Members of the UN Security Council moved to tears
17 April, 2015
New York: Members of the UN Security Council were moved to tears after they were shown a video of an apparent chlorine gas attack in north-west Syria last month.
The footage shows the unsuccessful attempts of doctors to revive three children all aged under four. US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power described the meeting as "very emotional" and said those responsible will be held accountable. The Syrian government denies it was responsible for the attack in Idlib.
Syrian doctors, confirming what activists reported after the attack on 16 March, told the UN Security Council that helicopters were heard flying above the village of Sarmin.
There was then a thud and an overpowering smell of bleach before dozens of people began arriving at the local hospital with breathing difficulties.
The video showed the desperate attempts by doctors to revive the three children, aged one, two and three, their grandmother and parents.
Suspected Chlorine attacks were identified on March 2015: Chlorine suspected in attacks on four villages in Idlib province, including Sarmin - six dead, at least 206 people affected, April/May 2014: OPCW concludes chlorine attacks likely used in attacks on three villages in Idlib - 13 dead,21 August 2013: Sarin gas in attacks on two Damascus suburbs - between 200 and 1,400 dead,19 March 2013: Sarin gas attack on Aleppo - 19 deadline
Speaking to the BBC, Zaher Sahloul, President of the Syrian American Medical Society, who attended the meeting, said UN delegates were affected by what they saw. "Some of them were crying. Clearly they were affected by what they have seen in the videos and what they have heard, many of them spoke outside the diplomatic language and many of them have said that this is outrageous and the perpetrators should be brought to justice," he said.
"Many of them suggested that the OPCW [Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons], should have a prompt and serious investigation."
A young Syrian sits on a bed at a clinic after a suspected chorine attack in Sarmin, Idlib province, Syria (17 March 2015)
The Syrian military denied the accusations, describing them as propaganda
Samantha Power, who also told reporters "if there was a dry eye in the room I didn't see it", said such testimony was being collected so that those responsible could be held to account. "The long arm of justice is taking more time than any of us would wish right now, but this documentary record will be used at some point in a court of law," she said.
The attack on Sarmin came just days after the UN Security Council approved a resolution that condemned the use of toxic chemicals such as chlorine in Syria, and threatened military action in case of further violations.
The US and other council members have long blamed the government of Bashar al-Assad of carrying out chemical weapons attacks. They say that the Syrian military is the only party to the conflict that have helicopters, which were heard in Sarmin and in other chemical attacks.
But Russia, an ally of Syria and a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council, has always maintained there is insufficient evidence to lay the blame solely with Damascus.