BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian opposition
activists have posted a video of what they say is chlorine gas floating
through the streets of a village, the first such footage of they say is
a chemical weapon campaign by President Bashar al-Assad.
The village of Kfar Zeita, in the central province of Hama 125
miles north of Damascus, has been the epicenter of what activists
and medics call a two-month-old assault in which chlorine gas
canisters have been dropped out of helicopters.
Damascus denies that forces loyal to Assad have used chlorine or
other more poisonous gases and blames all chemical attacks on rebels
fighting them in a three-year-old uprising.
Text accompanying the video, posted on Thursday by a user called
Mustapha Jamaa, said it was filmed on Thursday in Kfar Zeita by the
Revolution General Commission, an opposition group.
It showed green-yellow gas in a street. A man runs away from the gas
cloud with a woman who is holding a cloth to her mouth. Another man
in camouflage trousers and wearing a gas mask calls out for a car to
assist the woman. A voice off screen says: "Chlorine gas bombing.
Reuters could not independently verify the authenticity of the
footage. The video did not show an impact site or indicate where it
A Reuters freelance photographer said he arrived at the scene of the
attack an hour after a helicopter dropped the bomb.
"The smell of chlorine was very obvious. It smelt like vinegar, or
bleach. I started to cough and hyperventilate. My eyes were
burning," he said.
One of his photos showed the woman who was running away from the gas
in the video. She was being treated with oxygen at a field hospital.
"There were 70 wounded people," he said. "Those who were at the
impact site fainted."
Activists said Kfar Zeita was attacked twice on Thursday, as well as
the village of Al-Tamana'a in northwest Idlib province. There have
been more than a dozen reported chlorine attacks in Syria since
The alleged attack came on the same day that Russia and China vetoed
a resolution to refer the situation in Syria to the International
Criminal Court for possible prosecution of war crimes and crimes
Assad agreed with the United States and Russia to dispose of his
chemical weapons after hundreds of people were killed in a sarin gas
attack on the outskirts of the capital last August.
Chlorine is thousands of times less lethal than sarin but its use as
a weapon is still illegal under a global chemical weapons convention
that Syria signed.
Its use would also breach the terms of the deal with Washington and
Moscow, itself now weeks behind schedule, with roughly seven percent
of Assad's chemical arsenal still inside Syria.
Syria did not declare chlorine as part of its stockpile, further
complicating the operation to rid Assad of chemical weapons.
The watchdog Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons
(OPCW) is considering launching its own fact-finding mission to
investigate the reports of chlorine gas attacks, sources told
Reuters last month.
Syria's civil war started with a pro-democracy movement against
Assad that armed itself following attacks by security forces on
The ensuing conflict has killed more than 160,000 people, a third of
them civilians, and caused millions to flee.