Civilian Casualties in Barrel Bomb Attacks on 3 Towns
May 13, 2014
Syria’s apparent use of chlorine gas as a weapon – not to mention targeting of civilians – is a plain violation of international law. This is one more reason for the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.
Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East and North Africa director

(New York) – Evidence strongly suggests that Syrian government helicopters dropped barrel bombs embedded with cylinders of chlorine gas on three towns in Northern Syria in mid-April 2014, Human Rights Watch said today. These attacks used an industrial chemical as a weapon, an act banned by the international treaty prohibiting chemical weapons that Syria joined in October 2013. The Syrian government is the only party to the conflict with helicopters and other aircraft.

On April 29, the director-general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) announced  a new mission to establish facts surrounding allegations of use of chlorine in Syria. The group said the Syrian government has agreed to accept this mission and to provide security in areas under its control.

“Syria’s apparent use of chlorine gas as a weapon – not to mention targeting of civilians – is a plain violation of international law,” said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “This is one more reason for the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.”

Human Rights Watch interviews with 10 witnesses, including five medical personnel, video footage of the attacks, and photographs of the remnants strongly suggest that government forces dropped barrel bombs containing embedded chlorine gas cylinders in attacks from April 11 to 21 on three towns in northwestern Syria. Witnesses told Human Rights Watch they saw a helicopter dropping a barrel bomb or heard a helicopter immediately prior to an explosion, followed immediately by a peculiar odor.  The witnesses consistently described the clinical signs and symptoms of exposure to a choking agent (also known as a lung or pulmonary agent) by victims.

According to doctors who treated the victims and subsequently spoke to Human Rights Watch, these attacks killed at least 11 people and resulted in symptoms consistent with exposure to chlorine in nearly 500 other people.  The attacks documented by Human Rights Watch are: 

  • On Keferzita, a town northwest of the city of Hama in the Hama governorate, on April 11 and 18 that killed  2 people and affected an estimated 200 people,  5 of them seriously,  according to a local doctor;
  • On al-Teman’a, a small town north of the city of Hama in Idlib governorate on April 13 and 18 that killed at least 6 and affected approximately 150 people, according to a member of the medical team in the field hospital and a second witness; and
  • On Telmans, a town southeast of the city of Idlib in Idlib governorate, on April 21 that killed 3 people and affected an estimated 133, according to a volunteer at the local field hospital.

Telmans is 3 kilometers east of the government-controlled military base at Wadi al-Deif and 11 kilometers from al-Hamid, areas that witnesses described as the nearest front lines. Al-Teman’a is 7 kilometers from Khan Sheikhoun, which witnesses said is the nearest front line; Keferzita is 10 kilometers from Khan Sheikhoun.  In an attack on Keferzita on April 11, a witness stated that fighters from an armed non-state armed group occupied a position 500 meters outside of town.

Video evidence and information published by local activists also suggest that barrel bombs with chlorine were used in Keferzita on April 12. Human Rights Watch was not able to corroborate these reports with witness accounts.

Seven of 10 people interviewed by Human Rights Watch reported smelling a distinct odor in the area targeted by the barrel bombs. They remarked that this odor was familiar and similar to that of common household cleaners. The witnesses are likely referring to bleach-containing cleaners, which comprise several chlorine-containing compounds, mainly hypochlorous acid. When chlorine gas dissolves in water, including water vapor in the air and water in the mucous membranes in the nose, hypochlorous acid is formed in large amounts.  The report of an odor similar to that of household cleaners is consistent with the presence of chlorine gas.

Several interviewees reported that the odor lingered for several hours. Although chlorine gas itself is not persistent, these accounts are consistent with the persistence in the environment of hypochlorite compounds formed from the chlorine gas when it mixes with vapor in the air and mucous membranes in the nose.

Half of the people interviewed by Human Rights Watch reported that the explosion of the barrel bombs produced “yellow smoke” or “dark yellowish smoke” in addition to the usual smoke from bomb explosions. A video shot on the western edge of Keferzita and uploaded to YouTube on April 11 shows the near vertical descent and detonation of an unidentified munition fully consistent with a barrel bomb dropped by helicopter. Several seconds after the explosion, a distinct yellow patch (see photo 4 below) forms at the base of a large cloud of dust and debris drifting to the east. Pure chlorine is a pale yellowish green in color. Such reports of an unusual “yellow smoke” at the attack site are consistent with the release of chlorine gas from the rupture of industrial compressed gas cylinders.

 

All the medical personnel interviewed reported seeing clinical signs and symptoms of exposure to chlorine immediately after the barrel bomb explosions. Mild exposure causes reddening and itchiness of the eyes and difficulty seeing. More severe exposure leads to breathing difficulties and complaints of shortness of breath. Even higher levels of exposure can lead to vomiting, severe respiratory distress, uncontrollable coughing, and even suffocation, as the chemical injuries inflicted by the hydrochloric and hypochlorous acids produced from the dissolution of chlorine in the pulmonary airways result in severe buildup of fluid in the lungs. Interviewees reported seeing victims suffering from all three levels of exposure.

Keith B. Ward, an expert on the detection and effects of chemical warfare agents, reviewed the clinical signs and symptoms witnesses described to Human Rights Watch and the videos associated with the attacks. Ward said that the interviews and videos strongly support the conclusion that the attacks described involved the use of chlorine gas, most likely from the rupture of commercial compressed gas cylinders of chlorine.

Videos of barrel bomb remnants found after the attacks on Keferzita on April 11 and 18 and the attack on Telmans on April 21 show yellow cylinders or canisters together with remnants of barrel bombs. The canisters contain markings with the code “CL2” – the symbol for chlorine gas – and “NORINCO,” indicating that the cylinders were manufactured in China by the state-owned company NORINCO. Yellow is the standard industrial gas color code for chlorine.

In one case, a video purportedly filmed in Keferzita on April 18 and uploaded the same day shows men dismantling an apparently intact barrel bomb containing a red-and-yellow gas cylinder and an apparent triggering mechanism inside it. The narrator says the barrel was used in an attack involving the use of a chemical. The man whose voice is heard in the video identifies the chemical as chlorine. These remnants are also shown in photographs provided to Human Rights Watch of the remnants at Keferzeita taken by an international journalist on May 5, more than two weeks after the attacks (see photos 5 through 8 above). Human Rights Watch cannot independently confirm if this particular barrel bomb was used in the attack and whether the red-and-yellow gas cylinder contained chlorine.

Human Rights Watch cannot independently confirm that the chlorine gas cylinders caught on film in all cases were embedded in the barrel bombs that were dropped from helicopters. But the fact that witnesses and doctors spoke of symptoms consistent with exposure to chlorine immediately after helicopters dropped barrel bombs on five dates in three towns makes it unlikely that the footage of these attacks was staged or that the chlorine gas cylinders were added after the fact to the barrel bombs.

Improvised barrel bombs documented by Human Rights Watch are typically constructed from large oil drums, various types of metal cylinders, and water tanks filled with explosives and scrap metal to enhance fragmentation, which are then dropped from a helicopter.  The heat from the explosion of the barrel bomb would destroy much of the chlorine and any remaining gas would be dispersed in the air by the explosion so the concentration of chlorine would quickly drop to non-lethal levels.

Yet the smell of chlorine and its reactants is very distinctive and those subjected to even low levels of exposure have obvious signs of respiratory distress for some time. It would therefore appear that the purpose of adding chlorine gas to barrel bombs is to instill fear that a poison or toxic gas has been used, Human Rights Watch said.

While chlorine is a common industrial chemical, its use as a weapon is banned by the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits the use of toxic properties of chemicals to kill or injure. The convention’s definition of a chemical weapon encompasses “toxic chemicals” that are: “Any chemical which through its chemical action on life processes can cause death, temporary incapacitation or permanent harm to humans or animals. This includes all such chemicals, regardless of their origin or of their method of production, and regardless of whether they are produced in facilities, in munitions or elsewhere.”

Since Syria became the 190th state party to the Chemical Weapons Convention on October 14, 2013, the convention applies to all actors in Syria under any circumstances. In addition, all states parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention, including the government of Syria, should be acting to prevent and suppress any activity prohibited by the convention, including the use of chemicals as weapons.

Syria has declared some 1,300 metric tons of chemical substances and precursors, of which 86.5 percent had been removed from Syria for destruction as of April 22, according to the OPCW. A US Department of State spokesperson stated that chlorine was not among the priority one or two chemicals that Syria declared to the chemical weapon organization in its chemical weapons stockpile.

Syria’s government has accused terrorists of possessing chlorine gas and has blamed them for the attacks on Keferzita. While media reports suggest that the armed group Jabhat al-Nusra has access to chlorine gas, all the available evidence indicates that the attacks were conducted from helicopters, which only the government has. In April 2013, Time magazine reported that fighters from Jabhat al-Nusra had in August 2012 captured the only facility in Syria capable of producing chlorine gas, 30 kilometers from Aleppo. It was reported that approximately 400 containers, each with one ton of chlorine inside, were stored at the facility. 

Given the Syrian government’s ongoing violations of international norms, including its apparent failure to comply with its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention, the UN Security Council should impose an arms embargo on Syria’s government, as well as on any groups implicated in widespread or systematic human rights abuses. Such an embargo would limit the Syrian government’s ability to conduct aerial attacks that violate international law, including by ensuring that Syria does not receive new helicopters nor have its current helicopters serviced overseas. The Security Council should also impose a travel ban and an asset freeze on individuals credibly implicated in grave abuses, and refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court, Human Rights Watch said.

“As long as the Security Council fails to penalize Syria for its flagrant violations of the Chemical Weapons Convention, these inherently indiscriminate and egregious attacks will continue,” Houry said. “The international community urgently needs to take firm collective action if it is to prevent and suppress further violations.” 

Keferzita attacks
Human Rights Watch interviewed four witnesses of two barrel bomb attacks on Keferzita on April 11, 2014, that killed two civilians and wounded an estimated one hundred and seven people, five seriously, according to a local doctor. At least one of the barrels reportedly released chlorine gas. The doctor also told Human Rights Watch that two barrel bombs that released chlorine struck Keferzita on April 18, affecting approximately 100 other people.  

One witness described a barrel bomb attack on Keferzita at about 6 p.m. on April 11:

I was in my office one kilometer from the site of the attack. I heard the helicopter overhead so I went outside [and] I saw the barrel bomb fall. I know it is a barrel bomb because it was falling slowly. Then I saw the explosion. The barrel bomb fell on the western part of the neighborhood in a residential area. The FSA [Free Syria Army] were at least 500 meters away [and] not located in the residential neighborhoods. I saw two barrel bombs dropped from the same helicopter, but not at the same time. The second barrel bomb fell few minutes after the first one.

When I went to the place where the barrel bombs fell I saw that one of them did not explode. There was a very strong smell, but I did not know what it was. I started coughing for a few minutes and I left because I felt there was something wrong with the smell. I saw at least 50 people injured. They were on the ground suffocating and some were coughing uncontrollably.

The barrel bomb that exploded destroyed three houses. I saw one man injured in his head from shrapnel, but that was it. There were children and women among the people injured.  In the field hospital I saw that the man injured with shrapnel in the head died. His name was Mostafa Ahmad al-Mohamad. A 7-year-old girl also died from the destruction or from shrapnel, I’m not sure. Some of the injured were taken to Turkey. They were suffering from severe suffocation and redness in the eyes.

Another witness to the attack said:  

The first barrel bomb fell on the western part of the neighborhood, 300 meters from the field hospital. I was one kilometer away at the time. The barrel bomb fell around 6 p.m. Two barrel bombs fell. I saw the helicopter dropping one of them. One of the barrels exploded, but the other one did not. I went to the scene of attack, but was told not to go in. They told me that it looked like the barrel bomb released some kind of toxic chemical. I smelled chlorine but did not imagine it would be that. I know the smell because we use it at home for cleaning and other things.

When I went to the scene of the attack I saw there were around 40 people still on the ground. They were coughing. I did not imagine there would be more in the field hospital [but] when I went to field hospital I saw around 160 people all suffering from the same symptoms: coughing, shortness of breath, redness in the eyes and shivering uncontrollably. I saw women and children [among the injured].

The witness told Human Rights Watch that he thought government forces were responsible for using the chlorine gas, noting, “It was only when the barrel bomb fell that the chorine smell appeared.”

Another witness from Keferzita who saw the attack said:

The attack happened around 7 p.m. I was around one kilometer away. I saw the explosion and the [smoke] was yellowish.  I went to the place directly but then we had to evacuate. When I arrived I saw paramedics [at the scene] that were injured. They were coughing and couldn’t see straight. Four houses were partially destroyed. Two barrel bombs fell.  One did not explode. Both fell next to each other. There was a smell of chlorine. We know the smell because we use it at home [so] we know the smell. There were four people injured by shrapnel. I saw suffocating, coughing, redness, there were around 100 people affected by the chlorine. I saw the wounded in the field hospital.

On April 30, Human Rights Watch interviewed a doctor in Keferzita who had treated victims of the April 11 barrel bomb attack on Keferzita:

The first attack was on April 11 at 6 p.m. I heard the helicopter roaming, but we are used to it. I was at the hospital when the first barrel bomb fell 300 meters away. I went outside and saw dark yellowish smoke which is unusual. I sent the paramedics. When I went out I smelled chlorine, but it wasn’t a strong smell. I didn’t think that it would really turn out to be chorine. The smell is common. It is used in households.

The paramedics that I sent were affected by the smoke and told me to expect people suffering from severe coughing and shortness of breath. We received around 107 people all suffering from the same symptoms, but not with the same intensity. They all suffered from shortness of breath, coughing, redness in the eyes and were shivering uncontrollably. We had five severe cases. We sent four to Turkey, including a woman. An old man called Mostafa al-Ahmad [al-Mohamad] died from a hit on his head and a little girl also died from shortness of breath.

The doctor said that no fighters were received at the field hospital as the front line is kilometers away and there is no presence of armed groups in the center of Keferzita.

The Violations Documentation Center (VDC), a local monitoring group, lists one victim from “warplane shelling” in Keferzita on April 11: Mustafa Ahmad al-Mohammad from Morek, a 70-year-old man.

The VDC also published a report on April 14 detailing apparent barrel bomb attacks using toxic chemicals on Keferzita on April 11 in the western part of the town at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. On April 12, the VDC interviewed the doctor who heads the health department in Hama, and quoted him as saying:

On Friday [April 11], at about 6 p.m., a helicopter dropped several barrels on Keferzita, specifically on the western part of it. One of those barrels was so huge that it resulted in a massive explosion with yellow fumes, after which ambulances rushed to the place where the several casualties, an estimated 100, were suffering unprecedented symptoms including suffocation, dry cough, bloody cough, foamy saliva and vomiting.

The gas smells very much like chlorine, which resembles the cleaning substance used in houses. The weather was cool and a little bit windy, which made the smell disappear at a 500 meter distance away from the place of the explosion.

The doctor told the VDC that no one died as a direct result of toxic chemicals, but a girl and an adult male died from head injuries.

The VDC also reported that four more barrel bombs, some of them including toxic chemicals, were dropped on Keferzita on April 12, in the eastern part of the town, causing dozens of residents to suffer from similar symptoms.

A video purportedly shot in Keferzita and uploaded on April 13 shows a yellow cylinder lying in an open field during daylight, but it is not clear if the canister was where it landed or was moved from its original location. The camera operator states that the canister held chlorine gas and markings on the cylinder show “NORINCO” and “CL2.” He also says that the weapon was dropped on the town on April 12.

Another video shot in daylight purportedly in Keferzita and uploaded on April 13 shows remnants of another bomb that the camera operator states contained chlorine gas. It is unclear when the weapon was dropped on the town.

Another video purportedly filmed in Keferzita and uploaded on April 16, shows remnants of a rusted canister with yellow coloring and with the markings “CL2” and “NORINCO.”  The canister is lying next to a long container that a man who appears in the video identifies as the barrel bomb used to deliver the canister. At another location the same man is shown next to what appears to be different remnants and a close-up of the canister reveals the markings “CL2” and “NORINCO.” The remnants appear to have been moved from their original location. It is unclear when these weapons were dropped on the town.

The Keferzita doctor said that two more barrel bombs were dropped at 11 p.m. on April 18:

The bombs did not explode, but they released chlorine. They fell next to a field hospital in the center of the village, about 500 meters away from the one that I manage. We treated 100 cases. The people that were most affected were from the medical team and from the patients that were in the hospital. All the victims suffered from the same symptoms. I treated the victims with oxygen, cortisone for neurological system, [and] nebulizer. Most victims stayed at the hospital for two or three hours and then were discharged. Only the severe cases were sent to Turkey.

A video purportedly filmed in Keferzita on April 18 and uploaded the same day shows men dismantling an apparently intact barrel bomb containing a red-and-yellow gas cylinder and an apparent triggering mechanism that the narrator says was used in an attack involving the use of a chemical. Another man, whose voice is heard in the video, identifies the chemical as chlorine.

Telmans attack
Human Rights Watch interviewed four witnesses who saw two barrel bombs drop on Telmans on April 21 and/or treated victims from the attack, which killed three civilians and wounded about 133 people, according to a volunteer at the local field hospital. At least one of the bombs reportedly contained chlorine gas.

An activist from Telmans described the attack:

I was less than one kilometer away and saw the helicopter roaming and dropping the bomb. This is how I knew where the attack happened. I followed the dark yellowish smoke. It was the first time I saw that color [smoke]. Two barrel bombs fell. Both exploded.

As soon as I arrived I smelled a horrible, strong smell. I started coughing and tears came from my eyes. I didn’t know what was going on, but people around me were suffocating. The attack was near the field hospital so we all started evacuating the wounded. Ambulances were there, but [the medics] didn’t have masks. They were struggling while removing the wounded because they got affected. The problem that day was that we had wind blowing toward the north so that factor contributed in spreading the smell even faster.

When I got to the hospital I saw at least 100 suffering from shortness of breath, coughing and shivering. The number is an estimate because the rooms in the field hospital fit around 50-60 in total, but that day people were in corridors and outside the hospital. I did not see anyone injured from shrapnel. There were women and children among the injured but I don’t know the statistics.

The witness said that the second barrel bomb fell a few meters away from the first and that it landed next to the old mosque in Telmans. He said both bombs fell on buildings in a residential neighborhood. The witness said there were no armed groups in Telmans and fighters are 3 kilometers away at the front lines at Wadi al-Deif and al-Hamid.

The witness was told by a doctor that 15 victims in critical condition were transferred to Turkey and that three died from their injuries, including two children: Mahmoud Abdel al-Razaq al-Heshash, 4; Maryouma Abdel Razaq al-Heshash, 15; and Khadija Mohamad Barakat.

Human Rights Watch also interviewed a man who works as a volunteer at the field hospital in Telmans, who arrived at the hospital 30 minutes after the attack. He said that the barrel bomb fell 200 meters from the field hospital. He said that 133 wounded were treated there for symptoms including shortness of breath, coughing, and redness of eyes and skin. He said that approximately 90 percent of the victims at Telmans hospital left after an hour and the rest left the next day. Three victims died between April 21 and 25, including a boy who had been severely affected by the symptoms and who died as he was being transferred to a Bab Hawa medical facility for further treatment.

Human Rights Watch also interviewed a Syrian surgeon, who witnessed the barrel bomb attack on Telmans on April 21:

I was driving from the Idlib countryside to attend a course for doctors in Turkey. As we got to Telmans around 10:30 a.m. [on April 21], people at the entrance to the town were looking at the sky. There was a state of fear and panic and we heard a big explosion toward the center of town. People were fleeing and putting their hands over their mouths.

The surgeon told Human Rights Watch that he was told people had been observing a helicopter for about 10 minutes that then dropped a barrel bomb:

I did not see the helicopter drop the bomb, but heard the explosion and saw the smoke rise up. There was yellow smoke that came out. The smoke cloud looked like it could be 100 meters in size. There was a sour smell. I was about 400 to 500 meters from the explosion in the car.

The surgeon immediately went to the hospital in Telmans:

It was chaos. There were a lot of people, possibly a few hundred. Relatives were swarming outside. I think there were about 60 to 70 wounded. I did not see any dead. The symptoms varied. Some were relatively simple. People having problems breathing. Others had skin burns. Many had watery itchy eyes with redness. Many had problems breathing. We treated people with oxygen, washed people’s eyes. We used hydrocortisone for the more severe cases. I did not see any pupil constrictions. For the lightly wounded, many got better with oxygen. There were a few people who were wounded seriously, affected by the gas and also by the explosion. I think there were about 50 to 55 people affected by the gas while the others were from the explosion and shrapnel.

The surgeon said that while treating the victims his own eyes became “itchy” and he got a headache that “stayed with me for hours.” After assisting for about an hour at the hospital, the surgeon continued on to Turkey. He said that some victims from Telmans were sent to Jarjanaz, Saraqeb, and Ma`saran for further treatment.

Another doctor Human Rights Watch interviewed said he treated four barrel bomb victims from Telmans at a medical facility in Bab al-Hawa. The doctor said the victims “were in urgent need of care due to exposure to gas.” One boy that he treated died of his injuries.

The surgeon said there has been no recent fighting in Telmans, a town of approximately 35,000, but it is near Wadi al-Deif, where there has been recent fighting between government and non-state armed groups.

A video purportedly filmed in Telmans and uploaded on April 21 shows remnants of a bomb with yellow marking. A voiceover says it was a barrel bomb that contained chlorine gas. Another video of the same scene shows a dead goat next to the crater. 

According to Der Spiegel, Syrian armed non-state groups claim they eavesdrop on communications at Wadi Deif, a military base near Telmans, and on April 21, heard a warning broadcast that day that soldiers should have their gas masks ready. Hours later, they claim regime soldiers celebrated over radio that the “terrorists” in Telmans were having to dispatch “many ambulances” just now.

The VDC lists three civilians, including two children, killed by “chemical and toxic gases” in the April 21 barrel bomb attack on Telmans:

  • Mahmoud Abdul Razaq Hashash “Nawas,” a 7-year-old boy, who died on April 21;
  • Maryomeh Abdul Razak al-Hashash “Nawas,” a 14-year-old girl, who died on April 25; and
  • Khadija Mohammad Barkat, a woman, who died on April 25.

Al-Teman’a attacks

Human Rights Watch interviewed a member of the medical team at the local field hospital who treated victims of barrel bomb attacks on al-Teman’a on April 13 and 18 that killed 4 civilians and affected an estimated 150 people. Human Rights Watch interviewed a second witness who saw the destruction from barrel bomb attacks on al-Teman’a on these dates and who estimated that they killed at least 2 civilians and affected approximately 162 people.

The medical team member described an attack at 10:30 p.m. on April 13:

I was in the field hospital in al-Teman’a. The helicopter [which I heard] dropped a barrel bomb that fell on an empty school called Mostapha al-Bakri School, some 100 meters away from the field hospital. I went there with the medical team. When I first arrived I smelled a bad smell. I did not know it was chlorine. I saw a yellowish smoke. When I arrived I saw it wasn’t a big explosion and the material damage was not severe. Part of the school was damaged by the explosion and one room in a house that was empty was also damaged. When I arrived I saw 15-20 people suffocating, fainting…coughing, most of them were women and there were a few children. Two medical staff members were affected when they went to the place of the explosion. I started coughing, but my colleagues suffocated and had to be transferred to the field hospital.

The total number of people affected was 112. This is the number from several field hospitals that received the wounded. There were no injuries from shrapnel. I transferred 25 civilians to the field hospital at the village outskirts. All of them suffered the same symptoms, but in different degrees. Other patients were transferred to other field hospital in al-Taman’a and Telmans. We had to evacuate the field hospital that I work in because it was lost to the attack.

According to the medical worker no one died in the attack. “We didn’t have enough medicine,” he said, and used “oxygen, dexamethasone, and hydrocortisone” to treat “medium intensity cases” and “atropine sulphate” for those suffering severe shortness of breath and eye redness. Medium intensity cases stayed in the hospital for approximately for three hours, while severe cases stayed for six hours.

The second witness said he was about a kilometer away when a barrel bomb fell on al-Taman’a on April 13 at around 10 p.m.:

The barrel bomb fell next to a school in a residential neighborhood in the center of the village. It destroyed part of the school, which has been closed for at least a year and is not occupied by the FSA. That was the only material damage. When I got there the paramedics were already there and some of them were coughing. They advised me to leave because the barrel bomb released a smell. I knew it was the smell of chlorine as it is a common smell.  I saw people vomiting and coughing at the place of the attack. I saw around 35-40 people suffering from the same symptoms. I saw women and children among the injured. I didn’t see anyone injured from the shrapnel. Nobody was killed.

The witness said he returned to the scene of the attack the next morning and “the smell was still there.”

The medical worker said the next barrel bomb attack on al-Teman’a occurred on April 18. He said that before the barrel dropped he heard the helicopter overhead:

The barrel fell 10 meters from Radwan Kaddour School, which closed two years ago and has been empty ever since. I went to the place of the attack and saw 40 to 50 people affected. The smell was stronger this time and it stayed four and a half hours. A family of four died from the chlorine attack and not shrapnel. Three died in the field hospital and one was transferred to Turkey, but didn’t make it.

The second witness also described the attack on April 18, saying that it occurred at 10 p.m. approximately 500 meters from the scene of the April 13 attack:

The barrel bomb partially destroyed three houses next to each other. I went to the scene of the attack, but this time I had a mask on. I removed it to check if the same smell was there and it turned to be the same smell. Two people were killed from shortness of breath, [they were two children from the same family]...

He said that he visited a local field hospital after the April 18 attack and saw approximately 50 affected residents there.

The medical worker told Human Rights Watch that four people total were killed in the April 18 barrel bomb attack on al-Teman’a, including two children from the same family. He said the family was internally displaced, originally from Khan Sheikhoun:

  • Abdul al Nasser Hussein al-Sousi, a 41-year-old  father of two;
  • Amina Mustafa Skander, 35-year-old woman;
  • Mohamad Abdul Nasser al-Sousi, an 11-year-old boy; and
  • Samira Abdul Nasser al-Sousi, a 13-year-old.

The VDC lists the first three victims from “chemical and toxic gases” in al-Teman’a April 18.

Both the medical worker and the witness said the nearest front line was at Khan Sheikhoun, seven kilometers away. The medical worker said. “We distributed awareness leaflets urging victims of the attacks to use masks or a piece of cloth soaked in water and to run in the opposite direction of the wind.” 

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