Refugees International condemns the latest heinous chemical weapons attack on civilians in Syria’s Idlib province, as well as the follow-on airstrikes targeting hospitals where scores of victims were being treated. The alleged repeated use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime during the ongoing conflict is a violation of international law and a war crime, as is the targeting of civilian medical facilities.
The attack this morning was the deadliest involving chemical weapons in Syria since 2013, killing more than 70 men, women, and children and sickening dozens more. Witnesses reported that the deadly gas attack had been delivered by a Syrian government airstrike, which hit targets in Idlib province, a region held by Syrian rebel forces. Members of the White Helmets civil defense organization said at least 70 people died in the attack and 250 more were wounded. In addition, some of the rescuers, who were unaware of the chemicals present, reportedly suffered exposure to the poisonous substances.
“We condemn this despicable action and call for a full investigation by the United Nations. As the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria said today, the use of chemical weapons as well as any deliberate targeting of medical facilities amounts to war crimes and serious human rights law violations,” said Refugees International President Michel Gabaudan. “After six years of the Syrian war, the United States and the international community as a whole need to hold accountable those responsible for these attacks and finally establish a comprehensive plan for the protection of Syrian civilians. Today’s events have shown that the international response continues to be utterly rudderless and totally ineffective, while Assad, Russia, and Iran have taken over the wheelhouse. Assad’s alleged continued war crimes against his own people simply cannot stand.”
Governments including Great Britain, France, and the European Union have also condemned the attacks, and the United States issued a statement declaring the gas attack “reprehensible.” But beyond the usual condemnations, the international community must finally commit to true accountability for the Syrian regime and all actors responsible for severe human rights violations during this conflict.