Alleged Chemical Attack, March 16, 2015
On the night of March 16, 2015, six members of a family, including three small children, were allegedly killed in a Syrian government poison gas attack in or near Sarmin (alt. Sermine, etc.), in Idlib province. The alleged chlorine gas attack reportedly effected dozens of other civilians and some rebel fighters, and eyewitnesses say the gas came from improvised "barrel bombs" dropped by the Syrian military from a helicopter. That aerial aspect is widely taken as proving the government, and not anyone on the other side, deployed chlorine - and it's presumed that in turn is just what killed the family, named as Taleb.
However, these allegations were leveled by media and medical activists of the anti-government camp, and passed on with little added and apparently with no questions - effectively laundered - by sources like Amnesty International  and Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF).  The newly-minted opposition activist "civil defense" aka "White Helmets" and groups like Avaaz used the incident for renewed calls and petitions for a "no-fly zone" over Syria. On April 17, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, would later show footage of the child victims to assembled diplomats, reducing them to tears, she claimed.  This came just a few days after Human Rights Watch weighed in with a report concluding "The Security Council... should take decisive action to stop the use of toxic chemicals as a method of warfare, including by establishing responsibility for the attacks and imposing an arms embargo on parties using such weapons." As an HRW officer said “The Syrian government appears to be thumbing its nose at the Security Council and international law yet again.”
One prominent activist swiftly informed John Kerry via twitter that his statement about having to negotiate with Assad (meaning Syria's government) in the end contributed to the death of the five children shown(but all being non-Taleb children, these reportedly didn't die).  The Kafranbel opposition, with its famous English banners held up by a crowd, made a similar case: "Kerry you encouraged Assad to transform both of your filthy breathing and ideas to chlorine and suffocated our children in Sarmine city."
However, the past research of the ACLOS community strongly urges greater skepticism and scrutiny of claims like this. In this case, members Pmr9 and Pierpont, with relevant experience/exprtise, conclude the symptoms seen with the Taleb children and grandmother are not consistent with chlorine poisoning. What is responsible is not as certain, but one fully consistent "best guess" is an overdose with a depressant drug (opiates, barbiturates, etc.). This would not likely be delivered from a "barrel bomb," but most likely by injection. (See below, or talk page, Correlating Symptoms for the moment)
A number of other important questions and inconsistencies have been explored on the talk page (and elsewhere) but still not (two years later, March 2017) here on the front page. This will now be slowly updated to reflect the severity of our thrashing to the activist story here, and its importance to the public.
Also, this event was the approximate first appearance of the now-infamous White Helmets, seen in videos from Sarmin on the night of the alleged attack, at the Sarmin field hospital where the Taleb babies died, and moving another baby to the same clinic the next day (see talk page). The two main videos of the Taleb children dying are filmed one by the new Idlib Civil Defense, and the other by the local Jabhat al-Nusra branch. Victims and patients at the hospital are seen with new custom-made blankets with the civil defense logo done in the gold-and-black colors of JaN in Sarmin.
The victims are said to be Waref Mohammad Taleb, his mother Ayoush Hassan Qaq, his wife Ala al-Jati, and their three children: Sara Taleb, A’isha Taleb, and Mohamad Taleb.  Nothing is independently known about them, or even if these are their true names. The baby Mohammed is of an unusual fair complexion; red hair and perhaps blue-gray eyes.
There is some conflict on just who they were and where they were from ... ... and how they died in their basement apartment ...
Symptoms Point Away From Chlorine
As explored in the correlating symptoms section of the talk page, ACLOS assess the crucial clinical features of the Taleb children, finding they do not at all resemble chlorine gassing symptoms. Instead, they display almost the opposite of the expected signs, which are more consistent with those of an opiate or CNS depressant overdose. When they should be conscious, red in the eyes and face, and coughing loudly, they're instead unresponsive, limp, pale, not coughing at all, and barely even breathing. At least one child (Mohamed) is alive and breathing but comatose at the start of the footage, while the girls could be comatose or dead the whole time.
Where the Rest Goes
(other sections and/or topics forthcoming/open to suggestions and actions on how):
Story Inconsistencies ...
The Hospital and its Director...
Attack Site Details...
Family Targeting Clues...
- Activists say 6 died in chlorine attack in northern Syria. By Mousab Alhamadee, McClatchy Foreign Staff, March 17, 2015
- Syria blamed for chemical weapons attack in 2015- BBC News, October 22, 2016
- Syrian government forces carried out a third chemical weapons attack last year, a confidential report to the UN Security Council has found. The leaked report says helicopters dropped barrel bombs holding chlorine gas, a prohibited weapon, on the north-west province of Idlib in March 2015. An earlier report by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) blamed the Syrian government for two other gas attacks in 2015. The government has not yet commented.
(They had already decided this attack and one in 2014 were the doing of the government. The one they've found new certainty on (previously less sure) is the same-day attack (March 16) in neighboring Qmenas.)
- The group's fourth report during a 13-month investigation sent to the U.N. Security Council late Friday shows there is “sufficient evidence” to confirm the government’s role in the March 16, 2015 strike on Qmenas in Idlib governorate.
- Amnesty International https://www.amnesty.org/en/articles/news/2015/03/syria-war-crime-chlorine-gas-attack/
- Syrian American Medical Society: Press Release: SAMS Hospital Treats over 70 Severely Injured from Chemical Attack in Sarmin, Idlib and Condemns Attack. For Immediate Release. March 17, 2015, Washington, DC.
- Center for Documentation of Violations in Syria: Flash Report Syria: Chemical Attacks on Idlib - Use of Chlorine Gas as a Weapon Results in Civilian Casualties PDF report, March 2015
- About Those Chlorine Gas Attacks in Syria: Humanitarians for War, part 2. By Rick Sterling, founding member of Syria Solidarity Movement (and ACLOS site member). Counterpunch, April 3, 2015.
- From the Engel/NBC Hoax to HRW’s Chlorine Gas Report - Biased Reporting on Syria in the Service of War Sterling, Counterpunch, April 20
- Syria: Evidence of a fresh war crime as chlorine gas attack kills entire family Amnesty International, 17 March, 2015
- Syria: Chlorine attack on Idlib village Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF), 18 March, 2015
- Syria war: 'Chlorine' attack video moves UN to tears BBC News, 17 April 2015
- Hadi Al Abdallah on twitter, March 16, 2015