(Photo credit: Local Committee of Arbeen/AP)
Locals and medical personnel from the Syrian city of Douma in the Damascus countryside confirmed on 2 February during a press conference in the country’s Foreign Ministry headquarters that the alleged 2018 chemical attack on the city was, indeed, staged.
This follows the release of a new report by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on 27 January, which once again renewed the accusation that Damascus was behind a 2018 chlorine gas attack on civilians in Douma.
“I live 400 meters from the place of the alleged incident, and I only learned of its occurrence the next day through social media,” Syrian lawyer Muhammad al-Naasan said during the press conference.
Another testimony is that of Dr. Hassan Oyoun, an ambulance worker at Douma Hospital, who claimed that “information was published a day before the alleged incident that it was necessary to prepare for an event that would result in a large number of injuries.”
This confirms that “prior preparations” were underway for the staging of the attack, Oyoun said, referring to the incident as a “fabricated play that was filmed.”
“What the terrorists announced about 800 injuries from chemical substances is incorrect, and the number of people who visited the hospital that day did not exceed 35,” he added.
According to Dr. Mumtaz al-Hanash, a Douma local, Douma Hospital announced just one day after the alleged attack that no chemically induced deaths were recorded whatsoever. He went on to say that the “photographed cases” did not provide evidence that chlorine, or any other weaponized chemical, was used.
An imam and preacher at a local mosque, Sheikh Ratib Naji, said: “We did not see with our own eyes any injured or dead, as they claimed, and those whom the terrorists claimed were dead, their bodies did not appear, and when we demanded them, they assaulted us.”
Syria’s permanent representative at the Hague-based chemical weapons watchdog, Milad Attiya, affirmed that Damascus does not recognize the OPCW investigation team’s third and latest report, as it rejected the last two. Attiya added that the report relies heavily on western sources, as well as groups such as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and the White Helmets, an Al-Qaeda affiliated rescue organization with links to organ trafficking networks in Syria.
Since 2013, armed groups in Syria have attempted to pin chemical attacks on the government to instigate internationally-led regime change operations against it. This comes in the form of staged attacks, or actual false-flag chemical attacks which leave many dead and are designed to implicate Damascus – as was the case in Ghouta in 2013 and in Khan Sheikhoun in 2017.
On 28 January, the Syrian government released a statement rejecting the OPCW report, which it said ignored “objective information which was provided by some … experts … and former OPCW inspectors with knowledge and expertise,” referring to the fact that the organization suppressed the findings of its initial report on Douma, as revealed by WikiLeaks in 2019.