Special Reports  ::   Special Report on Use of Chemical Weapons in Damascus Suburbs

Special Report

on Use of Chemical Weapons in Damascus Suburbs

In Eastern Gotas

Violation Documentation Center in Syria

22 August 2013

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During the first hours of Wednesday 21st August 2013, the regime committed another horrific crime against civilians leaving hundreds death and casualties in an area that had been already bombarded by the regime forces on daily basis, and that had been besieged for long months, which made it impossible to provide the simplest needs of life for hundreds of thousands of the residents.

The regime's army bombed several villages and towns in Damascus Eastern and Western Gotas with dozens of rockets loaded with chemicals. This attack has been the severest since the regime began using chemical weapons against rebellious regions. the irony is that this attack, the severest of its kind, happened concurrently with the presence of the experts committee assigned to disclose the use of chemicals in Damascus, following their arrival to Syria on 8/18/2013, taking into consideration that the authorization granted for the Commission is confined to areas agreed upon with the same regime that is carrying on attacks with chemical weapons. Thus, this committee does not live up to the task of proving the use of chemical weapons, but only to that of whether that weapon has been used or not.

In details: each of Zamalka and Ein Tarma in Eastern Gota and Mou'adamieh in Western Gota were bombed with dozens of rockets loaded with toxic agents, which claimed the lives of hundreds, mostly women and children. Moreover, hundreds sustained injury. those areas woke up to an indescribable humanitarian disaster concerning, especially, the huge number of cases that sought the medical points that have been under siege ,suffering the lack of both the medical staffs and the most basic equipment needed to face similar situations.

Immediately, the field team of VDC in Syria that exists in the East Gota, visited- directly after the attacks- more than 80% of the Medical points that received the injured and the victims in East Gota to get testimonies of patients and paramedics, as well as some of the sites that had been bombed with chemicals, to find out the truth of what happened and to provide clear and precise information about the attack and its victims.

Targeted Places and Areas:

Zamalka and Ein Tarma, Eastern Gota, Damascus Suburbs :

All eyewitnesses that VDC field team has met agreed that the bombardment, which targeted the area after midnight, varied between rocket shelling and mortar shelling, as there had been more than 30 rockets and missiles.

Ahmad, a paramedic in Zamalka city, says:
"the first strike, both with rockets and mortars, was at 1:40 when a rocket fell behind Zamalka's Telephone Exchange, and in the region of Mdayr Jadya- a"ferry" between Jobar and Zamalka- followed by shelling on the city of Ein ​​Tarma, on Zennieh and Arba' Mafareq districts.

According to eyewitnesses, in Zamalka, the areas that were targeted by the regime's toxic-loaded rockets are:

1-Harata House

2 - Next to "Om Mazen Boys' School

3 - Tawfeek Mosque

4 - The Farm of "Mustafa Khateeb

5- Old cemetery

The place where the chemical rocket fell near Zamalka Primary School// Picture: Tawfeeq Mosque:

Picture of a poisonous-gas-filled rocket launched at Zamalka:

After the chemical bombardment, missiles fell very heavily on all towns and regions of Gota. This case continued until the morning which made extremely difficult to evacuate or even provide medical help to people.

Abu al-Khair, an administrator at "Al Fateh Hospital" , Kafarbatna, says :
"the hospital has been shelled with MIG warplanes this morning, when we could see the destruction of the bombing, about thirty meters away from the hospital, in addition to the enormous physical damage and the destruction to the road of the hospital with some minor injuries."

A picture of the building bombarded near "Al Fateh Hospital"

The First Seconds Following the Bombardment with Toxics:

A state of panic and confusion prevailed among the population after the bombing, which targeted their areas in each of Zamalka and Ein Tarma, firstly, because most of the population believed that the bombardment was either with mortars or rocket launchers so they went down to the cellars instead of going upstairs, which contributed to the aggravation of things before they could figure out what really had happened, for in the case of chemical attacks, it is required that all residents go to higher places and not vice versa, and secondly because so many died during sleeping as the strike happened after midnight, which increased the number of victims greatly, as most testimonies corroborated.

Photos of some of the martyrs at the medical center in Eirbeen:

During its visit to a medical point, one of the injured told VDC team

"We were home when we heard the sound of shelling, then neighbors began screaming and asking for help, and when we ran to them we found that the women had been on the ground, while the children were dying, and after I arrived their house I felt dizzy and began throwing up, then I crawled about a kilometer until one citizen helped me. This was in Zamalka; the smell was quite strong that I could not recognize it at all. It was a little bit like the smell of burning.

He added describing the symptoms he had due to the bombardment:

My lips started shuddering and bloating, and my eyes began trembling too, then I became blinded. All the people were on the ground and screaming, and there were dozens of martyrs, popeyed with yellow faces and opened mouths. A whole family of our neighbors was fighting death, yet I could not save them. I tried to save some women, after they were screaming and asking for help, while the children were terribly shaking and falling one after the other.
Then foam started coming out of my mouth so I immediately went back home. Where I found my family had fainted. I could not drive my car in order to take them to the medical point, however, one citizen helped did so "

To watch the interview please visit the link:


First Aid and Evacuation

Once the news of the bombing toxic substances spread, Paramedics and volunteers from various towns and cities of Eastern Gota went to areas that were bombed for evacuation and helping. They moved the injured to the medical points in each of Jisreen, Sakba, Harasta, Hamorieh, Mesraba, Kafarbatna, and Douma. Most of the paramedics got injured due to the lack of gas masks and protective suits during evacuation and helping.

A paramedic in Khawlaani medical point says:
"while our team was saving people from houses, medics were forced to leave the martyrs in their homes and only bring out the living due to the large number of cases and to be able to save people. All the animals we came across during evacuation were dead in the streets."
According to a paramedic from Irbeen medical point, in the houses many of the martyrs have not been moved out yet.

"Khaled AlBeik", one of the injured from Ein ​​Tarma, who was hospitalized to Hamorieh medical point says:

"We were in the neighborhood at about one o'clock after midnight, when we heard the sound of five rockets falling in " Ein Tarma", so we went to the place to help people there, but were surprised that there were dozens of citizens lying on the ground and in the streets. I went to look for my brother "Alaa", found him on the ground, with a white substance such as "foam" coming out of his mouth, so I tried to help him, then I lost consciousness and I do not know what happened later and do not know where my brother is and whether he died or not. Khaled, during his testimony, felt very thirsty, experienced "numbness" in the face and feet, and had severe shortness of breath.

To watch the complete interview


The paramedic "Abu Sakhr" says:

"At two o'clock after midnight, the regime's forces shelled the area with mortars, specifically the first parts of Qusour neighborhood in the Ein Tarma behind the cemetery. During this time, a gas with a rotten smell spread quickly resulting in symptoms such as nausea, shortness of breath and difficulty in vision that turned into a complete lack of vision. Some people fainted, became fully paralyzed and suffered a severe head ache. We hurried to help them; I helped nearly 370 person-to-several medical points including Hamourieh, Irbeen, Sakba and Kafarbatna and Douma. "

Maher, an activist in Jobar's Information office also says:

"I was in Jobar at two and a half o'clock, when I learned that Ein Tarma was shelled with chemical weapons, so I headed there to cover the incident. On my way there, I started to have symptoms such as a shortness of breath and a blurred vision. When I arrived to the city, I found many of the injured lying on the roadside without help, and when I arrived at the field hospital, I found about 1000 injured. Doctors gave me an (atropine) injection so I began to improve. I also noticed that many of the doctors and paramedics got infected by the chemicals as a result of the lack of necessary equipment ".

One volunteer paramedic in Zamalka adds:

"... two rockets fell at the" Telephone Exchange Building "near the Municipality, and then we heard people shouting that it was a chemical attack. Few seconds later, several rockets fell at Al Tawfeeq Mosque and two at the front, however, at the mosque was the area where most of the rockets fell as all those we evacuated in that area had lost their lives, as if they could not distinguish a chemical bombardment and thus did not protect themselves. I have seen more than 60 martyrs before I fainted and taken to the medical point.

Symptoms were: "foam" coming out of the mouth associated with blood, and bodies of the victims swelled very quickly, and there was bleeding from
Noses and mouths; the larger quantity was from the mouth. The sound of the rocket was like the sound of rocket launchers, and there was a smell of gas-like odor, or sulfur, but you do not feel the smell too much, then you lose consciousness. During my attempts to rescue people, I lost consciousness and people took me to the medical point. "

At the medical points:

No Enough Medicine and No Enough Medical Teams

What worth mentioning is that equipped hospitals in the towns of Eastern Gota are very few; while all the other medical points were founded as field hospitals at the beginning then they have been developed to become medical points for treating and hospitalizing. Almost all of these points have been established in unhealthy places, the only factor which could be taken into account is that they were in a relatively safe areas. According to the place, medical points have usually been cellars or empty halls divided manually by blankets and curtains and have a limited number of beds and basic medical equipment.

Yesterday, the hospitals and medical points were crowded with thousands of women, children and men, where they laid on the floors of lobbies, hallways and even the roads in front of the entrances to those hospitals and points.

An executive worker in Khawlaani medical point said to VDC team:

"The first case infected with chemical gases arrived at two o'clock at night and peaked between three and six o'clock in the morning. We brought water tanks and we were putting off the clothes of the injured and washed them; we got about 1,000 injured. We did not have sufficient amount of (atropine) for all the people, and we were run out of oxygen, there was no electricity or diesel to run generators. We only gave injections to very difficult cases, while we just washed the rest with water.
He continues: " the (atropine) we had had already expired two months ago, yet we used it, and one veterinarian brought us (atropine) that is intended for the animals and we used it at very small dosages for treatment."

* A picture of animal Atropine

According to the testimony of a administrator in "Ihsan" medical point in Hamourieh :

"In Hamourieh, a medical point has been established, as part of Ihsan medical point, because of the large number of casualties, where 450 injured were received, including about 200 children and 100 women. Many of them have not been given (atropine) due to the lack of it, and others were taken to other medical points due to the excessive overcrowding and the lack of materials and medical teams needed for their treatment."

Zuhair Mobekher, the administrative officer at the documentation section in Irbeen medical point adds:

"The bombardment took place in a populated area around 2 o'clock at night, as we had received injuries since that time. We were already been under a siege, and there was a lack of medicines, especially (atropine) and we had a significant lack of oxygen, as it was prevented to take any to the besieged city."

VDC Team finished his tour among the medical points in Kafarbatna around six-thirty in the evening, when medical points were still receiving casualties. Some of the injured said that the reason for the delay in their treatment that they had already gone to other medical points and were given off but their condition worsened after they returned home. Others were either in a state of fear and disorder, could not find any one to help them or were expected to get better without treatment, so they were late in getting to the medical points.


Testimonies of doctors and paramedics agreed on a number of symptoms the injured and the victims suffered. Those symptoms can be summed up with:

Vomiting, Foamy salivation, severe agitation, pinpoints pupils, redness of the eyes, dyspnea, neurological convulsions, respiratory and heart failure, blood out of the nose and mouth and, in some cases, hallucinations and memory loss

Man infected with chemical gases in Zamalka:

One of the doctors in Irbeen's medical point says:

"Symptoms we have witnessed are of a nerve gas. The most important symptoms witnessed were neurological myeloid paroxysm s , shortness of breath, respiratory and heart failure.

It was only about half a minute when the symptoms occurred following the shelling. That’s why many people couldn't move or escape and they immediately died. We also witnessed neurological symptoms of cerebral origin. "

A child with red eyes due to exposure to chemical gases in Zamalka

* one of the strangest cases seen by VDC field monitoring team in Syria, is that of a girl who has not recognized her mother and insisted that that woman was not her mother:

"The mother says: suddenly we heard the sound of a rocket, and then we heard people shouting that it was a chemical attack, and then we were asked to go to the top of building. While we were on the top of the building, another rocket landed that impacted everybody. Afterwards, I lost consciousness and lost all of my family, including my husband and my children, and then I woke up and found myself at this medical point. That is when my brother-in-law came and told me that my daughter was there, he went and brought her, and said that he did not know where the rest of the children were....
But the girl who heard talk, interrupted the mother saying that she was not hers. She kept swearing that the lady was not her mother and saying "my mother is called Samar Masri, but this woman is not my mom."

According to the doctor supervising the case, the girl's psychological condition will improve within two days.

To view the interview, please visit the link:


Martyred or still alive?!

Five cases were reported among the death, but turned out to be in a coma, and not dead yet.

VDC asked two general doctors about this case:

The first doctor stressed the impossibility such happenings, especially in the case of respiratory and heart failure.
The other doctor attributed the case to the a mal-diagnosis: for some people might be in a case of shock and not death, and they wake up later, unlike the cases of death like when some people get poisoned and die immediately.

Infection of medical teams and paramedics:

None of the medical staffs and paramedics remained uninfected by the toxic substances due to the absence of gas masks or protective suits while evacuating and helping people.

For example, in Hamourieh, eight of the medical staff were infected in Khawlaani medical point as one of the administrators there says:

The medical team weakened and lost the ability to continue after two rounds of aiding due to the absence of masks, and then we had to use ordinary cotton masks wetted with the vinegar that the locals gave us, in an attempt to avoid infection as much as possible.

The paramedic (Muhannad Afyooni/ 23 years old) says:

"After the shelling, I went out to rescue people; I smelled a gas with a strong sulfur-like smell, and a foggy white color. Suddenly, a shiver hit me and I lost consciousness. Before I fainted, I saw 17 cases; most of them suffered convulsions, neurological disorders, vomiting, hallucinations, shortness of breath, and pinpoints pupils. Afterwards, I was hospitalized to the medical point in Douma.

Women and Children

Unfortunately, most of the children who were exposed to toxic substances could not make it. They were either killed while sleeping in their beds at the moment of shelling, or died shortly after arriving to the medical points. Women's suffering was doubled due to the lack of both spaces and private rooms for them to take off their contaminated cloths before washing them of toxic substances.

One paramedic in Hamourieh's Khawlaani medical point says:

We really suffered a lot dealing with women's cases as there was no room for them to take off their clothes as all places were busy and completely crowded, so we had to wash them with a lot of water.

A number of women and children killed due to the regime's shelling with chemical weapons. To view, please visit the link:


Martyrs' bodies' and the burial

Because martyrs and injured were moved to different medical points in the towns and cities of Gota, many people could not find their children or their families quickly, especially that most of the martyrs were killed while sleeping and thus were taken out without any personal IDs or any clues about their personalities. Many unknown martyrs had to be buried before their families could identify them or bid them farewell because of the intense heat in August and the lack of electricity and refrigerators to keep their bodies.

Pictures of martyrs in tuberculosis hospital in Kafr Batna:

Mass graves were prepared in cemeteries to accommodate the largest number of martyrs possible, as happened in Zamalka, where the man responsible about the cemetery there said: "140 men and women martyrs have been buried here; entire families, fathers, mothers and children, and they are all documented"

Graves were adjacent to each other due to the small space, so that one grave contained 15 women martyrs buried together"

To watch the interview, please visit the link (some parts were deleted in file of the secrecy of witnesses)


Mass grave picture:

Anonymous bodies in Irbeen medical point waiting to be identified by their parents
to view the video, please visit the link:


Families were scattered due to the panic that prevailed following the shelling, as well as moving people to different medical points all over Eastern Gota. In each of the points VDC team visited, there had been parents inquiring about their children in order to know if they were still alive, which made them search all the medical points.

An interview with the child Muhammad Takreeti/ 13 years old

To watch the interview, please visit the link:


Animals' injury

All witnesses confirmed and paramedics deaths of animals exposed to toxic gases in areas that had been bombed.

(Haitham Muhammad Saleh Irbeeni/50 years old) , an injured that has been taken to the medical point in Douma, says: " all animals have died, including the cats in the streets"

* Picture showing animals affected by chemical gases near Zamalka School, primary education:

Death toll and casualties

Currently, it is difficult to limit the final numbers of the martyrs and the injured, first because of the large numbers of unidentified martyrs, and secondly because so many parents have taken out their injured children's or received the bodies of their martyred children and buried them without any documentation.

the following picture shows the final statistics of martyrs issued by the United Revolutionary Medical Office in Eastern Gota

To view the names of the massacre's martyr documented so far, please visit the link below. Note that documenting and checking the names are going on 24/7 on our website.


Conclusion :

The hard thing was not the death, itself; It was the panic in people's eyes. Usually in such cases we ask for evacuation; however, there were hundreds of thousands of civilians in a besieged area; no evacuation was possible.

What was harder than that is watching a three-month baby girl dying and not being able to help her. In Douma alone, 22 martyrs could've been saved, were the required medical supplies available one month ago. Unfortunately, we had to prioritize women over men as we had no other choice.

Dr. Majed Abu Ali. The United Medical Office in Douma and its outskirts.

The high death toll was, mainly, due to the lack of hospitals and centers with required apparatus; the medical points, there, do not have those required apparatus to treat casualties of chemical weapons like 'chemical masks', in addition to the lack of specialized paramedics who are able to deal with such cases.

Western Gota has, already, been under a heavy siege for more than a year, which caused a severe lack of medical apparatus. Moreover, the medical staffs couldn't protect themselves anymore, as they had no protective masks. Instead, they depended on usual masks and methods.

The UN-mandated investigation team to uncover the truth about allegations about the use of chemical weapons in Syria is demanded to go, immediately, to the areas hit by the regime, these areas are located only hundreds of meters from their residence and that's the least thing to do for the international community and its disabled low body to shoulder a part of its responsibility on the crimes that have been committed against the Syrian civilians for more than 30 months now.

Also, a ceaseless effort should be exerted to provide the 'liberated areas' with the required supplements of medicine and masks, and to open new medical points equipped with all the necessary apparatus to treat similar cases in order to limit expected damages of the crime of chemical weapons.

Photos of a number of unidentified martyrs:

Field Monitoring Team in Eastern Gota, damascus Suburbs:

1 – The General Coordinator: lawyer: Razan Zaytouneh.

2 - Magd Deek.
3 - Thaer Mohammad
Photography :
- Mohamed Alarvani

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