The chemical bombings in the province of Idlib, which is almost entirely controlled by the Syrian opposition, marked a turning point in international involvement in the Syrian war. Stating, “Tonight [April 6th], I ordered a targeted military strike on the air base in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched. It is in this vital national security interest of the US to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons,” Trump, practically overnight, went from viewing the threat of the Bashar al-Assad regime as longer relevant to making involvement a top US foreign policy initiative. The chemical attacks, which killed 99 people, sparked international outraged and provoked intervention through the horrific and illegal bombings of Syrian civilians.
After the 2013 chemical attack near Demascus, which killed more than 1,000 people, the al-Assad regime promised to give up its chemical weapons arsenal under a US-Russia agreement, however, the bombings on the 4th proved otherwise. At 6:30am, bombs fell on the town of Khan Sheikhoun where the streets were transformed into the scene of men, women, and children gasping for breath and foaming at the mouth from the effects of sarin gas, which is a brutal nerve toxin. Many were left shaking and convulsing on the ground as they waited for the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) to arrive on the scene. Munzir Khalik, the head of Idlib’s health directorate, told reporters at Aljazeera that at least 557 people were wounded in the attack and that medics can confirm the names of 74 people killed. He expects the death toll to raise to 107 by how many people have gone missing and were expected to be killed during the attack. In addition to the chemical attacks in Khan Sheikhoun, the al-Assad regime sent out 8-10 airstrikes that targeted the local medical facility and the civil defense center, putting the site out of service. The medical workers on scene were struggling to treat the number of victims.
The horrific attack grew from al-Assad gaining more power throughout the 6-year conflict. After successfully capturing Aleppo and continuing strong relations with Russia, al-Assad knew he had both the power, capabilities, and international safeguard to launch a chemical attack in order to regain power and control over the country. The Idlib province has become his new target for control, and the chemical attack on civilians appears to be the first of many future attacks in the region. The Syrian government plans on gaining control of all Syria by making life as miserable as possible for those against the regime — a strategy of attrition. Al-Assad’s forces have led defeated opponents throughout the country into the Idlib province before the bombing to ensure that the government adversaries would be taken out in one painful blow. However, despite the clear evidence that the bombs came from the Syrian army and that they were chemical weapons, Walid al-Moallem, the minister of Syria, told reporters “I stress to you once again: The Syrian Army has not, did not and will not use this kind of weapons – not just against our own people, but even against the terrorists that attack our civilians with their mortar rounds.” The attack in Idlib demonstrated the extent al-Assad is willing to go in order to reclaim all of Syria.
The United Nations has launched an investigation to determine whether the bombing raid is considered a war crime. A US State Department official has backed up the UN’s claim by revealing that, with the current facts, it clearly looks like a violation of the Geneva Convention. Various humanitarian groups and NGOs have demanded that the regime be prosecuted to its blatant disrespect for human rights. The NGO, Human Rights Watch, accused al-Assad’s administration of using chemical weapons in residential areas, especially during the battle for Aleppo, and stresses that the international community prosecute al-Assad for his crimes against humanity.
Though many of the attacks against Syrian civilians have resulted in little or no international involvement, the recent chemical attack prompted President Trump to launch a military strike in retaliation against the al-Assad regime. Asserting, “It’s very, very possible, I will tell you it has already happened, that my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much. It crossed a lot of line for me. When you kill innocent children, innocent babies, little babies with a chemical gas that was so lethal. That crossed many lines, beyond a red line,” Trump announced to the international community that the chemical attacks in Khan Sheikhoun will not go unpunished. US top official revealed that Trump’s stance towards Syria changed once he saw the brutal photos of dead children lining the streets after the attack. The decision to strike was one of the less violent military option presented by Mattis and was executed quickly to ensure an element of surprise. The strike not only surprised Syria, but also Russia. President Trump did not consult with the Kremlin before the launch, resulting immediately in strained relations between the two countries. Dmitri Peskov, a spokesman for President Vladimir V. Putin, revealed on Friday that the strike, “deals a significant blow to relations between Russia and America, which are already in a poor state,”; demonstrating that helping the Syrian opposition might have costed US-Russian relationships.
Abdulhamid al-Yousef encompasses the horrors of the recent chemical attack on Syrian civilians. Within an hour, he lost his siblings, nephews and nieces, wife, and his 9-month-old twins — Ahemn and Aya. Hearing the bombs approaching the city, his family hid in their bomb shelter located in their basement, only to die from gas seeping into it. Al-Youself has covered the headlines due to the tragic photo of him holding his dead twins one last time and has spoken out against the al-Assad regime for killing his whole family. The illegal bombings and divergence from international accords must be accounted for. Al-Assad has broken many international laws and treaties, and it’s time that the international community puts him on trial for his crimes. The horrific bombing by the al-Assad regime has marked not only a humanitarian outcry, but also a sharp change in foreign intervention — particularly, unilateral action by the United States — in the Syrian civil war.