Despite ongoing warnings from the United States and international communities, the Syrian government under Bashar Assad is still reportedly using chlorine bomb gas attacks in airstrikes against rebel groups, and consequently harming civilians there.
The United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria said Tuesday that there have been reports of gas attacks in two militant-held towns – Saraqeb in the Idlib Province, and Douma, northeast of Damascus.
The U.N. Syria Commission condemned the recent attacks – some reports say there have been at least six chlorine chemical attacks within the past 30 days.
“Over the last 48 hours, the scale and ferocity of attacks has increased dramatically resulting in multiple reports of civilian casualties & airstrikes that have reportedly hit at least three hospitals,” the Commission tweeted Tuesday.
We condemn the recent upsurge of violence in #Idlib and #EasternGhouta, #Syria. Over the last 48 hours, the scale and ferocity of attacks has increased dramatically resulting in multiple reports of civilian casualties & airstrikes that have reportedly hit at least three hospitals pic.twitter.com/OewK6oAzn6
— UN Syria Commission (@UNCoISyria) February 6, 2018
The Syrian American Medical Society said 11 people were treated for chlorine gas poisoning in hospitals in Idlib, and at least 28 civilians were killed during airstrikes that targeted areas near Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, Bloomberg reported.
This is not the first time the Syrian government is accused of using chemical attacks that have killed civilians.
In July, the Syrian army denied an accusation that more than 30 people were suffocated following a chemical attack in Ain Tarma, east of Damascus.
The Russian government, under President Vladimir Putin, backs the Assad regime in fighting rebel groups. The U.S. has backed rebel groups in Syria that are fighting the regime, as well as terror groups.
On Monday, Russia used a U.N. Security Council veto to block an investigation into the chemical attacks, something U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley says is an attempt to protect Assad. Russia has used a veto 11 times to do so since the Syrian civil war began in 2011.
“Russia has delayed the adoption of this statement, a simple condemnation of Syrian children being suffocated by chlorine gas,” Haley said. “This council has been outspoken on ending Syria’s use of chemical weapons, and yet, they continue.”
“We implore the international community to speak with one voice, taking every opportunity to publicly pressure the Assad regime, and its supporters, to cease its use of chemical weapons and hold those responsible accountable for these brutal attacks,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement. “By shielding the Syrian regime from accountability, Russia has not lived up to its commitments. The use of chemical weapons by all parties in Syria must unequivocally stop. The people of Syria are suffering; the rest of the world is watching.”
This apparent renewed use of chemical weapons is also on Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ radar, who on Friday subtly warned at a potential U.S. military response if Syria continues using chemical weapons – a violation of their chemical pact.
Senior U.S. officials said last week that Assad has secretly continued its chemical weapons program, even in light of the 2013 pact between the U.S. and Russia to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles.
The unrest in Syria stems from its civil war, since 2011, which Syrian President Bashar al-Assad fights with the country’s allies against the United States and various opposing forces, including rebel groups, which are fighting the Islamic State (ISIS).
Russia and Iran support Asaad, who is seen as having the advantage in the conflict.