Hama – The eastern suburbs of Hama in Syria were attacked with a chemical agent, causing massive suffering and death, many of the victims being children.
According to L’Union des Organisations de Secours et Soins Médicaux (UOSSM), which provides free medical aid to the people of Syria regardless of affiliation, at least 93 civilians who were resident of five different villages were killed, and more than 300 wounded.
The attacks happened about 6.30am on Monday Damascus time, amid heavy air strikes which lasted over an hour.
The organisation has reported from the ground that victims who were exposed to the odourless, colourless gas experienced symptoms including: dilated pupils, convulsions, extreme dry cough, bloody secretions, suffocation, nausea and vomiting.
The victims died very quickly and were foaming at the mouth and had no signs of physical injury.
Casualty numbers are high due to shortages of medical staff with chemical weapons response training.
The attacks coincided with a “Humanitarian Ultimatum” issued by President Francois Hollande of France, demanding the safety of 100 000 people fleeing Aleppo and for the safe passage of humanitarian aid to those in desperate need.
The statement came after a meeting with Dr Ziad Alissa, president of UOSSM France, Professor Raphael Pitti, board member of the UOSSM France, president of Medécins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) and president of Doctors of the World.
UOSSM issued a statement saying it is, “disgusted by the vulgarity of these attacks against children and civilians.
"We ask the OPCW (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) to fulfil its mandate and launch an investigation into this attack and hold perpetrators responsible for war crimes, in keeping with UN Security Council resolutions 2118 and 2209.”
At least 100 000 civilians in eastern Aleppo are confided to a very small area, under constant and relentless bombardment, with no access to medical or humanitarian aid.
Many are women and children. Hundreds require immediate medical attention and need to be evacuated.
Given the severe targeting of aid /health-care workers, the UOSSM has pleaded with the UN and World Health Organisation to use every power at their disposal to evacuate aid workers, NGO staff and their families from Aleppo, and has referred to the killing in Syria as genocidal.
“We cannot stand one more day of horrors. Every day a new sadistic action is taken against the people of Syria as the world looks on dumbly.
“Try and imagine the pain and suffering the people go through for every moment without peace,” said Dr Anas Al Kassem, chairman of UOSSM Canada, who is also a surgeon in Ontario.
Chlorine gas attacks were also reported in the Kallaseh neighbourhood of besieged Aleppo on Friday.
Victims at the medical facility reported symptoms consistent with the choking agent, chlorine gas.
The number of injuries and casualties is currently unconfirmed.
At the time, UOSSM representatives issued a statement saying, “Targeting civilians and medical facilities with chemical weapons is a war crime.
“We echo the sentiments of the UN General Assembly, where 122 countries demanded the immediate and complete end to all attacks on civilians, civilian objects, to all sieges throughout the country and to allow unconditional humanitarian access to those in need.”
Dr Kassem, has consistently warned that, “A whole city is being butchered before our eyes.
“The time is now to look past politics and focus on saving those on the brink of survival.
"We call on the UN and all responsible parties to act immediately.
“To let medical and humanitarian aid in and wounded victims who are in dire need of medical care out.”
Group Foreign Editor