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Syria bulletin: SOS children safe as horror escalates

Opposition claims 1,000 dead in Damascus
Opposition claims 1,000 dead in Damascus

As opposition activists claim yesterday’s alleged chemical attacks have caused more than 1,000 deaths, the UN’s Deputy Secretary-General describes the events as a “serious escalation”. However, confirmation has reached us that all families in our Children’s Village in Damascus are safe.

The alleged attacks occurred at dawn yesterday, when opposition activists say several towns in the Ghouta region near Damascus were hit with rockets loaded with poison gas. The opposition accuses the Syrian government of launching the attacks. However, the Assad regime denies the allegations, which it says the opposition has fabricated to draw attention away from recent heavy losses.

Footage shows horrific scenes

Despite opposition claims, the death toll remains to be independently confirmed. Unverified video footage shot by activists shows scenes of confusion and distress as families are engulfed in the chaos. Numerous people, including children, are shown receiving emergency treatment and respiratory support at makeshift hospitals, though patients display no outward signs of injury, which experts say may indicate chemical poisoning. The Syrian government suggests footage may have been faked by opposition activists. However, speaking on this morning’s Today Programme, the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen stated that the recordings appeared to be authentic.

Talking to the BBC, a doctor treating the injured said symptoms included suffocation, salivating and blurred vision. Experts say these symptoms are consistent with exposure to a chemical agent, though patients show no symptoms of poisoning by common nerve agents such as sarin.

UN weapons inspectors are already in the country, investigating various other sites where it is alleged chemical weapons have been deployed. So far, around 35 UN member states have called for the inspectors to travel to Ghouta immediately. Speaking to Reuters news agency yesterday, George Sabra, a key member of the Syrian National Coalition, said: "We are asking for this team to go directly, with complete freedom... to the site of the crimes which took place yesterday.”

Families at Children’s Village unharmed

Despite the horrific events of yesterday and the continuing trauma felt across the region, SOS Children can report that all children living in our Children’s Village in nearby Qodsaya are safe and unharmed by the attacks. Situated around 20 miles from the centre of Ghouta, our Qodsaya Village is currently home to children evacuated from our Children’s Village in Aleppo, which was forced to close last September as fighting intensified and resources became increasingly limited.

SOS Children Syria’s head office lies within the affected area of Damascus, and contact with our colleagues there is difficult at the moment. We will provide further updates as soon as we are able.

Life is increasingly difficult for children in Syria. Countless families have been forced from their homes, and thousands are living in temporary shelters within Syria and the countries beyond. We are providing support to many of these families. Please help our emergency appeal...