It's unclear exactly what exactly happened in Homs on Sunday, but it doesn't sound good. Activists say that seven are dead and dozens injured after Syrian government troops used chemical weapons against them. Accounts vary on exactly how the attack panned out. Though the reports have yet to be independently confirmed, Haaretz cites a statement from rebel forces claiming that Assad's fighter jets dropped "poisonous materials" on Homs from above. Al Jazeera says that the gas was sprayed in the rebel-held al-Bayyada neighborhood, where residents and troops alike reported "nausea, relaxed muscles, blurred vision, and breathing difficulties." One activist told the news service, "The situation is very bad. We don't have enough gas masks, we do not know what gas this is, but doctors say it resembles sarin." Other scattered reports say that the gas may have been chlorine, the same chemical weapon that Iraqi insurgents used in a 2007 Baghdad attack that killed two and injured 32.
This puts everybody in tough spot. If it was indeed a gas attack, Assad just opened himself up to big trouble from the United States and other western powers who vowed military intervention in the event that the regime used chemical weapons on its own people. It wouldn't be out of the question, then, that Assad would deny the attack as a rebel ploy to win support or blame it on someone else which would make it really tough for Obama to decide whether or not to follow through on his promise of "consequences." We do know that the Assad regime has an arsenal of bombs loaded with sarin gas ready to be dropped on the rebels at any time. We also know that Assad is as ruthless as ever -- he did just bomb a bunch of civilians that were waiting in line for bread.
But again, the poison gas attack hasn't been independently confirmed. There are, however, several videos on YouTube purportedly showing victims being treated for exposure at a nearby hospital. Gas attack or not, they do not look healthy.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.