chemical weapons

North Korea shipments to Syria chemical arms agency intercepted - 23 August 2017

Two North Korean shipments to a Syrian government agency responsible for the country’s chemical weapons program were intercepted in the past six months, according to a confidential United Nations report on North Korea sanctions violations.
The report by a panel of independent UN experts, which was submitted to the UN Security Council earlier this month and seen by Reuters on Monday, gave no details on when or where the interdictions occurred or what the shipments contained.
“The panel is investigating reported prohibited chemical, ballistic missile and conventional arms cooperation between Syria and the DPRK (North Korea),” the experts wrote in the 37-page report.
“Two member states interdicted shipments destined for Syria. Another Member state informed the panel that it had reasons to believe that the goods were part of a KOMID contract with Syria,” according to the report.
KOMID is the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation. It was blacklisted by the Security Council in 2009 and described as Pyongyang’s key arms dealer and exporter of equipment related to ballistic missiles and conventional weapons. In March 2016 the council also blacklisted two KOMID representatives in Syria.
“The consignees were Syrian entities designated by the European Union and the United States as front companies for Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC), a Syrian entity identified by the Panel as cooperating with KOMID in previous prohibited item transfers,” the UN experts wrote.
SSRC has overseen the country’s chemical weapons program since the 1970s.
The UN experts said activities between Syria and North Korea they were investigating included cooperation on Syrian Scud missile programs and maintenance and repair of Syrian surface-to-air missiles air defense systems.
The North Korean and Syrian missions to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The experts said they were also investigating the use of the VX nerve agent in Malaysia to kill the estranged half-brother of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un in February.
North Korea has been under UN sanctions since 2006 over its ballistic missile and nuclear programs and the Security Council has ratcheted up the measures in response to five nuclear weapons tests and four long-range missile launches.
Syria agreed to destroy its chemical weapons in 2013 under a deal brokered by Russia and the United States. However, diplomats and weapons inspectors suspect Syria may have secretly maintained or developed a new chemical weapons capability.
During the country’s more than six-year long civil war the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has said the banned nerve agent sarin has been used at least twice, while the use of cholorine as a weapon has been widespread. The Syrian government has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons.

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Poisonous chemicals are suspected of augmenting an aerial bombardment of a rebel-held town in Syria’s Idlib province Tuesday, with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights saying at least 11 children were among those who died. The group says the death toll of 58 has risen to 72, and that all the victims were civilians.

The attack was reportedly carried out in Khan Shaykhun, a town in northwest Syria that sits about halfway between Homs and Aleppo on the country’s main north-south highway.

72 Killed In Attack In Syria Where Toxic Chemicals And Shelling Were Reported

Photo: Mohamed al-Bakour/AFP/Getty Images and Omar Haj Kadour/AFP/Getty Images

In a suspected chemical weapon attack like the one in Syria on Tuesday, children are the most vulnerable targets. They are more likely than adults to die from chemical agents and to suffer injures. If they survive, they also suffer from the physical and mental trauma of the attack for far more years than adults simply because they have more years left to live.

The effects of chemical weapons are more devastating for kids for a number of reasons. “Because kids are smaller, there’s a higher impact on a smaller body,” said Dr. Steven Hinrichs, director of the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. A smaller dose of a chemical agent can do more damage to their organs.

Why Children Face The Greatest Danger From Chemical Weapons

Photo: Mohamed Al-Bakour/AFP/Getty Images

Poison Gas

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.

Among the great advancements of the 19th century was the development of the chemical industry. As the Industrial Revolution ticked on, Europeans learned how to produce and commercialize chemicals. Artificial fertilizers, soaps, dyes, petrochemical materials and more became cheap and commonplace as the chemical industry expanded first in Britain, and then in Germany and the United States. Chemistry had made life easier.

Of course, the military also pondered the use of chemicals in weaponry. Some junior soldiers and scientists suggested the utility of poison gas during the Crimean War and the American Civil War, but the trend did not catch on. It was “as bad a mode of warfare as poisoning the wells of the enemy,” announced the British Ordinance Department. The scientist who proposed the notion grumbled. “It is considered a legitimate mode of warfare to fill shells with molten metal which scatters among the enemy, and produced the most frightful modes of death. Why a poisonous vapor which would kill men without suffering is to be considered illegitimate warfare is incomprehensible.” Nevertheless, the Hague Conferences of 1899 and 1907 banned the use of chemical weapons, one of the councils’ few achievements.

But military thinkers did not give up the idea, especially in the German army. By the spring of 1915 the Germans’ rampage across France had been checked, and a frustrating stalemate had developed. The soldiers turned back to the chemical industry. Germany had the largest chemical production in the world - and if it weaponized it, planners believed, the Entente would not be able to retaliate in kind.

Germans release gas from canister, 1915. This was a dangerous and unreliable method of using gas, and a change of wind could easily hurt the attackers as much as the enemy.

The Germans released poison gas for the first time on April 22, 1915, at Ypres. They released chlorine gas out of canisters, relying on the wind to carry it the Allied positions. The noxious clouds sent several French and Algerian divisions reeling in panic. Two days later the Germans tried it against Canadian soldiers who had plugged the hole in the line. The Canadians choked and gasped, but fought on, stemming the German wave. They had discovered that urinating on a handkerchief and tying it over their mouth and nose created a primitive gas mask. Three days later the British began rushing to the front cotton pads dipped in bicarbonate of soda, which neutralized the gas agent. 

French soldiers wear primitive gas masks.

The Entente loudly attacked the “Hun” for his barbarous use of gas, and then set to work creating their own gas weapons. Chlorine gas, and then phosgene gas, became common weapons. They were horrific weapons. Phosgene had no immediate effects, but within 24 hours soldiers would begin gasping as their lungs filled with fluid. The worst was mustard gas, which the Germans began using in 1917. It rotted the body from the inside and out, blistering skin, blinding, and stripping the mucous membrane off the bronchial tubes. The pain was unendurable.

Aerial photo of a large gas attack on the Western Front.

Using canisters to disperse gas with the wind was common at first, but a very unreliable and potentially dangerous method, so armies began using artillery shells filled with gas. It became normal to fire gas barrages before an attack, because it forced enemy soldiers and artillerymen to don their gas masks, which made fighting or loading guns hard. More sophisticated gas masks were created to protect soldiers, although the filters had to be changed every thirty minutes.

British troops with box respirators. The respirator had to be changed every thirty minutes but it was an effective mode of protection.

The shouts of “Gas! Gas!” and the rattle of gas alarms warned troops to put their gas masks on immediately. The thought of being incapacitated by gas terrified everyone. Yet it did not take long for men in all armies to get used to these drills, and gas actually did not cause a very high amount of casualties during the war, and relatively few deaths. On July 17, for example, the British fired 100,000 gas shells at the German lines at Ypres, but only killed seventy-five of the enemy. Still, gas caused around one million casualties during the war. Gas may have been more terrifying than effective, but the image of men choking and suffocating during World War One had been so horrific that European armies declined to use gas against each other during World War Two.

Types of German gas shells. Used by both sides from 1916, these contained liquid gas which evaporated on impact. This was a much more effective way of releasing gas agents on the enemy.

Assad has used chemical weapons on his people once again!
Over 100 civilians, including tens of children were killed by Chlorine/Sarin Gas in #Khan_Shaykhon ( Idlib). They’ve breathed death…

Is there anything more evil than gassing people, including children, to death - then bombing the hospital treating the survivors?
#Idlib #chemical_attack #خان_شيخون

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* This video contains graphic content.