The Syrian Civil Defense, also known as the White Helmets, has published several clips and pictures, showing the alleged aftermath of the chemical attack in the city of Douma in Eastern Ghouta. The volunteers have reported a widespread suffocation in the area, which led to 42 deaths; the footage, posted on Twitter, shows the alleged victims, including babies in diapers, breathing through oxygen masks.
However, the rescuers appeared to be so focused on accusing President Bashar al-Assad of dropping a chemical bomb on Douma that they forgot to put on gas masks or protective suits themselves.
Meanwhile, the Russian Reconciliation Center has spoken with doctors in Douma, who reported that they had not received any patients with sign of chemical poisoning. Neither did the Syrian Red Crescent Society.
The videos were published after several media outlets reported, citing militant sources, that the Syrian government forces had launched a chemical attack on Douma, while Jaysh al-Islam claimed that the army had dropped a chemical bomb on the city.
Both Syria and Russia have repeatedly warned of the forthcoming fabricated chemical attacks on Douma weeks prior to the alleged incident, saying that such disinformation campaigns are aimed at covering up terrorists and justifying military action. Responding to the claims, the Syrian government argued that such allegations were being made by terrorists to halt Syrian forces’ advances and insisted that Damascus did not need such measures to fight militants.
White Helmets’ Smear Campaign
The Russian Defense Ministry, for its part, has denied the allegations, insisting that several Western states and such NGOs as the infamous White Helmets have been carrying out a disinformation campaign to undermine the withdrawal of Jaysh al-Islam militants from the area.
“We strongly deny these claims and announce our readiness to send Russian experts in radiation, chemical and biological defense to Douma after its liberation from terrorists to gather evidence, which would prove that the allegations of the chemical weapons use were staged,” said Maj. Gen. Yuri Yevtushenko, commander of the reconciliation center.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has stressed that Moscow sought for a just investigation into the incident, and reiterated that Russian military specialists did not find any traces of a chemical attack at site. He has also recalled that last year the White Helmets also worked without any protective clothes at the alleged site of a sarin gas attack.
The United States has taken the reports seriously, with President Donald Trump saying that Russia, Iran and Syria are accountable for the chemical attack.
The State Department blamed it on Damascus, saying that a “history” of chemical weapons being used by the country’s authorities was “not in dispute,” without having confirmation that the footage was authentic.
“The United States calls on Russia to end this unmitigated support immediately and work with the international community to prevent further, barbaric chemical weapons attacks,” said State Department’s spokesperson Heather Nauert.
Earlier in the day, President Trump and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron had exchanged data allegedly confirming the use of chemical weapons in Douma, having decided to coordinate their actions and hold talks within the next 48 hours.
On April 8, nine out of fifteen members of the UN Security Council have called for an emergency meeting to discuss the recent reports.