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Bio/Technological Hazard, CBRNE – Chemical Warfare Event (Nerve Agents): Syria


Published Date: 2017-04-04 21:44:05
Subject: PRO/AH/EDR> Chemical weapons – Syria (03): sarin gas
Archive Number: 20170404.4947953

Date: 4 Apr 2017
Source: BBC [edited]

At least 58 people have been killed and dozens wounded in a suspected chemical attack on a rebel-held town in northwestern Syria, a monitoring group says.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that strikes on Khan Sheikhoun by Syrian government or Russian jets had caused many people to choke.

Later, aircraft fired rockets at local clinics treating survivors, medics and activists said.

A Syrian military source denied the government had used any such weapons. Russia’s defense ministry, meanwhile, insisted it had not carried out any air strikes in the vicinity.

If confirmed, it would be one of the deadliest chemical attacks in Syria’s civil war.

The warplanes are reported to have attacked Khan Sheikhoun, about 50 km (30 miles) south of the city of Idlib, early on Tuesday [4 Apr 2017], when many people were asleep.

Hussein Kayal, a photographer for the pro-opposition Edlib Media Center (EMC), told the Associated Press that he was awoken by the sound of an explosion at about 6:30 AM Syrian time (03:30 GMT) [There are indications in other reports that it may have been an hour or more earlier than this time. – Mod.TG].

When he reached the scene, there was no smell, he said. He found people lying on the floor unable to move and with constricted pupils, he added [These are chemical signs of the nerve agent sarin – Mod.TG].

Mohammed Rasoul, the head of a charity ambulance service in Idlib, told the BBC that his medics had found people, many of them children, choking in the street.

The Syrian Observatory (SOHR) quoted medics as saying that they had been treating people with symptoms including fainting, vomiting and foaming at the mouth.

An AFP news agency journalist saw a young girl, a woman and 2 elderly people dead at a hospital, all with foam still visible around their mouths.

The journalist also reported that the same facility was hit by a rocket on Tuesday [4 Apr 2017] afternoon, bringing down rubble on top of doctors treating the injured.

The source of the projectile was not clear, but the EMC and the opposition Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC) network said warplanes had targeted several clinics.

Pro-government journalists later cited military sources as saying there had been an explosion at an al-Qaeda chemical weapons factory in Khan Sheikhoun that was caused either by an air strike or an accident.

The SOHR put the death toll at 58, including 11 children, but Mr Rasoul reported that 67 people had been killed and that 300 were injured [If there are 300 injured, then the death toll, unfortunately, could go higher. – Mod.TG].

The pro-opposition Step news agency, meanwhile, said 100 had died.

One aid agency, the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations (UOSSM), put the death toll at more than 100 and said that the figure was likely to rise.

The EMC said it had stopped counting the victims because there were so many.

It posted photos showing what appeared to be at least 7 dead children in the back of a pick-up truck. There were no visible traumatic injuries on their bodies.

The SOHR said it was unable to say what exactly was dropped [From the clinical signs mentioned thus far, it seems to point to one of the nerve agents. – Mod.TG].

However, the EMC and LCC said it was believed to be the nerve agent sarin, which is highly toxic and considered 20 times as deadly as cyanide.

Chemical weapons expert Dan Kaszeta said that determining whether sarin was involved simply by examining video clips is problematic [Photos may show pinpoint pupils, may show foaming at the mouth, and they may indicate there are no other wounds on the body. But photos cannot tell for sure whether a nerve agent is either sarin, soman, or some other nerve agent. – Mod.TG].

He added that Tuesday’s [4 Apr 2017] attack could have been the result of one of any number of chemical agents as they tend to “behave the same in terms of their physiological effects on the human body” [However, chlorine behaves somewhat differently, and reports coupled with the photos may help distinguish between these. – Mod.TG].

Sarin is almost impossible to detect because it is a clear, colourless and tasteless liquid that has no odor in its purest form.

The government was accused by Western powers of firing rockets filled with sarin at several rebel-held suburbs of the capital Damascus in August 2013, killing hundreds of people. President Bashar al-Assad denied the charge, blaming rebel fighters, but he did subsequently agree to destroy Syria’s chemical arsenal.

Despite that, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has continued to document the use of toxic chemicals in attacks in Syria.

In January 2016, it said blood samples taken from the victims of one unspecified attack showed victims had been exposed to sarin or a sarin-like substance.

Other reported use of chemical agents:
– A joint investigation with the UN concluded in October [2016?] that government forces had used chlorine as a weapon at least 3 times between 2014 and 2015.
– It also found Islamic State militants had used the blister agent sulphur mustard.
– Human Rights Watch also recently accused government helicopters of dropping bombs containing chlorine on rebel-held areas of Aleppo.

UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said it was an “horrific” attack and that there should be a “clear identification of responsibilities and accountability” for the attack on the rebel-held town.

French President Francois Hollande accused the Syrian regime of a “massacre. Once again, the Syrian regime will deny the evidence of its responsibility for this massacre,” Mr Hollande said in a statement.

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said that President Bashar al-Assad would be guilty of a war crime if it were proved his regime was responsible. “Bombing your own civilians with chemical weapons is unquestionably a war crime, and they must be held to account,” he said.

The UK and France, which said that reports suggested it was a “particularly serious chemical attack,” have called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.

There was no immediate comment from the government, but a Syrian military source told Reuters news agency that it “does not and has not” used chemical weapons.

The OPCW said it was “seriously concerned” about the alleged chemical attack, adding that it was “gathering and analysing information from all available sources.”

Communicated by:

Date: 4 Apr 2017
Source: Associated Press Hawaii News Now [edited]

Syrian opposition activists say an airstrike has hit a small field hospital in a town in northern Syria where a suspected chemical weapons attack took place earlier in the day.

The head of the opposition’s civil defense force in Khan Sheikhoun, in Idlib province, says the hospital was struck hours after the alleged gas attack that killed dozens of people.

A man who goes by the name of AH says the medical point has been leveled, and 5 rescue vehicles were damaged. It wasn’t clear if anyone was killed. He says warplanes “targeted us after the attack.”

A Syrian opposition monitoring group has raised the death toll in a suspected chemical attack in northern Idlib province to 58. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the dead include 11 children and says the toll is likely to climb further because of the large number of injured.

Syrian opposition activists have described Tuesday’s [4 Apr 2017] attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun as among the worst poison gas attacks in the country’s 6-year civil war.

The activists had no details on what agent could have been used in the assault. They claimed the attack was caused by an airstrike carried out either by the Syrian government or Russian warplanes.

There was no immediate comment by Syrian or Russian officials or any international agency on the attack.

Communicated by:


“What if it was the rebels (ISIS) own stockpile that was hit; better yet, who has the funding capacity to deliver the gas as well as the motive for using it?” Reasonably speaking, Assad would not necessarily benefit by doing this when he appears to be winning and gaining ground. Only the jihadists would seemingly benefit from the creation of this type of psychological warfare event.  — (Emphasis – this now happens to be an opposing narrative).

[In all likelihood, this was one of the nerve agents. People in the situation are strongly suspicious of sarin gas. Sarin is a nerve agent, and it is colorless and odorless. As a nerve agent, sarin would cause pinpoint pupils, one of the clinical signs mentioned in the article.

“Sarin gas (O-Isopropyl methylphosphonofluoridate), also called GB, is one of the most dangerous and toxic chemicals known. It belongs to a class of chemical weapons known as nerve agents, all of which are organophosphates. The G nerve agents, including tabun, sarin and soman, are all extremely toxic, but not very persistent in the environment. Pure sarin is a colorless and odorless gas, and since it is extremely volatile, and can spread quickly through the air. A lethal dose of sarin is about 0.5 milligrams; it is approximately 500 times more deadly than cyanide.”

“After exposure to sarin, symptoms begin within minutes. If a person survives for a few hours after exposure, he or she will likely recover from the poisoning. The 1st symptoms of sarin poisoning include a runny nose, blurred vision, pinpoint pupils, sweating, and muscle twitches. Longer exposures result in tightness of the chest, headache, cramps, nausea, vomiting, involuntary defecation and urination, convulsions, coma, and respiratory arrest.

Atropine acts as an antidote for nerve agents, including sarin. Atropine binds to one type of acetylcholine receptor on the post-synaptic nerve. A 2nd antidote is pralidoxime iodide (2-PAM), which blocks sarin from binding to any free acetyl-cholinesterase. Both should be administered as soon as possible following exposure to the toxin. Diazapam can also be used to prevent seizures and convulsions. Some soldiers fighting in regions where chemical weapons are likely to be deployed are now equipped with a Mark I antidote kit containing both atropine and 2-PAM.”

“How chlorine works:
The extent of poisoning caused by chlorine depends on the amount of chlorine a person is exposed to, how the person was exposed, and the length of time of the exposure. Chlorine may have a slight yellow-greenish cast, and it certainly is not without some odor. When chlorine gas comes into contact with moist tissues such as the eyes, throat, and lungs, an acid is produced that can damage these tissues.

Immediate signs and symptoms of chlorine exposure
– During or immediately after exposure to dangerous concentrations of chlorine, the following signs and symptoms may develop:
– Blurred vision
– Burning pain, redness, and blisters on the skin if exposed to gas. Skin injuries similar to frostbite can occur if it is exposed to liquid chlorine. Skin injuries are not mentioned in the article, but rather it is pointed out that there were no marks on the bodies of the deceased children.
– Burning sensation in the nose, throat, and eyes
– Coughing
– Chest tightness
– Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. These may appear immediately if high concentrations of chlorine gas are inhaled, or they may be delayed if low concentrations of chlorine gas are inhaled.
– Fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema) that may be delayed for a few hours
– Nausea and vomiting
– Watery eyes
– Wheezing

What the long-term health effects are:
Long-term complications may occur after breathing in high concentrations of chlorine. Complications are more likely to be seen in people who develop severe health problems such as fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema) following the initial exposure.”


While the article does mention coughing, chlorine is not the only agent to produce coughing. Furthermore, it is not usual for chlorine to produce this many deaths this quickly. And if chlorine were a component in the chemicals, it is likely there would have been a faint odor, yet no one has reported this. All things considered, it is more likely it is sarin. Sarin has been found in the conflict area and has been used in the past in this area. – Mod.TG

A HealthMap/ProMED-mail map can be accessed at:]

See Also

Chemical weapons – Syria (02): (HM) susp 20170403.4943211
Chemical weapons – Iraq: sulfur mustard, chlorine, 2016 20170317.4906773
Chemical weapons – Syria: chlorine, sarin gas, blistering agent 20170305.4880039

Chemical weapons – Iraq: sulfur mustard susp. 20160313.4090543

Chemical weapons – Syria (04): (HL) mustard gas, susp 20151107.3773595
Chemical weapons – Syria: (03) mustard gas, susp. 20150904.3625263
Chemical weapons – Syria: (02) mustard gas susp 20150826.3602420
Chemical weapons – Iraq, Syria: chlorine gas, confirmed use 20150718.3520170
Chemical weapons – Syria: chlorine gas, alleged use 20150620.3449320
Chemical weapons – Iraq: chlorine gas exp 20150313.3227032
Chemical weapons, sarin, mustard gas – Libya: controlled by ISIS 20150228.3199627

Chemical weapons – Iraq: chlorine gas 20141030.2913879
Chemical weapons – Syria (03): chlorine gas susp 20140525.2496768
Chemical weapons – Syria (02): increased stillbirths & congenital abnormalities 20140514.2472785
Chemical weapons – Syria: suspected attack, RFI 20140414.2402387
Chemical weapon destruction – Libya 20140216.2281640

Chemical weapons – Germany: (ST) WWII site, alert 20131026.2021211
Chemical weapons – Syria (09): U.N. report, sarin conf. 20130916.1948586
Chemical weapons – Syria (08): USA response 20130904.1917433
Chemical weapons – Syria (07) 20130825.1900325
Chemical weapons – Syria (06): suspect attack, RFI 20130821.1892712
Chemical weapons – Syria (05): sarin 20130615.1774393
Chemical weapons – Syria (04): sarin 20130606.1757059
Chemical weapons – Syria (03): sarin 20130605.1755498
Chemical weapons – Syria (02): investigation 20130321.1597374
Chemical weapons – Syria: claims of civilian losses 20130320.1595751

Chemical weapons – Syria: alert 20110825.2590

A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the International Society for Infectious Diseases

Background News:

Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist: Hillary Approved Sending Sarin Gas to Rebels to Frame Assad, Start Syrian War

UN policies on Chemical Weapons

Weapons of Mass Destruction…

Resolution 1540
Counter-Terrorism Strategy
CBW Use Investigations
Measures to Prevent Terrorists from Acquiring WMD
CWC Treaty and Status
OPCW site
1925 Geneva Protocol
Export Controls

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