April 5 (UPI) — The U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting Wednesday to discuss the suspected chemical attack in Syria that killed more than 70 people this week, but Russia has dismissed a resolution calling for an investigation.
Dozens of civilians — some officials estimating more than 100 — died due to Tuesday’s attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in the Idlib province. Médecins Sans Frontières, or Doctors Without Borders, said some of the airstrike’s victims it treated in a hospital near the Turkish border showed symptoms associated with chemical poisoning.
“Eight patients showed symptoms — including constricted pupils, muscle spasms and involuntary defecation — which are consistent with exposure to a neurotoxic agent such as sarin gas or similar compounds,” MSF said in a statement. “MSF medical teams were also able to visit other hospitals where victims of the attack were being treated, and reported that victims smelt of bleach, suggesting they had been exposed to chlorine. These reports strongly suggest that victims of the attack on Khan Sheikhoun were exposed to at least two different chemical agents.”
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres on Wednesday in Brussels said “war crimes are going on in Syria” and called for a “very clear investigation to remove all doubts” when asked if the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is responsible.
The U.N. Security Council, led by the United States, Great Britain and France, drafted a resolution condemning the attack and calling for an investigation but Russia, a close ally to Assad, said the resolution was “unacceptable.”
During the meeting Wednesday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Syrian chemical attacks would continue if no action was taken.
“Time and time again Russia uses the same false narrative to deflect attention from their ally in Damascus,” she said.
“Russia has shielded Assad from U.N. sanctions. If Russia has the influence in Syria that it claims it has, we need to see them use it,” she added. “We need to see them put an end to these horrific acts. How many more children have to die before Russia cares?”
“It crossed a lot of lines for me. When you kill innocent children, innocent babies, little babies, with a chemical gas that is so lethal … that crosses many, many lines, beyond a red line, many, many lines,” he said.
“I now have responsibility [for U.S. involvement with Syria], and I will have that responsibility and carry it very proudly.”
“History will judge all of us in how we respond to these unforgettable and unforgivable images of the innocent,” British ambassador Matthew Rycroft said. “How long are we going to sit here and pretend that actions in these chambers have no consequences?”
Russia alleges a Syrian airstrike struck a rebel warehouse containing toxic substances but Western governments, including the United States and the European Union, and Syrian monitoring groups, including the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, accuse forces loyal to Assad of carrying out a chemical attack on a civilian population.