at 9:51 AM

Guess they found Saddam Hussein’s hidden stash..

albill on August 21, 2013 at 10:08 AM

Seriously, Ed? That last video has “Pallywood” written all over it.

GWB on August 21, 2013 at 10:12 AM

W‘s WMD’s?

Then Obama can blame this on him!

If Bush hadn’t invaded Iraq, Saddam would not have moved his WMD’s to Syria!”

profitsbeard on August 21, 2013 at 10:30 AM

Yeah, right. Assad decides to attack with chemical weapons just as a UN-team is in the country, so the West can go to war with him.

Much more likely the “rebels” have gotten their hands on something really ugly and are trying to get the stupid infidels to do their work for them, remove Assad, en usher in another sharia-paradise.

Let’s see if the nitwit in the White House takes the bait. Usually he falls all over himself to help the fundamentalists…

Antivenin on August 21, 2013 at 10:31 AM

STAY OUT OF IT!

GarandFan on August 21, 2013 at 10:34 AM

Question: wouldn’t chlorine gas affect eyes, as well as lungs?

OldEnglish on August 21, 2013 at 9:06 AM

Who said they were using chlorine? Chlorine gas is toxic, but not nearly as effective as a weapon as many of the neurotoxins used in modern chemical weapons, and it is less toxic than phosgene, which was already used as a weapon in World War I.

Besides, the UN would have a hard time going after the Assad regime for using chlorine, since it has so many legitimate uses, such as disinfecting swimming pools or making bleach.

Steve Z on August 21, 2013 at 10:38 AM

One Syrian wild one claims this. That’s it. It ain’t making it so, and is NO reason for the US to get involved.

Syria and the ‘Arab Spring’ are all owned by obama/Hillary. They started this and own it all the way.

Middle Ages burned as many churches in Egypt and made the Christian pop. be 10% from 50%. obama to speak on this in 3, 2, 1…nahhhh.

Schadenfreude on August 21, 2013 at 10:55 AM

OldEnglish on August 21, 2013 at 9:06 AM

Chlorine, while easy to produce is a bit more dangerous to transport in that environment…not the best roads and all…compressed chlorine goes boom easily. Seeps, too…

Dusty mustard, or maybe a Teflon-based agent, would serve the same purpose, and not be so readily identifiable as would Tabun or Sarin…how many Teflon pots and pans factories are there in the region? Easy access to Fullers Earth…as common as dirt out there…blend it with any toxin…poof…no fancy equipment required.

coldwarrior on August 21, 2013 at 11:01 AM

W‘s WMD’s?

Then Obama can blame this on him!

“If Bush hadn’t invaded Iraq, Saddam would not have moved his WMD’s to Syria!”

profitsbeard on August 21, 2013 at 10:30 AM

“Mission Accomplished!”

Del Dolemonte on August 21, 2013 at 11:12 AM

If Google can let people look into my back yard, and if the government can track my every key stroke and transaction, phone call and email, why cannot technology confirm that 1000 people may have me killed in Syria? Of course it can be confirmed – so why isn’t the government telling us what happened. Simple – they would have to act if they did and they are content in let people be slaughtered.

12th Legion on August 21, 2013 at 11:15 AM

Why? Why should the US Barry feel the need to intervene when there are no good choices?

Happy Nomad on August 21, 2013 at 9:10 AM

It ain’t up to US, its up to Barry and his enablers. He’ll find a suitable choice for his purpose should the time come to act.

hawkeye54 on August 21, 2013 at 11:23 AM

If he used chemical weapons why would anyone be surprised? He a muslim dictator for cryin’ out loud! If he could wave his hand, cause the deaths of all his enemies and retain his grip on power, he would do it.

“a shocking escalation of the use of chemical weapons in Syria.”

The EU leaders live in a shocking state of denial and stupidity. Reminds me of ours.

dogsoldier on August 21, 2013 at 11:31 AM

hawkeye54 on August 21, 2013 at 11:23 AM

Only if he can benefit from it politically.

dogsoldier on August 21, 2013 at 11:31 AM

Jihadi rebels haven’t been able to defeat Assad conventionally or to get Western nations to do their dirty work for them. As others have said upthread, don’t put it past Obama and McCain’s buddies to conduct a false-flag operation using chemical weapons, then point the finger at Assad, and finally demand the West overthrow him.

They see the reversals going on in Egypt and are resorting to more desperate measures, just like their Muslim Brotherhood allies.

Christien on August 21, 2013 at 11:47 AM

TKindred on August 21, 2013 at 12:07 PM

Did nopt know that…thank you for providing it.

One small tank truck of chlorine, one small barrel of uric acid or a few buckets of human urine…makes a wonderful lethal combination…and no explosives required.

As for Pallywood…a lot of these “wounded” and “killed” guys and children have a habit of reprising their roles later and in other locations. Akhmed plays a dead guy this week, next week, he gets to play a stretcher bearer or ambulance driver…that sort of thing.

Might be an interesting way to further debunk this particular “event.”

coldwarrior on August 21, 2013 at 12:24 PM

Red line, ERASED!

madmonkphotog on August 21, 2013 at 12:32 PM

Pure propaganda.

From CNN.

That last video was as fake as it gets. Abhorrent to to take a dead child and use her like that but that is just how evil Islam is. This is an obviously staged video.

Steveangell on August 21, 2013 at 1:48 PM

Steveangell on August 21, 2013 at 1:48 PM

You can purchase lifelike infant dolls on Ebay, among other sources.

But, being jihadi muzzies…they’ll go for the real ones.

coldwarrior on August 21, 2013 at 2:14 PM

if the Assad regime hits a rebel site that contains chemical weapons and exposed the locals to chemical weapons does that constitute the regime of using chemical weapons??

RonK on August 21, 2013 at 3:12 PM

RonK on August 21, 2013 at 3:12 PM

In the ObamaKerryHillaryRicePowerJarrett world…yes, I suppose it would.

For, the logic would go, if Assad’s forces had not fired upon the innocent jihadis there would have been no exposure to said chemicals. Thus, we may conclude it is Assad’sfault.

Sorta like that constant Bush meme…if Bush hadn’t had breakfast one morning in 2003, there would be no war in whatever country-de-jour the lefties are discussing.

coldwarrior on August 21, 2013 at 4:12 PM

Who gives a chit! One well placed nuclear bomb in the Mideast by Israel would solve the whole problem.

they lie on August 21, 2013 at 4:46 PM

Exactly one year earlier, on August 21, 2012, Obama told reporters, “We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.”

Whether Obama will do nothing and claim that the chemical attack did not meet his “bunch of” threshold is not known.

Colony14 on August 21, 2013 at 10:16 PM