The U.S., France and Britain are gearing up to launch a retaliatory strike against the Syrian regime for the August 21st “chemical substance” attack the Syrian government used against its own citizens. Hundreds of people were killed in the attack, which occurred in four suburbs of Damascus.
Reports said rockets with chemical agents hit the Damascus suburbs of Ain Tarma, Zamalka and Jobar during fierce pre-dawn bombardment by government forces. Figures compiled from medical clinics in Damascus put the death toll at 494 - 90 percent of them killed by gas, the rest by bombing and conventional arms. The rebel Syrian National Coalition said 650 people had been killed.
A nurse interviewed by Reuters news agency said many of the casualties were women and children and described how they looked, “They arrived with their pupils constricted, cold limbs and foam in their mouths. The doctors say these are typical symptoms of nerve gas victims.” Exposure to sarin gas causes pupils in the eyes to shrink to pinpoint sizes and foaming at the lips.
After the attacks, the Internet was flooded with amateur video and photographs, showing countless bodies, with victims choking, some of them foaming at the mouth, and no sign of outward injury.
Ironically, just three days prior to the attacks, U.N. chemical weapon inspectors had arrived in Syria. Syria is one of just a handful of countries that are not parties to the international treaty that bans chemical weapons. It is believed the country has caches of undeclared mustard gas, sarin and VX nerve agents.
The government of President Bashar al-Assad has stated it would never use poison gas - if they had it - against their own citizens. The U.S. and European allies believe Assad's forces have used small amounts of sarin gas in attacks in the past, which Washington called a "red line" that justified international military aid for the rebels. Assad’s government has accused opposition rebels of using chemical weapons; however the U.S. government doesn’t believe the rebels have access to these weapons.
The U.N. is asking for time to allow their chemical weapons investigators to confirm the attack was made by Assad’s government, predicting they may need another week or so of investigating. However, the U.S. and allies have indicated immediate action needs to be taken.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said yesterday that allowing "the use of chemical weapons on a significant scale to take place without a response would present a significant challenge to, threat to the United States' national security." And today, Britain will introduce a resolution to the U.N. Security Council "authorizing necessary measures to protect civilians" in Syria, citing Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which could include breaking diplomatic ties and economic sanctions, or action by air, sea or land forces.
Washington has said it will release further evidence that the Assad’s government was to blame. That means military strikes could begin with the U.N. chemical weapons inspectors still in Damascus. Warships armed with cruise missiles are filling the waters of the eastern Mediterranean Sea and senior White House officials say once ordered, the strike could be completed in "several days".
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