Continued chemical attacks prevent medics in Syria from doing their job


Doctors in Syria are crying out for international support and assistance as chemical attacks continue to hit towns across the country, wounding and killing civilians and medical workers.

Dr Muhammad Tennari, the medical director of a field hospital in Sarmin, Idlib, is calling for medical workers worldwide to join a campaign aimed at forcing the UN to take action to prevent further attacks.

“The field hospital that I established and direct in Sarmin has been hit by bombing and airstrikes 17 times,” Dr Tennari wrote in an email to Equal Times.

Campaigners say hospitals and medical workers in Syria are being “systematically targeted by the Syrian government in a bid to weaken the civilian areas not under its control.”

In March this year, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) adopted a resolution “strongly condemning the use of any toxic chemical, such as chlorine, as a weapon in Syria and stressing that those who use such weapons must be held accountable.”

However, Dr Tennari says barrel bombs have since continued to fall on Syria’s field hospitals, and action is desperately needed to prevent further attacks.

Since the resolution was adopted, dozens of chemical attacks on towns and villages across the country have resulted in hundreds of casualties, according to The Syria Campaign.

On April 16, Dr Tennari testified about his experiences in front of the UNSC in a meeting hosted by US Ambassador Samantha Power.

“After watching a video I showed of chemical attack victims dying in our hospital, many of the Security Council members were in tears,” he said. “But we need much more than tears. From the Security Council, we need action.”

Following the meeting, Power told reporters: “We need an attribution mechanism so we know precisely who carried out these attacks.”

Eyewitness accounts of the use of helicopters and barrel bombs indicate that Syrian government forces were behind the strikes, she said.

UNSC permanent members France, UK and the US accuse Assad’s forces of using chlorine gas on civilians, a charge Damascus denies. However Russia, which can veto any potential UN Security Council move on Syria, argues that there is no hard evidence the Syrian government was responsible.



The global watchdog Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) told Equal Times that it is “continuing to analyse information related to the March allegations.”

It is currently carrying out a fact-finding mission in Syria on chemical use during recent attacks.

“The Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) continues to work with the full support of states parties and the UN Security Council,” said Peter Sawczak, Spokesperson and Head of Government Relations and Political Affairs at OPCW.

“The FFM presents its findings, as it has done on three occasions. It is then up to the policy forums made up of OPCW Member States to decide on the next course of action.”

“The mandate of the FFM does not include determining the perpetrators.”

Dr Tennari is now calling for 1,000 medical workers to join the Medics Under Firecampaign, a call to the UN Security Council to enforce its own resolutions and stop the chemical attacks.

“In response to chemical attacks in Syria, the international community sends us more Atropine [a medicine used to reverse the effects of some poisons]. This is disappointing. This means that the world knows that the Assad government will use chemical weapons against us again.” Tennari said.

“What we urgently need is not Atropine, but protection from the bombs, with a no-fly zone if necessary,” he continued. “What we need is for the United Nations to enforce their own resolutions.”

According to The Syria Campaign, Syria is the most dangerous country in the world for medical workers.

Fifteen thousand doctors are believed to have fled the country since fighting began in 2011, and those that remain must work under extremely difficult and dangerous conditions.

Across the country, hundreds of clinics and hospitals have been destroyed since the conflict began. In that time, the deaths of 615 medical workers have been documented, though campaigners say the real number is likely to be much higher.