At least 58 people have been confirmed dead and up to 500 people left injured after a possible chemical attack in north-west Syria.

Footage from the rebel-held Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib shows survivors laying in the streets foaming from the mouth. Victims were left convulsing and struggling for air, symptoms the doctors have attributed to a nerve-gas attack.

Britain, France and Turkey have joined the United States as they attribute the attack to the Syrian Government, condemning President Bashar al-Assad’s actions.

In response, the UN Security Council has scheduled an emergency meeting to discuss the attacks at the request of Britain and France.


The Attack

Witnesses stated the attack took place shortly after sunrise on Tuesday, around 50 km south of Idlib. The attack was launched by Sukhoi jets allegedly controlled by the Russian and Syrian governments.

Graphic photos posted online show civilians laying in the mud while rescue teams remove their clothes and hose them down.

A second attack occurred several hours later, this time targeting a nearby treatment clinic.

Chlorine gas attacks are not uncommon in northern Syria, however they usually occur on a much smaller scale, only killing a small number of people who become trapped in an enclosed space.

The Syrian government has denied the use of chemical weapons and states that Islamic State and insurgents stage these attacks to frame the government.


Chemical Warfare

The use of chemical weapons was banned internationally after World War I. This was signed in the Geneva Protocol in 1925, and while the Protocol has been upheld in hundreds of armed conflicts, there have been several breaches met with international condemnation.

The use of chlorine, phosgene and mustard gas in World War I resulted in nearly 100,00 deaths. Gas was used again in World War II in Nazi concentration camps, and again in Vietnam.

Since 1925 chemical weapons have been responsible for more than one million deaths around the world.

“As usual, the first victims are Syrian civilians, caught in Assad’s total war. But an equally important casualty might be what remains of the international institutions that are supposed to fight war crimes and atrocities. Today Syrians suffer. Tomorrow, the world.” – Thanassis Cambanis, The Atlantic.

Chemical weapons have been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people in Syria since the civil war began.

In 2013 a similar nerve-gas attack was launched on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta. Footage of choking victims were instantly released online. The initial report stated that around 300 people were killed, but by the end of August the figures rose to more than 1,300.

Investigations led by the United Nations suggested involvement from the Syrian Government, and the White House said the US had “high confidence” that the Syrian government was responsible.

The UN has attributed ISIS (Daesh) for one attack, while the Syrian Government has been blamed for the remaining three.




Below is a timeline of the use of chemical warfare throughout history.

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Timeline of events sourced: