"Last night, I was targeted by poisonous gases and I was suffocated. Then, when I woke up I couldn’t find my family and I cannot find till now," said Admed Adul Fadel Rozana's correspondent in Douma who was severely injured on the eve of the chemical weapons attack in the city and who was left unconsciousness for more than 12 hours.
In this investigative report we question and investigate the narratives which have been put forward by Russia Today TV channel, the Syrian regime media outlet, and the British journalist Robert Fisk to deny the use of internationally banned chemical weapons on that day.
"It was really the apocalypse. The ceaseless bombing lasted for 36 hours," said Tariq al-Shamy, one of the civilians who were in the city of Douma and whom we met in Idlib few days after he left Rif-Dimashq to get his testimony about what he had witnessed on that night. Tareq said that he got into the medical point located near the bombarded area shortly after the attack. He added that "when I entered the medical point, there was a large number of casualties, 50 lifeless victims were in front of me, and about 500 were all wounded there."
Tariq al-Shamy’s testimony, depicting what he had witnessed on the night of chemical weapons bombing in the city of Douma
"My cousin has been injured because of barrel bombs, we tried to take him to the nearest medical point, and a few minutes later we heard civil defence staff and paramedics talking about a chemical attack. An influx of injured people started to arrive successively to the medical point," said Shady al-Abdullah, one of the displaced people who has recently arrived in Idlib. He also said that the number of victims was so great that those civilians who were inside the medical point rushed to help the rescuers in dealing with the victims who were suffering from suffocation due to the inhalation of toxic gases.
Shady al-Abdullah's testimony, depicting what he had witnessed at medical point no. (1) in Douma on the night of the chemical attack.
Doctors who were present in the field at the time of the bombing confirmed to Rozana that the attack has been carried out using chemical gases. They pointed out that chlorine was one of these gases.
"The symptoms that I observed were much more severe than the symptoms of the previous attack on the town of al-Shifonya. The gases reaching indoor places such as shelters and basements, where residents were staying, immensely contributed to increasing the number of victims," said one of the doctors belonging to the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), in an exclusive statement to Rozana. (SAMS) is one of most prominent medical association operating in rebel-held areas in Rif Dimashq.
Full interview with one of SAMS’ doctors
The doctor spoke about the condition of a young patient whom he himself treated saying: "He suffered from convulsions, and then an inhibition of the Nervous Influx and breath, followed by a bloody cough before his pupils dilate and died later." He pointed out in a clear way that the patient has been exposed to toxic gases.
The spokesman for SAMS Foundation, Bashir Abu Bassam, stated yesterday that the foundation documented at least 8 attacks which targeted Ghouta in 2018 with chlorine gas. He added that "there were certain signs that the attack was always carried out using chlorine gas, accompanied with another gas which is likely to be sarin."
SAMS media liaison confirmed the physical symptoms of the victims of the bombing which have been mentioned by the field doctor: "The symptoms were severe condensed blue spots, lack of breath, rasping sounds in the chest, pinch circles, severe redness with burns in the cornea, and a foam discharge from the mouth, indicating that the latter was an evidence of the presence of sarin gas."
Rozana’s correspondents team in the city of Douma was present on the day of the bombing and have given their field testimonies. Rozana’s correspondent Siraj al-Shami confirmed that “the aircraft which holds the symbol of DECA 427, that targeted the city with poisonous gas according to the aviation observatories, took off at the dawn of April 7, from Al-Dumayr Military Airport and headed towards the city of Douma in Eastern Ghouta, where it targeted the center of the city of Douma near medical point No. 1 at 9 p.m., killing more than seventy civilians, according to the Civil Defense Observatory in the city.
One of Rozana's correspondents, Ahmed Abu Fadel, was nearly asphyxiated at the evening of the bombing, which caused him to lose consciousness for more than 12 hours. "Yesterday I was shot and suffocated. I woke up later and could not find my family," Ahmed said, describing his health condition.
US media institutions quoted sources as saying that using urine and blood samples of the attack survivors, it was confirmed that chemical weapons have been in fact used. The World Health Organization (WHO) said its partners on the ground have treated 500 affected people who showed signs of exposure to poisonous gas.
Fake or under-pressure testimonies?
The Syrian American Medical Society Foundation (SAMS) denied the testimony of the Syrian doctor Assem Rahbani, which British journalist Robert Fisk used, and on which he based his hypothesis that suggested that the Syrian regime has not used chemical weapons in Ghouta. SAMS also said that doctor Assem Rahbani was in the hospital on the day of the incident.
The testimonies of unnamed persons, including a doctor, interviewed by Russia-24 TV channel, have been compatible with the hypothesis of British journalist Robert Fisk which suggested that: "Heavy bombings and wind caused a dust storm and that the citizen’s suffocation was due to heavy dust, not because of the use of poisonous gases. "
A doctor interviewed by the same TV channel said that he had treated the injured citizens of Douma who came to the hospital. According to him, they had not been subjected to poisonous gas attacks but to "fire smoke, the dust of buildings and cement."
SAMS denied the statements of Marwan Jaber who was presented by Reuters news agency as a doctor. The Foundation also said he was neither a doctor nor a member of the emergency staff in the city of Douma, and that he is rather a second-year medical student at Aleppo Free University. He also was not in the hospital on Friday and Saturday 6 and 7 April.
“None of the patients that night did suffer from the chemical weapons bombardment, but they were suffocated by the dust and smoke in the bombing,” Marwan Jaber told Reuters news agency during a tour of reporters in the area after the chemical attack.
Russia Today has published interviews with two young men, Muwafaq al-Nasreen and Khalil al-Jish, and said that they were working at the medical center on the night of the bombing in the city of Douma, where they denied receiving injuries caused by the use of chemical weapons.
To the right, a second year medical student at the ex-University of Damascus, Khalil al-Jish, and a doctor who appeared on Russia-24 channel, whose name was not revealed, and finally, Muwafaq al-Nasreen a nurse who works within the medical center in Douma.
We have followed the two young men who appeared in the video on Russia Today and confirmed their identity. The first one was Muwafaq al-Nasreen. He was born in 1994 and works as a nurse at the medical center in Douma in the care and hospitalization department.
The second young man is called "Khalil al-Jish". He is 27 years old. He is a second-year medical student at Damascus university. He completed his studies at Free Aleppo University, eastern Ghouta Branch and has been working in the medical field for 5 years as a medical assistant in the Department of Ambulance, Care and Hospitalization. According to non-governmental sources, both enjoyed a good reputation.
Rozana's correspondent in Douma said that the two young men currently live inside Damascus after they left Douma and were able to move freely inside the capital. This raises doubts about the possibility of obtaining objective testimony by persons under the authority of the Syrian regime, especially that dozens of Syrian detainees have previously given false testimony under torture and psychological pressure practiced by the Syrian intelligence, according the International Justice Organization and Human Rights Watch reports.
In an exclusive interview with Rozana, Syrian journalist Shiar Khalil Khalil said that the Syrian regime had forced him to make certain confessions. When he was arrested a few years ago, Syrian intelligence forced him to appear on a Syrian governmental television Alikhbaria program to testify against "militants and terrorist groups" for beating civilians and stealing their property.
"I was taken to the Criminal Security Branch in Damascus and under beatings and torture, I was forced to appear on "Al Ain Al Sahera" (watchdog) in the Syrian Alikhbaria program, which shows confessions of looting, theft and terrorism according to the regime," said Khalil, who was arrested between 2013 and 2015.
He added: "The cameras were brought from Syrian television, and they recorded the confessions on a large board where the lieutenant, Muayad al-Musuti, told me and noted that he was photographed several times until they got the information they wanted.
Syria chemical attack is a worldwide concern
There is a media war between Washington and Moscow. It got so serious that the Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson intervened and addressed the Security Council representatives and discredited them.
The United States of America announced a military strike which targeted military sites and targets of the Syrian regime, after the use of chemical gas in the city of Douma bombing, the seventh of April, followed by a Western military strike which targeted the sites and objectives of the Syrian regime, which sparked international condemnation.
There was an international condemnation of the attack, and international parties held the Syrian regime responsible for the attack, where a report of the French intelligence, which included a technical analysis of the gas attacks allegations in Syria, revealed last Saturday that the Syrian regime was involved in a chemical attack in Douma on Saturday (April 7th).
According to a survey report published by "Billingcat", the chemical attack happened on 7th of April. Analysis and evaluation of information from open sources on the Internet, including a video published by Baladi News Network, that shows a Gas Cylinder, led Billingcat's team to that conclusion.
The report concluded that a large Gas cylinder, similar types were used in previous chlorine attacks, was found on the roof of a building, which registered the largest number of deaths (main image), and aircraft monitors were able to follow up two helicopters of the regime, before the attack.
The Syrian regime and Russia denied that they were responsible for the attack, while Russia thwarted last week the passing of two draft resolutions in the Security Council related to the investigation into the identity and accountability of the attacker. It also delayed the arrival of an inspection team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to Douma, and used “security issues” as justification for that.
The Syrian Network for Human Rights documented the cases when the Syrian regime used chemical weapons during attacks on different parts of the country, which reached 211 times, from 2012 until mid-February 2018.
On August 21, 2013, more than 1,500 civilians were killed and hundreds were injured following a chemical attack by the Syrian regime on areas in Eastern Ghouta. The town of Khan Shaykhun in Idlib was similarly attacked by sarin gas in April 2017; hundreds were killed and injured, and the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons subsequently declared responsibility of the Syrian regime.
The full interview with Ahmad Al-Dibssi from UOSSM