Monday, April 16

Douma doctor: patients were overcome by hypoxia from dust storm not by poison gas

Robert Fisk's on-the-ground investigative report, published two hours ago in the (U.K.) Independent, could be the shot heard round the world.  

The search for truth in the rubble of Douma – and one doctor’s doubts over the chemical attack: "Exclusive: Robert Fisk visits the Syria clinic at the centre of a global crisis"
... For the same 58-year old senior Syrian doctor then adds something profoundly uncomfortable: the patients, he says, were overcome not by gas but by oxygen starvation in the rubbish-filled tunnels and basements in which they lived, on a night of wind and heavy shelling that stirred up a dust storm.
As Dr Assim Rahaibani announces this extraordinary conclusion, it is worth observing that he is by his own admission not an eyewitness himself ...
But his account comports with one given by two doctors who were on duty in the clinic at the time and testified that they saw no evidence of chemical poisoning in the patients:
On April 13, the Ministry of Defense of Russia released a video showing testimonies of two doctors who were on duty at a Duma hospital when the alleged chemical attack took place in the Syrian town on April 7.
In the video, one of the two doctors “Kahlil al-Jaysh” said that the hospital received several civilians who had been injured in an airstrike of the Syrian Arab Air Force (SyAAF) on Duma in the morning of April 8. Dr. al-Jaysh said that the airstrike had hit the last floor of a building causing fire. This led to the suffocation of some civilians who were trapped in the lower floors of the building.
While the doctors were treating the injured civilians, a man shouted in the hospital’s emergency room that the injures were caused by “a chemical attack,” which led to chaos, according to Dr. al-Jaysh.
“While treating the people who were suffocated by smoke and dust, one of the people who was present said that the strike was a chemical attack, which led the people in the area [hospital] to deal with the cases as injuries caused by chemical weapons,” Dr. al-Jaysh said in the video released by the Ministry of Defense of Russia.
 Moreover, the two doctors stressed in the video that there had been no symptoms [suggesting] a chemical weapons use.
Both doctors were also able to prove their presence in the emergency room of Duma hospital during the incident via a video published by a Syrian opposition news outlet.
Several experts suggested before that a carbon monoxide poisoning might be behind the deaths of the Duma attack victims. The Syrian Observatory from Human Rights (SOHR) even reported from day one that carbon monoxide poisoning had been behind the deaths of the civilians who were trapped in a basement from a long time after the airstrike.
Syrian pro-government sources noted that both doctors could have left Duma district under the evacuation agreement between the Damascus government and Jaysh al-Islam but they opted to stay. This makes the testimonies of these two doctors more credible.
 The quotes are from an April 13 SouthFront report. See the SF website for the video -- one version in Arabic and the other with a simultaneous English text translation.

I wonder if Robert Fisk is aware of the video evidence that two doctors were on duty at the clinic.  He writes:
By bad luck, too, the doctors who were on duty that night on 7 April were all in Damascus giving evidence to a chemical weapons enquiry, which will be attempting to provide a definitive answer to that question in the coming weeks.
I find it unlikely that the clinic would be left completely unstaffed unless this is different clinics; however, it doesn't seem there were two.  

We're still looking at a fog of war situation, but with the account given to Fisk by Dr Assim Rahaibani and one given on video by Dr al-Jaysh, the fog is starting to clear.


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