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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Videos Show Aftermath of Possible Syrian Chemical Attack in March

As my colleague Mark Landler reports, the White House said on Thursday that United States intelligence agencies believe with “varying degrees of confidence” that Syria has used chemical weapons against its own people in recent months as President Bashar al-Assad has sought to put down a violent uprising against his family’s four decades in power.

The disclosure was made in a letter from the White House to Congressional leaders. The United States has called the use of chemical weapons in Syria a “red line” that could provoke military intervention, but officials said on Thursday that they would need “credible and corroborated facts” before deciding on a course of action.

United States officials said they believed that the chemical agent sarin had been used and that the culprit was probably the Assad regime and not rebel forces, but they would not specify the dates or locations of the suspected chemical attacks. Britain has been less reticent. In a letter to the United Nations last month requesting a formal investigation, it cited three suspected attacks: two on March 19 in a village west of Aleppo and on the outskirts of Damascus, and one on Dec. 24 in Homs.

Multiple videos posted online by Syrian citizen journalists claim to show the aftermath of chemical attacks in Ateibeh, a village outside Damascus, on March 19, one of the dates cited in Britain’s letter to the United Nations.

Three videos posted to YouTube on March 19 by an account associated with rebels in the Eastern Ghouta region outside Damascus show men being treated in a clinic for injuries they say were sustained during a government attack on Ateibeh that involved chemical weapons.

The first video shows two men: one who lies quietly on a clinic bed, writhing, with an IV tube in his arm, and a second who sits in front of him, describing the attack. The hiss of an oxygen tank can be heard in the background.

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This video claims to show victims injured in a chemical attack in a village outside Damascus.

“Missiles came and they exploded, and they discharged something like water, but it was dark. It emitted a very foul smell,” says the second man, who does not identify himself. “There are still a lot of people in their homes.”

The cameraman asks if someone brought them to the clinic, and the man replies, “Yes, there is no shortage of good people.” The cameraman then says the date â€" March 19, 2013 â€" and pans across the room to show two other injured people lying on beds in the clinic.

A second video begins with close-up footage of the same injured men shown at the end of the first video. One young man lies still, the skin on his face ashen and mottled.

This video claims to show two victims of a chemical attack in a village outside Damascus.

“A new massacre of civilians has been committed in the town of Ateibeh during a chemical strike on the town,” the cameraman says. He then pans across the room to show two more men, one lying on a clinic bed and another, in camouflage pants, breathing through an oxygen mask.

“March 19, 2013,” the cameraman says. “A chemical strike on the town of Ateibeh in Eastern Ghouta.”

The camera continues to pan across the room, and the two men from the first video become visible again. Someone standing off-camera asks the seated man from the first video if many people were injured in the attack, and he begins to answer before the video ends.

“There were no injured, my brother,” the seated man says. “The missiles would fall and spread something like liquid.”

A third video posted by the same YouTube account on March 19 claims to show another person injured by a chemical agent in Ateibeh.

This video claims to show a young man injured by chemical weapons in a village outside Damascus.

The injured person in this video is a young man in a green hooded sweatshirt. He wheezes heavily as someone sticks a thin suction tube in his mouth, up his nose and down his throat. His eyes appear cloudy and vacant, and there is mucus smeared on his cheeks. The cameraman describes him as “injured by a chemical strike in the town of Ateibeh on March 19, 2013.”

This video shows an interview with a doctor at a clinic outside Damascus who treated patients he said were injured by a chemical agent.

A fourth video that claims to be posted from Ateibeh on March 19 shows an interview with a man dressed in medical scrubs, a surgical mask and surgical cap, whom the cameraman identifies as a doctor. He stands next to an unconscious man connected to an IV tube and wearing an oxygen mask. The cameraman repeats the date and asks the doctor a series of questions about his patients.

“We have with us one of the doctors who deal with the victims of indiscriminate shelling on the town of Ateibeh with toxic substances whose composition is unknown,” the cameraman says. “Doctor, please, can you tell us about the symptoms that are caused by this shelling? What are the possibilities of verifying the substances being dropped on this area?”

“Unfortunately, most cases we’re getting are deaths,” the doctor says. “The cases we’re getting that are still alive are exhibiting asphyxiation, spasms, slow heart rate, very low blood pressure. Truth be told, it is probably the material organic phosphate.”

“Doctor, what are the substances or drugs you are giving to those patients to revive them or save their lives?” the cameraman asks.

“We are using salt serums and we’re giving them atropine,” the doctor says. “Atropine is for when the heart slows down. We keep giving them atropine until they seem to react. Unfortunately, we rarely get a reaction.”

“Doctor, what do you ask the world to do in the wake of this shelling? What is the response?” the cameraman asks. “Or what kind of substances can we provide for people, antidotes to those chemicals?”

The doctor responds:

Unfortunately, if the world doesn’t want to stand by us militarily or doesn’t want to help us, the least they can do is send up a few atropine ampoules. We, to be honest, when we get a patient we can use up to 15 atropine ampoules in one hour. And we desperately need atropine. And there is a drug called Obidoxime. If they can provide us with Obidoxime, we don’t want anything else from them, neither weapons nor support. We just want them to help the patients we have here â€" the patients here that we are losing day after day. They’re all civilians and all children. What are they guilty of, those people? They just want medicine. We don’t want relief efforts. If you’re not capable of just sending us medicine, you will be held accountable by God.