Up to 500 people were poisoned in the Syrian gas outrage that killed 43 people including children, the World Health Organisation revealed.
WHO demanded ‘immediate’ access to the victims in rebel-held Douma as it revealed the total number of people who reported to hospital showing ‘signs and symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic chemicals’.
The atrocity, blamed on Syrian tyrant Bashar al-Assad’s forces, has sparked a global outcry with the U.S. and its allies considering taking military action in response.
Though the WHO statement did not confirm outright that a chemical weapons attack had taken place, it said more than 70 people sheltering in basements died with 43 of those deaths related to symptoms consistent with exposure to highly toxic chemicals.
‘We should all be outraged at these horrific reports and images from Douma’ where Saturday’s attack took place, Peter Salama, the UN agency’s chief of emergency response, said.
‘WHO demands immediate unhindered access to the area to provide care to those affected, to assess the health impacts, and to deliver a comprehensive public health response.’
The others died from shelters collapsing on top of them, suffocating them to death.
Citing information previously released by local health organisations, WHO said ‘an estimated 500 patients presented to health facilities exhibiting signs and symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic chemicals’.
‘There were signs of severe irritation of mucous membranes, respiratory failure and disruption to central nervous systems of those exposed.’
The 500 people, mostly women and children, were brought to medical centers complaining of difficulty breathing, foaming at the mouth and burning sensations in the eyes. Some had bluish skin, a sign of oxygen deprivation.
The symptoms were consistent with chemical exposure. One patient, a woman, had convulsions and pinpoint pupils, suggesting exposure to a nerve agent.
The U.S., Britain and France argued the incident bears all the hallmarks of a strike ordered by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Mr Trump promised a ‘big price to pay’ for chemical attack as he lashed out at Russian President Vladimir Putin for his role in propping up Assad.
‘Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria. Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world,’ Trump wrote on Twitter.
‘President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad.’
‘Open area immediately for medical help and verification,’ he ordered. ‘Another humanitarian disaster for no reason whatsoever. SICK!’ he wrote.
He later told reporters: ‘It will be met, and it will be met forcefully, and when I will not say, because I don’t like talking about timing.
‘We can’t let atrocities like we all witnessed, and you can see that and it’s horrible.’
Israel on Monday responded to the attack by firing eight missiles at a Syrian military base, three of which hit and killed 14 people.
U.S. officials confirmed the White House were informed of Israel’s attack ahead of time.
Russia later vowed to shoot down any smart missiles the U.S. and its allies might fire into Syria, and even attack the warships that fired them.
President Trump doubled down on his threat, sent well-armed ships and submarines to the eastern Mediterranean, and told Russia to ‘get ready’.
‘Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!” You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!’ he tweeted.
Trump followed up with a second Twitter blast, claiming America’s rapport with Moscow has never been worse.
‘Our relationship with Russia is worse now than it has ever been, and that includes the Cold War,’ he tweeted. ‘There is no reason for this.’
‘Russia needs us to help with their economy, something that would be very easy to do, and we need all nations to work together. Stop the arms race?’
Syria repeatedly denied being behind the chemical attacks, calling the accusation an American lie that was a pretense to attack.
Foreign Minister Walid Mohi Edine al Muallem told state-run TV Mr Trump was using ‘fabrications and lies’ as an excuse to target his country, but that he was ‘not surprised’ by the ‘escalation’ in the President’s latest tweets.
Russian Foreign Secretary Sergei Lavrov also claimed the attack could have been faked as their experts visited the site in Douma and found no traces of chlorine.
Assad was blamed for previous attacks by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and UN-backed war crimes investigators.
WHO delivered medicine capable of treating certain types of chemical agents to clinics through a series of humanitarian convoys deployed across the country in recent years.
UN officials also accused Assad’s troops of at times removing those treatments from humanitarian vehicles.
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Julian Robinson and Nic White