As It Happens

Syrian attack victims likely hit with sarin gas, says doctor

The Syrian government denies carrying out a deadly chemical attack in the northeastern province of Idlib on Tuesday, but a doctor working on the ground doesn't buy it.
An unconscious Syrian child receives treatment at a hospital in Khan Sheikhun, a rebel-held town in the northwestern Syrian Idlib province, following a suspected toxic gas attack on Tuesday, (Omar Haj Kadour/AFP/Getty Images)

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GRAPHIC WARNING: Suspected chemical attack kills dozens in Syria

The Syrian government denies carrying out a deadly chemical attack in the northeastern province of Idlib on Tuesday, but a doctor treating hundreds of victims out of a nearby field hospital doesn't buy it.

"They've done it before," Dr. AbdulHai Tennari told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

The Union of Medical Care Organizations, a coalition of international aid agencies that funds hospitals in Syria, said at least 100 people died in the air attack on the city of Khan Sheikhun, and hundreds more were injured. 

Photos and videos from the scene show people, many of them small children, choking and foaming at the mouth. 

An unconscious Syrian child is carried at a hospital in Khan Sheikhun, a rebel-held town in the northwestern Syrian Idlib province, following a suspected toxic gas attack. (Omar Haj Kadour/AFP/Getty Images)

Tennari spent Tuesday treating patients out of a field hospital in Sarmin, about 80 kilometres from the scene of the airstrike. 

"I saw many children without their families because [there are] hundreds of victims and they lost their parents. I saw people looking for children because they were split between many hospitals,"  Tennari said. "It was a very difficult time, a very difficult day."

He said he and colleagues suspect the victims inhaled sarin gas, an odourless and colourless nerve agent.

The symptoms were all there — muscle weakness, difficultly breathing, watery eyes.

"And when we give the anecdote, there was a very good response in the severe cases," he said. 

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has blamed the attack on rebels, saying the Syrian government would never use chemical weapons.

Syria also denied being behind toxic gas attacks in 2014 and 2015, but a 2016 United Nation investigation found otherwise

The White House called the attack an "intolerable act," while French President François Hollande directly blamed Syrian government forces.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said Assad would be guilty of a war crime if it were proved that his government was responsible.

GRAPHIC WARNING: Suspected gas attack in Syria kills dozens

5 years ago
Duration 0:50
Many more injured; medical facilities strain to treat victims

Despite all the hard talk, Tennari doesn't expect the international community to intervene. Syrians, he said, are slaughtered every day. 

"Simply, it is another way of death for our people in Syria," he said. "For six years, we are dying. Now it is just a different way of death without blood."

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