After shocking reports of a helicopter dropping a barrel bomb filled with chemicals on the Syrian rebel-held city of Douma late on Saturday, dozens of condemnations have been made, denouncing the attack and calling for it to be investigated.
The attack in Douma in eastern Ghouta killed at least 40 people and injured hundreds, according to the White Helmets, officially known as the Syria Civil Defence, a voluntary rescue group.
“The evidence points toward yet another chemical attack by the regime,” said Maja Kocijancic, spokesperson for European Union foreign affairs and security policy. “Almost a year to the day of the horrific attacks in Khan Sheikhoun, it is a matter of grave concern that chemical weapons continue to be used, especially on civilians.”
“It is a matter of grave concern that chemical weapons continue to be used, especially on civilians,” the EU said in a statement. “The European Union condemns in the strongest terms the use of chemical weapons and calls for an immediate response by the international community.”
Similarly, US President Donald Trump described the attack as “sick” and blamed his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, as well as Iran, for supporting the regime of Bashar Al-Assad
Trump warned of a “big price” that will be paid.
Despite this, the Syrian government, Iran, and Russia have vocally denied involvement in Saturday’s attack, and accused rebels in Douma of fabricating the chemical assault, describing the manoeuvres as “propaganda” and a “hoax” to sabotage the deal to end fighting in Douma and evacuate civilians as well as Jaish Al-Islam rebels and their families.
“Entire families in shelters gassed to death in Douma, hiding in their cellars, suffocated from the poisonous gas bringing the initial death toll to more than 40,” the White Helmets said.
The Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations (UOSSM), meanwhile, said that the death toll was expected to rise to “well over 100.” The UOSSM also reported that the attack injured over 500.
Turkey also condemned the attack. A statement from Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said there was “strong suspicion” the Assad regime was responsible for it.
Pope Francis on Sunday joined the international censure: “nothing, nothing can justify the use of such devices of extermination against defenceless people and populations,” the pope told thousands of people gathered in St Peter’s Square.
Saudi Arabia called on the international community to “shoulder its responsibility toward protecting civilians in Syria,” according to Turkey’s Anadolu Agency, citing the official Saudi Press Agency.
Al-Azhar, the biggest Sunni establishment in the world, also denounced the attack, calling upon the international community to intervene and “save Syrian blood.”
As the condemnations poured and as the UN readies to meet to discuss the attack, missiles targeted the Syrian government’s T-4 air base which lies between Homs and Palmyra.
Russia and Syria accused Israel of staging the attack. Russia’s Defence Ministry said two Israeli aircraft targeted the T-4 air base in Homs province, firing eight missiles.