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The United States and Russia do not hide the tension (diplomatic) they are experiencing these days: now they face the alleged attack with chemical weapons in the Syrian town of Douma.
Activists, rescuers and doctors in Syria say more than 40 people died on Saturday during the attack in the last city under the control of opponents of President Bashar al-Assad in the eastern region of Guta.
The complainants claim that Syrian government forces dropped bombs full of chemical agents, but authorities claim that the alleged attack is false.
Who to believe? What tests do some of them offer?
1. What happened on Saturday in Douma?
Activists from the Violations Documentation Center (VDC), an organization that records violations of international law in Syria, reported two separate incidents of bombs – believed to contain toxic substances – released by the Syrian Air Force.
The first occurred at approximately 4 pm (local time) on Omar Ibn al Khattab Street, northwest of Douma.
VDC quoted a Syrian Civil Defense rescuer who said he felt a chlorine smell in the air after the attack, although he could not determine its origin.
“Later we discovered the bodies of people who had suffocated with toxic gases, they were in closed spaces, protecting themselves from the bomb barrels, which may have caused their rapid death because nobody heard their screams,” he added.
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The second attack occurred at approximately 7:30 pm local time at the Plaza de los Mártires, according to VDC.
More than 500 people, mostly women and children, were taken to health care centers with symptoms indicating that they had been exposed to chemical agents, according to Syrian Civil Defense and the American Syrian Medical Society (SAMS). English), a non-governmental organization that provides support to hospitals.
The patients had signs of ” respiratory problems, central cyanosis (blue skin or lips), excessive mouth foam, corneal burns and the emission of chlorine odor,” the two organizations said in a joint statement on Sunday.
Rescuers who searched homes in the affected area also found bodies of people with similar symptoms, the text added.
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The Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations (UOSSM), which supports hospitals in areas of Syria under rebel control, also said it had received reports of two incidents.
He pointed out that after the first one, the people treated had respiratory problems and eye irritation; and that, after the second, hospitalized patients had a strong chlorine odor and presented symptoms such as cyanosis, mouth foam, and irritation of the cornea.
A medical student working in a hospital told the BBC that he had treated a patient who died. “His pupils were dilated and had foam in his mouth, his heart was beating very slowly, then he coughed and had blood in his mouth,” he said.
Videos published by opposition activists belonging to the Revolución Douma group showed the bodies of alleged victims found in the affected area, some of whom had foam in their mouths and noses.
2. What evidence is there that it was a chemical attack?
Beyond the testimonies collected in the place, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW, for its acronym in English) on Monday announced the sending of a mission to investigate what happened, “collecting information from all available sources for determine if (in the events of Saturday) chemical weapons were used. “
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Experts say that simply looking at a video or a photo is impossible to know if a person has been exposed to chemical agents and that the only way to confirm contamination is by taking samples and analyzing them in a laboratory.
However, international humanitarian organizations have not been able to enter Douma since the beginning of March, due to the government siege.
Civil Defense of Syria and SAMS believe that those who died were asphyxiated as a result of their exposure to toxic chemicals, probably an organophosphate, a compound made with the mixture of pesticides and nerve agents.
The UOSSM, meanwhile, concluded that the symptoms presented by the victims were consistent with exposure to nerve agents , probably mixed with chlorine.
Specifically, Dr. Raphal Pitti of UOSSM of France said he believed that “chlorine was used to hide the use of (nerve agent) sarin.”
The US government, which supports opponents of al-Assad, said the victims’ symptoms appear to be “consistent with an asphyxiating agent and a nerve agent of a certain type.”
3. What does the government of Syria say?
The Syrian government has repeatedly denied the use of chemical weapons and accused the rebels of inventing the reports in a “failed attempt” to stop the government in its attempts to retake Douma.
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“Every time the Syrian Army advances in its fight against terrorism, a complaint of the use of chemical weapons arises,” said a source from the Syrian Foreign Ministry told the official news agency Sana.
The government of Russia, ally of Al Asad, said that the reports from Douma were “false.”
Vassily Nebenzia, Moscow’s permanent representative to the UN, said on Monday that specialists from the Russian Armed Forces visited Douma and ” confirmed that they did not find chemical substances in the ground, corpses or people poisoned in hospitals .”
“The doctors in Douma deny that people had come to hospitals saying they had suffered a chemical attack,” he added.
Nebenzia said OPCW experts should travel immediately to Syria and “see for themselves what happened.”
US President Donald Trump, who harshly criticized the alleged chemical attack, announced on Monday that he would offer a strong response, while his representative to the UN, Nikki Haley, pleaded before the Security Council for a draft resolution ordering an investigation. the happened.
The Russian government also put on the table of that main organ of the UN a motion for a resolution that was voted on Tuesday but only obtained six of the nine minimum votes required to be approved.