Syrian rebels claim they were attacked with poison gas, December 23. Six rebels died after breathing white smoke from shells in the city of Homs, activists told the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“This weapon is unidentified and has not been used before,” the Observatory wrote in a statement on Facebook. “Activists reported that whoever inhaled this type of gas suffered from severe dizziness and headaches, some even suffered from epilepsy.” The Observatory is a UK-based rights group with links to activists in Syria.
The Syrian American Medical Society (sams) claimed that use of the gas was “probable.” It reported that seven died because of it. sams is an organization of medical professionals of Syrian descent who aim to provide medical care to those in Syria, among other things.
It reports that the gas is probably “Agent-15,” also known as “3-Quinuclidinyl Benzilate” or “BZ.” It said the victims reported symptoms such as “severe shortness of breath, loss of vision, inability to speak, flushed face, dizziness, paralysis, nausea and vomiting, and increased respiratory secretions.”
Israel urged caution in responding to these reports. It is not the first time the rebels have reported the use of poison gas, Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon said. “The opposition has an interest in drawing in international military intervention,” he continued.
He warned that Israel does “not have any confirmation or proof” that chemical weapons were used, “but we are definitely following events with concern.” Reuters notes that the “reports are difficult to verify, as the government restricts media access in Syria.”
Agent-15 is nowhere near as lethal as some of the other gases the Syrian government owns. Business Insider reports that in “military circles” it is referred to as an “incapacitating” chemical.
The reports could be fabricated and spread by activists and governments eager for Europe and America to get involved in Syria. Or Bashar Assad could have used one of the less effective chemical agents to test the waters and gauge the West’s response.
The claims come after reports in several different news outlets that Syria has begun preparing its chemical weapons for use, based on statements by anonymous sources. Sarin gas is usually stored as two separate chemicals, which are mixed together shortly before it is used. Syria is said to have mixed the chemicals, and built trucks that can mix them while moving it. “Physically, they’ve gotten to the point where they can load it up on a plane and drop it,” said an “American official with knowledge of the situation” (Wired, December 3).
Other reports cite worries that Hezbollah will get control of chemical weapons, either by theft or by Syria handing them over.
The presence of chemical weapons in a country that is falling apart is scary. But even if these reports are false, they could still radically change the Middle East.
The Trumpet has long forecast that Syria would emerge from this crisis an ally of Europe, not Iran. Reports of chemical weapons could provide Western forces the excuse they need to intervene. Just like in the Balkans, even if America takes the lead in such an invasion, Europe will end up controlling the territory.