Alleged Chemical Attack, November 24, 2018

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Sources

..In total 5-6 shells exploded in Al Khalidiyah, Nil Street and Jamayat al Zahra releasing toxic chemicals that affected more than 150 people according to Dr Zaher Batal who told me there are a number of cases still in intensive care. Fares Shehabi informed me that experts now suspect Amonium Nitrate was packed into the modified munitions.

https://twitter.com/ShehabiFares/status/1066437409854955520 Fares Shehabi MP ?URGENT: NATO backed terrorists just hit three neighborhoods in Aleppo with chemical weapons! 41 civilians are now in hospitals! These are real pic! No White Helmets actors are here..

The shells caused dozens of people breathing problems on Saturday night in Aleppo, while government shelling killed nine people in a village in Idlib, a monitoring group said.

State news agency SANA said on Sunday 107 people were injured in Aleppo after militants hit three districts with projectiles containing gases that caused choking.

It marks the highest such casualty toll in Aleppo since government forces and their allies clawed back the city from rebels nearly two years ago.

According to the information of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Center for Syrian reconciliation, at 21.50 on Saturday, terrorist groups located in the Idlib de-escalation zone fired 120-millimeter shells at the northwestern districts of Aleppo from the southeastern part of the demilitarized zone (near the village of Al-Buraykat, controlled by the militants of Hayat Tahrir Ash-Sham, former Nusra Front).
Russian military chemists arrived in the Syrian city of Aleppo, at which militants fired shells filled with poisonous agents on Saturday, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov told reporters on Sunday.
"Groups from the observation posts of the radiation, chemical and biological protection units with special equipment stationed in Syria arrived to the area of shelling urgently. They work with the injured taken to medical institutions, monitor the situation in the area where the militants used poisonous substances," Konashenkov said.
"According to preliminary confirmed data, in particular, by the symptoms of poisoned victims, the shells that were fired at residential areas of Aleppo had been filled with chlorine," the spokesman said.
(this reads more like they've gone there, and someone thinks the symptoms point to chlorine - not like chlorine was chemically confirmed or anything else ruled out)

"It is clear that the White Helmets are directly connected with terrorist organizations operating in Syria, and in particular, in the Idlib de-escalation zone," Konashenkov said, noting the Russian side had already reported on plans for such provocations, ostensibly based on their monitoring of the area.

-headache -common weakness -nausea and vomiting -itchy eyes.

24 November, 2018

Chief of Aleppo Police Major General Issam al-Shilli said in a statement that terrorist groups on Saturday evening targeted residential neighborhoods in Aleppo City with explosive rocket shells that contain toxic gases. … Director of Aleppo Health Directorate Ziad Haj Taha said that 50 civilians including children and women suffered from asphyxiation... Aleppo Governor Hussein Diab said that this attack reaffirms that the terrorist organizations possess toxic gases.


… the corrosive substances which they smelt, indicating that the medical teams are following up the required measures to treat them. … (Taha) indicated that the number of civilian casualties in the attack is not final and it is expected to rise, adding that the gas used by terrorists is more likely to be the chlorine gas due to the symptoms shown by the hospitalized civilians."

  • https://www.sana.sy/en/?p=151996 Foreign Ministry: Terrorist attack with toxic gases on Aleppo came due to facilitating terrorists’ access to chemical substances by some states

25 November، 2018

In letters sent to the UN Secretary-General, the Security Council’s President and the Director-General of the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the Ministry said… “On Nov. 24th 2018, armed terrorist groups attacked with toxic gases safe residential neighborhoods in Aleppo City as they targeted the neighborhoods of al-Khalidyia, al-Hamadanyia, al-Shahba, al-Neel Street and Jam’ayat al-Zahra in Aleppo City with tens of mortar shells filled with chlorine as 107 civilians suffered from suffocation and very dangerous cases of poisoning, mostly women, children and elderly people, in addition to the damages inflicted on the public and private properties in the targeted areas.”

Witnesses reported a smell of toxic gas after the projectiles hit, which was also confirmed by the Observatory. "There are often missiles on the city but this is the first time we smelled such a smell," a patient told state TV while at the hospital. A doctor told Syrian state TV that at least two people, including one child, were in critical condition. More than 100 people were treated for symptoms including breathing difficulties and blurred vision in Aleppo after rebels fired shells into two regions of the city, state media said.

  • SOHR www.syriahr.com/en/?p=107426&fbclid=IwAR1mzgNYm5Wpwmiorql1uC8-9Z4rAmCatqp_DSxRuf3OH10EOejb9B-pEW0

the Syrian Observatory monitored the number of these cases exceeded 94, including tens of children and women, where 31 cases were kept in the hospitals as they were subjected to complications and effects

“We can not know the kinds of gases but we suspected chlorine and treated patients on this basis because of the symptoms,” Zaher Batal, the head of the Aleppo Doctors Syndicate, told Reuters. Patients suffered difficulty breathing, eye inflammation, shivering and fainting, he said. Hospitals had discharged many people overnight.

During a meeting of the leaders of BRICS member states on the sideline of the G20 Buenos Aires summit on Friday, Putin said that militants in Syria continue to attack government forces’ positions, and the attack they carried out against Aleppo city on November 24 using toxic chemicals is a blatant violation.
“Tens of civilians including children were injured due to the attack… such terrorist crimes must not go unpunished, otherwise they will repeat them,” he said.
A source in nearby Idlib Countryside told (Arabic) Lebanese news channel Al-Mayadeen that the poisonous projectiles fired at the residential neighborhoods in Aleppo were manufactured and modified by French experts and handed over to Nusra Front, Turkistan Party, and Hurras-ul Din (Guardians of the Religion) terrorists.
Al-Mayadeen source from Idlib countryside noted that the command center in control fo the attack is located 3 kilometers from the Turkish borders and is supervised by 650 foreigners of different nationalities.

It's not clear how this source would know so much. As such, these claims are dubious.

Video

(note shaking hand near the video's end - suggestive of nerve agent, not chlorine)

Cases of suffocation reached Al-Razi Hospital as a result of falling missiles (toxic gas-filled) on the neighborhoods of Khalidiya, Al-Zahra Association and Nile Street in Aleppo...Civilians are still reaching several hospital in Aleppo, closest estimate is 50 injured, 14 of which are children...The continued influx of emergency cases to hospitals in Aleppo has exceeded 90 cases so far have been suffocated and poisoned by toxic gases launched by the Takfir factions on the neighborhoods of Aleppo.

Analysis

Current open source information indicates that some kind of event took place in north-west Aleppo city on the evening of the November 24 2018 which resulted in 50-100 people reporting respiratory symptoms. Multiple witnesses appear to agree that some kind of attack took place which resulted in these symptoms. Apart from washing the casualties, the treatments given in open source media appears consistent with previous reactions by hospitals in Aleppo to a suspected chemical weapon attack. Apparent oddities in the symptoms of the patients should be assessed by an impartial doctor before any conclusions are reached.
Fragments consistent with 120mm mortar bombs were found at the scene of the alleged attack, however this would be a very unusual weapon to deliver chlorine, and any 120mm mortar would be at the limit of its range if the “al-Buraykat” we have identified is indeed the launch site.
Above all, a thorough investigation should take place by the OPCW in order to establish the facts of the case, and if possible, assign responsibility for the attack.

Military Response

The Russian Ministry of Defence released aerial footage of airstrikes in the village of Khan Tuman in Syria’s Aleppo Governorate, on Sunday, that allegedly eliminated the mortar section which shelled Aleppo a day earlier.
Russian Sukhoi Su-24 jets reportedly delivered two aerial bombs to a location four kilometres away from Aleppo Governorate’s Khan Tuman village and destroyed the mortars there.
These women and children had nothing to do with the alleged chlorine attack on Aleppo but Syrian forces reportedly shelled a school in Idlib, killing them.

Denials

  • On The Ground News (Islamit opposition supporters)
    • https://twitter.com/OGNreports/status/1066582702437163013 The statement released by the National Liberation Front denying accusations that they targeted areas Aleppo with chlorine gas. They call for the regime to be held accountable for their past & current crimes carried out against innocent civilians.
    • https://twitter.com/OGNreports/status/1068399227091517440 "The military spokesman of Hayat Tahrir Sham denies any involvement in the alleged chemical attack in Aleppo..." In the video, the spokesman notes if they had wanted to gas civilians, they'd hit "Assad's people" (Alawites) on the coast, not a Sunni-majority district of Aleppo. He doesn't seem to consider what if they were launching a false-flag, or false-false-flag attack. The target to him proves Assad did it. Furthermore, he "claims their reconnaissance units witnessed the regime firing artillery on majority Sunni areas under regime control."

https://twitter.com/AlArabiya_Eng/status/1066935834484428800

  1. Iran’s militias were behind the chemical attack targeting #Aleppo, and they seek to abort the Sochi deal in #Syria's Idlib, the head of the High Negotiations Committee, Naser al-Hariri, told al-Hadath news channel.

Rebels around the city rejected Russian claims that they had fired shells filled with chlorine. Rebel commander Abdel-Salam Abdel-Razak, who once served in Syria's chemical weapons' program, said the militants did not have gas-based ammunition or the capability to launch gas-filled shells. "These are lies," Abdel-Razak tweeted in response to reports of a rebel gas attack.

https://www.algemeiner.com/2018/11/25/syria-russia-accuse-rebels-of-wounding-scores-in-aleppo-gas-attack/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter Abdel-Salam Abdel-Razak, an official from the Nour el-Din al-Zinki insurgent faction, said rebels did not own chemical weapons or have the capacity to produce them. “The criminal regime, under Russian instructions, is trying to accuse the rebels of using toxic substances in Aleppo. This is purely a lie,” he tweeted. Abu Omar, a Failaq al-Sham spokesman, accused Damascus of trying to create “a malicious charade” as a pretext to attack rebel towns.

Note a loud denier is a former CW program associate now with the extremist Noureddian Al-Zenki movement, the infamous child-beheaders and likely culprits of the Aleppo CW attack of August 2, 2016. He's been cited as early as December 2012 in an error-filled description of Assad's routine use of chemical weapons already at this time, and pleading for help in seizing them away.

Captain Abdul Salam Abdul Razaq, who defected from Syria’s chemical warfare unit, told A-Sharq Al-Awsat that sarin and mustard gas are the two nerve agents primarily used by the Syrian army in combat.
He said that since the colorless, odorless sarin gas evaporates within half an hour, the Syrian army uses it “before entering any area.” Abdul Razaq also pleaded for international assistance in taking control of chemical weapon sites, which he claimed defectors have accurate intelligence about.

Official statements

The United States is deeply concerned that pro-regime officials have maintained control of the attack site in its immediate aftermath, allowing them to potentially fabricate samples and contaminate the site before a proper investigation of it by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. We caution Russia and the regime against tampering with the suspected attack site and urge them to secure the safety of impartial, independent inspectors so that those responsible can be held accountable. "

A spokesman for the UK foreign office echoed the US denunciation. "We have seen nothing to support the claims made by Russia and Syria," the unnamed spokesperson said in a statement. "It is highly unlikely that the opposition was responsible." The UK posits that the attack was done as a means to frame the opposition "or an operation which went wrong and from which Russia and the regime sought to take advantage."


http://tass.com/world/1035060 https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/us-seeks-to-undermine-opcw-investigation-into-aleppo-chemical-weapons-attack/ https://southfront.org/russia-says-it-has-undeniable-evidence-that-militants-are-responsible-for-chemical-attack-on-aleppo/ On December 6, the Ministry of Defense of Russia slammed the U.S. State Department’s claims regarding the recent chemical attack on the Syrian city of Aleppo and said that Washington is trying to whitewash actions of terrorists in the governorate of Idlib. “The statement by the US State Department is nothing more than an attempt to whitewash the international terrorists operating in Idlib and associated with the White Helmets pseudo-rescuers, who have put their Western patrons in a bad spotlight with their provocation,” the Russian MoD said in an official statement. Russia also revealed that it has an “undeniable evidence” that the militants in Idlib shelled Aleppo with “munitions filled with toxic agents” on November 25. https://southfront.org/russia-says-it-has-undeniable-evidence-that-militants-are-responsible-for-chemical-attack-on-aleppo/ “The Russian Defense Ministry interprets the US State Department’s hysterical statement alleging that the November 24 chemical attack by terrorists in Aleppo was allegedly staged, as an attempt to exert pressure on the OPCW [Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons] in order to hinder an unbiased investigation,” the ministry said.

OPCW Investigation

  • Reuters, November 26 Fernando Arias, the OPCW’s new head, said the organization would investigate the allegations. “Once they have something concrete and credible that meets their standard of proof, they will be able to report publicly,” he said, and noted they had asked the UN Department of Safety and Security about that aspect, but were waiting on an answer. For context, the report notes "The panel has attributed 33 documented chemical attacks to the government since 2013, while the perpetrators of six others have not been sufficiently identified." Also "World Health Organization spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said the WHO had “received unconfirmed reports of patients arriving in health facilities in Aleppo with symptoms that may be consistent with exposure to chemical agents”. "

RT, Going Underground, Dec. 3: Aleppo MP Fares Shehabi is not sure why OPCW hasn't sent a team yet. They've been invited.

As no investigation and little or no news has yet emerged, nearly a month later, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has said: “One cannot help but have an impression that the probe [into the Aleppo incident] is being deliberately protracted by the OPCW Technical Secretariat, which is a deviation from its duties … There is a question if this is being done to appease the Western troika (the United States, the United Kingdom and France – TASS) which pursue their narrow geopolitical interests in Syria and which, prior to the investigation, had used military force more than once against that state, a member of the United Nations and the OPCW,” the diplomat said. “We proceed from the fact that a delay in deployment of the mission to Aleppo contradicts both the Chemical Weapons Convention requirements and common sense.”

  • EC-90/DG.4 12 21 December 2018 Original: ENGLISH NOTE BY THE DIRECTOR-GENERAL - PROGRESS IN THE ELIMINATION OF THE SYRIAN CHEMICAL WEAPONS PROGRAMME

https://www.opcw.org/sites/default/files/documents/2019/01/ec90dg4%28e%29.pdf

In response to a note verbale from the Syrian Arab Republic dated 28 November 2018, the Director-General deployed an advance team to Damascus from 4 to 6 December 2018 to collect information provided by the Syrian National Authority regarding an incident of alleged use of chemicals as a weapon in Aleppo on 24 November 2018. The aforementioned information is being analysed by the Secretariat. Since the alleged incident, the Director-General has been in regular contact with the Syrian National Authority.
In early December, an advanced team was deployed to Syria to collect further information. Since then, consultations with the Syrian authorities have been on-going. The OPCW Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) deployed in early January to further establish facts regarding the allegation. The FFM continues to independently collect and analyse information and will report its findings to States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention. All measures continue to be taken to ensure the safety and security of OPCW experts and personnel involved.

So the December visit was just an advance team, rushed in only two weeks after the event. A month later, they went back for more information. They may or may not have it all now. It's not clear yet whether or not they've been to Aleppo at all, or made two trips just to Damascus.