08/26/2015, 00.00
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Islamic State using chemical weapons in Syria

Doctors Without Borders denounce the use of chemical weapons during the jihadist attack on a village in the province of Aleppo. Four people of a same family hospitalized with respiratory problems and burns. Another "chemical" attack on Marea. President Assad confident of Russian and Iranian support.

Damascus (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Islamic State (IS) may have used chemical weapons during an attack, on 21 August, on a town in northern Syria according to international NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).  The group says its doctors treated four people from the same family who had difficulty breathing and who were covered in blisters or pustules, after a mortar struck their home in Marea. At the same time, the Syrian American Medical Society presented a report which speaks of 50 patients treated for symptoms related to exposure to chemicals.

According to sources close to the Syrian rebels, active in the area, these mortars - containing chemical material - were launched from a village in the east, long in the hands of the Islamic State. The group's spokesman Shami Front reported that at least half of the 50 mortar shells and artillery struck Marea contained a sulfur based liquid.

It is a highly irritating substance and known as "mustard gas", which at room temperature is in a liquid form but once used in an explosion can cause serious damage to skin, eyes, the respiratory system and internal organs.

In denouncing the attack in a village in the northern province of Aleppo, MSF says that following the explosion, four people from the same family (parents and two daughters aged three and five) were hospitalized for respiratory problems, red eyes, conjunctivitis and irritated skin. After three hours, blisters began to form on their skin and their respiratory problems worsened.

"We have no laboratory evidence to confirm the cause of these symptoms," said Pablo Marco, MSF's programme manager in Syria. "However, the patients' clinical symptoms, the way these symptoms changed over time, and the patients' testimony about the circumstances of the poisoning all point to exposure to a chemical agent "

In previous years, the government army loyal to President Bashar al-Assad has been accused of using chemical weapons against rebel factions, in the context of a conflict that has devastated the country and left more than 250 thousand victims. So far, any attempts at mediation by the United Nations has proven useless.  In September a new diplomatic initiative led by the UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura should start.

Meanwhile, President Assad said he was confident he still had the support of two key allies, Russia and Iran, who will never abandon "their friends". Interviewed by the Lebanese TV station Al-Manar, owned by Hezbollah, the Syrian leader said that there is big news in sight. He added that a solution is possible, provided that the international powers to stop supporting "terrorism", a term he uses to describe both the opposition and the jihadi groups.

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