Syria activists try to get samples to UN

2013-08-23 15:00
An image grab taken from a video uploaded on YouTube by the Arbeen unified press office shows, what rebels claim to be, one of the missiles carrying chemicals that targeted eastern Ghouta. (File, AFP)

An image grab taken from a video uploaded on YouTube by the Arbeen unified press office shows, what rebels claim to be, one of the missiles carrying chemicals that targeted eastern Ghouta. (File, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Beirut - Syrian activists say they are smuggling out body tissue samples from victims of an alleged chemical weapons attack outside Damascus and are trying to get them to a team of United Nations inspectors staying in a hotel a few miles away.

"The UN team spoke with us and since then we prepared samples of hair, skin and blood and smuggled them back into Damascus with trusted couriers," said activist Abu Nidal, speaking from the town of Arbin.

The opposition accuses President Bashar Assad's forces of firing rockets before dawn on Wednesday loaded which poison gas in the midst of a fierce offensive on the rebel-held suburbs that ring the capital.

The army has been pummelling the area, known as the Ghouta region, since Tuesday night with air raids and artillery strikes that could hinder access to the sites and potentially damage evidence. Chemical weapons experts say every hour counts - the longer it takes, the more likely evidence can be covered up or tampered with.

Only a few activists said they were confident that they had a contact who would be able to hand their samples to the UN inspectors.

‘Illogical and fabricated’

Several activists in the area who spoke to Reuters said they had prepared samples to smuggle into the capital but were unable to find a way to access the monitors inside their hotel.

"We're being shelled and on top of that Ghouta is surrounded by regime checkpoints. But even that isn't a problem, we can smuggle them out," said activist Abo Mohammed, from the suburb of Harasta.

"The problem is the location of the UN committee in the hotel. They're under heavy guard and government minders."

Activists say that in addition to tissue samples they have taken photographs of bomb sites, soil samples, and written witness accounts.

Syria's uprising against four decades of Assad family rule has turned into a civil war that has killed more than 100 000 people.

Foreign powers have said chemical weapons could change the calculus in terms of intervention and have negotiated with Damascus to allow a UN team of experts to examine the site of three small-scale attacks where poison gas was allegedly used.

The United Nations is now seeking to expand the group's mandate to allow them to investigate the most recent attack, whose death toll ranges from 500 to more than 1 000 people.

Syria has given no response to the demands. On Wednesday it denied using chemical weapons, calling the claims "illogical and fabricated".

Read more on:    un  |  bashar assad  |  syria  |  syria conflict

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.