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IRC: Suspected chemical attack in Douma may be a war crime as over 70 civilians reported dead

The news that another suspected chemical attack has been carried out in Syria, this time in Douma, the last rebel-held town in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta, only serves to further demonstrate that the government of Syria will stop at nothing to win this war. More than 70 civilians are reported dead, another grim tally in this increasingly lawless conflict.

Ciaran Donnelly, Senior Vice President of International Programs at the International Rescue Committee, said:

"The conflict in Syria has been marked by consistent violations of international law, leaving civilians in the firing line as each leads to new humanitarian crises. The use of chemical weapons is against international humanitarian law, and if verified, amounts to a war crime. 

This is not the first time such tactics have been deployed and it beggars belief that such actions could still be carried out against civilians; these unlawful attacks pour shame not only on the parties to the conflict, but on the international community for standing by and letting it happen. The UN Security Council must act urgently to investigate this attack, and hold those responsible to account.

As government forces continue their offensive, the horrors we have previously seen in East Ghouta, Homs, Idlib and elsewhere must not be repeated. Actors supported by the United States and Russia—as well as the UN Security Council—must make the protection of civilians their number one priority. The conflict is going to continue in some form until there is meaningful and decisive political action that puts the interests of Syrians first.”  

As we wait for more news to emerge it is vital that we do not lose sight of the government’s next likely target—the province of Idlib, where over 1.5 million people have been displaced due to fighting between government and opposition groups. The International Rescue Committee teams report escalating need, responding in Idlib with life-saving health assistance. The humanitarian impact of a new military campaign would escalate and compound existing need, with nearly 2.6 million Syrians at risk. 

Donate now: Please make an immediate donation to help us save lives in crisis areas worldwide, including Eastern Ghouta.

Learn more: Find out about the IRC's response to the crisis in Syria.

About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 28 offices across the U.S. helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.