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Syrian volunteers demand action to stop barrel bombs

Combat between Assad's army and IS fighters in Idlib, Syrie, on 28 March 2015.
Combat between Assad's army and IS fighters in Idlib, Syrie, on 28 March 2015. REUTERS/Mohamad Bayoush

While the United Nations Security Council has vowed to take action against those behind deadly chemical weapons in Syria, members of the Syrian Civil Defense volunteers tell RFI that the grim situation requires swift action.


“People are dying every day and Syria is being destroyed every day,” said Ola Suliman, the media coordinator for the May Day Rescue which trains volunteers with the Syrian Civil Defense, in a phone interview. “The last thing we want to wait for is an investigation leading to nothing. We don’t have time for that.”

The renewed call for action comes on the heels of testimony given by Syrian doctors on Thursday to the UN Security Council. The closed-door meeting included footage of doctors trying to resuscitate several young children suffering from an apparent chlorine gas bomb attack on 16 March  near the north-western town of Idlib.

Six people died that day, including the three young children.

In the weeks since a string of similar attacks have occurred in and around Idlib, raising questions over the ability of a UN Security Council resolution passed on 6 March condemning the use of chemical weapons to stave off attacks.

The US's ambassador to the UN Samantha Power described the meeting as very emotional, saying there was not a dry eye in the room.

Since hearing the first-hand accounts from Syrian doctors, Power has now said the council will seek to identify those behind the attacks and ensure that they are held accountable. Delegates have also called on the Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to launch a serious investigation.

The US, along with Britain and France, has accused the regime of President Bashar al-Assad of using chlorine gas against civilians. But Russia, an ally of Syria who holds veto powers in the council, says there is insufficient evidence to solely blame Damascus.

Dr Abiodun Williams, the president of the Hague Institute for Global Justice, told RFI that the video is critical in halting the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

“You have clear and tangible evidence of what has happened in Syria and the video shows the desperate attempts of doctors who are trying to revive the children so I think it is very important in focusing the council and giving evidence in the attack,” said Williams.

While this latest briefing could pave the way to action, doctors and volunteers on the ground say action must be taken now.

Zaher Sahloul, the President of the Syrian American Medical Society, told RFI that he heard of a new wave of patients coming for treatment for exposure to toxic agents soon after he gave his testimony in Thursday’s meeting.

On Thursday night two barrel bombs hit the city of Idlib, injuring 16 people, according to the Syrian Civil Defense.

Suliman stresses that this is not the first time barrel bombs have fallen on the city and that they have increased since the resolution passed in March.

Asked why, she says there are two possibilities that could explain this spike.

"First, the city of Idlib got out of the control of the regime and the second is that the regime is actually mocking the resolution by the Security Council," said Suliman.

And while other larger attacks have occurred in Syria before, she fears Idlib could be next if nothing happens.

“We’re afraid of a high-scale attack and we don’t want the answer to only be to take away all of the chlorine,” said Suliman. “It should be something that tells the world that such acts are not okay.”


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