Chemical attacks have been a staple war tactic of President Bashar Al-Assad and his foreign backers, since late 2012. Perhaps the most infamous case of chemical warfare in Syria to-date is the August 2013 chemical massacre in eastern Ghouta, where regime forces dropped a series of sarin bombs on civilian population centers and killed over 1000 people in the city.
Months earlier, in April 2013, the city of Saraqeb, east of Idlib, reportedly suffered a chemical attack at the hands of the Assad regime. Before that, in March 2013, the district of Khan Al-Asal in Aleppo was also targeted with chemical weapons—though, in standard fashion, pro-regime sources blamed the rebels.
These are only a few instances of over 160 cases in which chemical weapons have been deployed by the regime and its allies. According to a report by the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), these attacks have killed nearly 1500 and injured over 14,000 in total.
The most recent chemical attack happened on December 8, 2016, when On the Ground News released a video showing the alleged aftermath of a chlorine bomb attack in eastern Aleppo’s Firdous district.
In the video, a cloud of yellowish gas is clearly visible between two residential buildings. In order to protect his family, a man can be seen attempting to enter one of the buildings with his face tucked into his shirt, as he is urged by the cameraman not to go inside. Voices can also be heard yelling for those inside the buildings to go up to the roof, and close all doors.
Though no deaths or serious injuries seem to have resulted from this attack, chlorine bombs and other chemical agents have been frequently used against civilians in recent days, especially in eastern Aleppo. The most common symptoms resulting from these attacks include foaming blood at the mouth, feelings of suffocation and an inability to breath, and severe, disfiguring burns to the skin.
At least eighty Aleppans experienced some of these symptoms a few months ago, in September, when barrel bombs with poisonous gases—presumably chlorine—were indiscriminately dropped by regime forces on the city.
Despite limited medical supplies, chemical attacks were treatable in eastern Aleppo, until all hospitals were systematically targeted and destroyed by the regime and its allies in November. Now, with virtually no medical aid at their immediate disposal, besieged Syrians will have to find creative ways to deal with the effects of future chemical attacks.