On Tuesday, 4 April 2017, in the morning, military aircraft conducted multiple airstrikes on the city of Khan Sheikhoun in southern rural Idlib. They targeted residential areas with multiple weapons, one of which contained a chemical agent; this chemical weapon killed more than 50 people, mostly women and children, and caused symptoms of severe chemical weapons exposure in as many as 300 others. Many of those affected are in critical condition. Syria Civil Defence (SCD) teams from Khan Sheikhoun and Al Habeet and Ambulance teams responded and provided decontamination, first aid and medical evacuation to those affected.
Four hours later, while the ambulance teams and SCD in the area were on full alert, air strikes targeted the Khan Sheikhoun SCD centre and Al-Rahma hospital in the city of Khan Sheikhoun (which was treating those affected by the attack), knocking the clinic out of service. Shortly afterward, warplanes targeted the SCD centre in Alhabeet, knocking the centre out of service and damaging its ambulance and fire fighting vehicles. These attacks severely impeded the delivery of aid to the wounded, compounded by the fact that the largest medical facility in the area, the national hospital of Maaret Al Numan, had been knocked out of service by three airstrikes yesterday.
This use of chemical weapons constitutes an egregious violation of International Humanitarian Law and a major war crime. In addition, the targeting of local SCD centres and medical facilities directly prior to and directly after this attack indicate a deliberate attempt to prevent emergency services and health care workers from rendering aid to those affected.
Syria Civil Defence and the Health Directorate of Idlib demand the international community to fulfil its responsivities and immediately investigate this crime and hold the perpetrators accountable according to the international laws; in addition, we demand respect and protection for medical facilities and humanitarian emergency workers so that they may fulfil their duty of providing aid to the wounded.
Note: the number of the martyrs and the injured herein are likely to increase due to the number of critical injuries and the recurrent airstrikes. These numbers reflect the most recent statistics of SCD and the Health Directorate in Idlib.