How chlorine gas became a weapon in Syria's civil war

How chlorine gas became a weapon in Syria's civil war

Syria's chlorine problem: the human toll of chlorine attacks in six years of civil war.


Mohamed Tennari, a medical doctor, was visiting an electronics repair shop in the northwestern Syrian village of Sarmin to have a broken internet router fixed. The store was owned by family friend Waref Taleb. Tennari left the router with Taleb and returned the following day to collect it. Taleb did not charge him for the fix. These were the last exchanges the two Syrian friends would ever have.
The next time Tennari saw Taleb was on March 16, 2015, a month or two later, following a chlorine chemical attack in Sarmin. This time, though, Taleb was on an operation table in the emergency room of the Sarmin field hospital.
Tennari rushed into the emergency room to see Taleb, who was coughing, choking, foaming at the mouth, and barely clinging to life. That night, a helicopter had dropped a barrel bomb containing chlorine that exploded on Taleb's home. 
"We couldn't help him because he inhaled a lot of chlorine," Tennari, 36, recalled, who has been working as a doctor in Syria since 2007.
Taleb's family scrambled into their basement to hide. The noxious gas seeped into the ventilation ducts of their house and killed Taleb and his entire family - his mother, wife, Ala'a Alajati, and their three children Aisha, three, Sarah, two, and Muhammad, one.
"They all died. It was so bad that we couldn't save them," he added. "[Taleb] was my friend and it was so sad."
Tennari suspected it was the Syrian regime that dropped the toxic gas cannister. He estimated that he and his staff treated about 120 patients who had been exposed to chlorine that night. The Taleb family, however, were the only casualties.
"They were in the basement and the chemical material was going down. People must go high. Because they were in the basement they really got a lot of this material, the chemical material."
Tennari described Taleb as a family man.
"He was friendly, quiet, [a] good person," he said. "He had a nice family. He loved his family."

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