Nearly five years ago, in the early evening of April 7, 2018, at least one Syrian air force helicopter dropped two cylinders containing the toxic gas chlorine on the Syrian city of Douma, killing 43 people and injuring dozens more. Yet another chemical attack, years into the Syrian regime’s barbaric war on its own citizens, shocking observers around the world.
The Syrian regime’s refusal to allow international weapons inspectors quick access to the site hindered the investigation into the incident, making inspectors’ work more difficult. Meanwhile, Syria vehemently denied involvement and Russia, Syria’s close ally, ran interference.
Russia and Syria also started another massive disinformation campaign to cover their tracks. They falsely claimed the incident was staged; that gas cylinders and bodies had been planted at the scene by local rebels and that the toxic gas had come from a nearby warehouse used by insurgents; or that the victims were killed elsewhere and transported to Douma. All the while, Russian and Syrian regime forces were in fact sanitizing the location of the attack, removing incriminating evidence, staging photographs, and coercing witnesses into supporting their brazen propaganda.
Three months later, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, or OPCW, issued a first report on this attack concluding the citizens of Douma had indeed been attacked with chemical weapons.
The latest report issued by the OPCW on January 27, 2023 further concluded that “On the evening of 7 April 2018, at least one helicopter of the Syrian ‘Tiger Forces’ Elite Unit dropped two yellow cylinders containing toxic chlorine gas on two apartment buildings in a civilian-inhabited area in Douma, killing 43 named individuals and affecting dozens more.”
Following the release of the report, the United States, United Kingdom, France and Germany issued a joint statement condemning the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad for the deadly chemical weapons attack on Douma. The statement also noted that “the report refutes the Russian claim that it was an opposition attack.”
“Syria must fully declare and destroy its chemical weapons program and allow the deployment of OPCW staff to its country to verify it has done so,” said the statement.
“We call on the Russian Federation to stop shielding Syria from accountability for its use of chemical weapons. No amount of disinformation from the Kremlin can hide its hand in abetting the Assad regime.”
“We commend the independent, unbiased, and expert work of the OPCW staff, condemn the use of chemical weapons anywhere, by anyone, under any circumstances. We also reaffirm our commitment to hold accountable the perpetrators of all chemical weapons attacks in Syria and beyond.”