'Post' uncovers Israeli medical treatment of Syrian gas attack victims

Rebels and two sources confirm casualties of a chlorine attack near the Hermon in Syria sought treatment in Israel.

By
November 21, 2017 21:25
4 minute read.
syria gas attack

Syrian Civil Defence members wear gas masks near the site of what activists said was a chlorine gas attack in the Idlib countryside [File]. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Three Syrian rebels wounded last week in an alleged chemical weapons attack by the Syrian regime of President Bashar Assad were sent for treatment in Israel, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

If Syrians hurt in the attack entered Israel for treatment, it would be the first confirmed case.

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“The [Syrian regime] forces shelled a strategic site controlled by the rebels named ‘Bardaya Hill,’ and three of the rebels who suffered suffocation as a result of the gases were sent to Israel for treatment,” Abo Omar al Golany, spokesman for the Revolutionary Command Council in Quneitra and the Golan, told The Jerusalem Post. “Helicopters belonging to the Assad regime threw explosive drums containing toxic gases on the hill.”

Al Golany said the chemicals were believed to be chlorine, which has been used by the regime in the past.

According to a separate source in Israel, Syrian casualties injured in a chemical attack were transferred to Ziv Medical Center in Safed. The hospital did not respond to the Post’s inquiry by press time.

The attack was part of an ongoing offensive by the Syrian government and its Hezbollah allies to retake an area around Mazra’at Beit Jinn near the Hermon. The offensive has attempted to pressure the rebels in a small finger of territory they control near the Golan and Majdal Shams extending 15 kilometers toward Damascus along the foot of Mount Hermon.

“In recent weeks, Assad was trying to push an offensive and there was difficult fighting on the night of the 15th-16th,” the source said. “They hit [the rebels] from helicopters and used gas in at least three places. The same day, the wounded came to Israel.”
Aftermath of suspected chemical gas attack in Idlib , Syria on April 4, 2017 (REUTERS)

A separate source familiar with the situation also confirmed that Syrians suffering from the effects of chemical weapons had sought treatment in Israel.

By press time, the IDF responded that they are not familiar with an incident of this kind.

The area of the alleged attack is several kilometers from the scene of fighting on November 3 in which Syrian Druse from the village of Hader were killed in a bombing as rebels from Quneitra area tried to break through the siege around Beit Jinn.

At the time, Israel said it would act to prevent Hader from being overrun after Druse from the Israeli side of the Golan expressed concern for their coreligionists. This is a sensitive area because Israel has been providing aid to people in Syrian areas near the border in recent years.

More than 3,000 Syrians in the past four years have entered Israel for medical care, according to reports in July. Ziv Medical Center has treated many of those in the past year; its website includes several stories about treating Syrian patients but mentions none who suffered from gas or chemical injuries.

In early April, Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz advocated aiding children who were victims of a chemical weapons attack in Khan Shaykhun, in the Idlib region of northern Syria.

“I see it as our obligation as Jews and Israelis to provide assistance to those wounded in the gas attacks in Syria, among them many children,” he said, according to Ynet.

The Independent
in April interviewed a patient nicknamed “Baibars” in Ziv Hospital.

“The regime has used chemical weapons since the beginning of the war,” Baibars told the newspaper. “We were just trying to defend ourselves.”

He did not say whether any of his fellow rebels had suffered gas attacks or entered Israel for treatment from these injuries.

On November 16, Almoslim.net reported that there had been “cases of suffocation due to shelling by forces of Bashar Assad with a barrel bomb loaded with toxic chlorine.” It had struck near Mazra’at Beit Jinn.

Mazra’at means “farms” in Arabic, and the farms are a suburb of the village of Beit Jinn.

According to a separate report by Adnan Ali at The New Arab based in the UK, the Syrian regime used chlorine gas on November 16 in attacks against rebels in eastern Ghouta and in the city of Harasta. It quoted a local activist named Alaa Ahmed, who said the regime fired artillery. According to the report, attacks that day targeted Mazra’at Beit Jinn and the nearby village of Kafr Hawar, causing “several cases of suffocation.”

According to a May 1 report by Human Rights Watch, the Syrian government is guilty of “widespread and systematic use of chemical weapons.” This includes “the government’s use of helicopter-dropped chlorine-filled munitions,” which recently has become more systematic.

HRW noted that the Chemical Weapons Convention does not ban chlorine because of its civilian uses, but “the convention bans its use as a weapon.”

Between April 2014 and 2016, HRW documented 16 Syrian regime attacks with chlorine in “improvised air-dropped munitions.” An August 2016 UN report of the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) alleged that there was evidence to conclude the regime had undertaken two chlorine gas attacks.

On November 16th US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley told the UN: "The Assad regime should be on clear notice: the United States does not accept Syria's use of chemical weapons. We will defend the international standard against chemical weapons use. It would be wise for the Assad regime to heed this warning."

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