Never Again?  Sarin Gas Kills Syrian civilians

By Shlomo Maital

           Syrian gas attack                

   Is it nearly certain that Assad ordered the use of Sarin nerve gas, near Damascus, that killed over 1,000 civilians?

    America and  Israel both believe so.  According to The Guardian newspaper,  “Expert opinion is hardening behind attributing the deaths on Wednesday of hundreds of people in Damascus to a nerve agent such as sarin, with regional and western governments expecting to receive smuggled biological samples from the site in the coming days.   Chemical weapons specialists, who have studied footage showing the dead and dying victims of the attack, said several symptoms offered strong evidence that a nerve agent was used; it would be the worst such attack anywhere in the world in the past 25 years. … The [missile]  strike occurred around 2am Friday at a time when the Syrian military had launched an advance into the rebel-held area east of Damascus. The missiles bore similarities to those used in at least two previous attacks where a toxic gas was reported to have been used. … Eyewitnesses have described the missiles and rockets launched in the attack as having come from two areas of Damascus which are both under regime control – the Mezze airbase, south-west of central Damascus, and the October War Panorama military museum in the city.”

    Has Sarin killed people before?

    Yes, the Halabja attack, when up to 5,000 people were gassed in Iraqi Kurdistan by Saddam Hussein’s forces in 1988.    In 1995, the Japanese Aum Shinrikyo sect released an impure form of sarin in the Tokyo Metro. Thirteen people died.  

     Has the Syrian army used Sarin before?

     Yes.  According to the Guardian: “Biological samples had been given to MI6 and to French intelligence members  after alleged small-scale chemical attacks earlier in the year. Both governments, along with the US, then declared that sarin had been the agent used.”

   What is Sarin?  Who invented it?

   Wikipedia:   “It is a colorless, odorless liquid, used as a chemical weapon owing to its extreme potency as a nerve agent. It has been classified as a weapon of mass destruction in UN Resolution 687. Production and stockpiling of sarin was outlawed by the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993.”   Sarin was discovered in 1938  by two German scientists attempting to create stronger pesticides.   In mid-1939, the formula for the agent was passed to the chemical warfare section of the German Army Weapons Office.  Estimates for total sarin production by Nazi Germany range from 500 kg to 10 tons.  Though sarin, tabun and soman were incorporated into artillery shells, Germany did not use nerve agents against Allied targets.”

    How do people exposed to it die?

    They are asphyxiated.   Sarin inhibits how the body eliminates “acetylcholine”.   “A build-up of acetylcholine in the synaptic cleft, due to the inhibition of cholinesterase, means the neurotransmitter continues to act on the muscle fibre, so that any nerve impulses are effectively continually transmitted. Death will usually occur as a result of asphyxia due to the inability of the muscles involved in breathing to function.”

   Did the Nazis use Sarin in their gas chambers?

   No.  They used Cyclone B,  a cyanide-based pesticide  use by Nazi Germany to kill an estimated 1.2 million human beings, including approximately 960,000 Jews, in gas chambers of extermination camps during the Holocaust. 

    How do you, as a Jew and an Israeli,  react to Assad’s use of Sarin gas to kill over one thousand Syrian civilians?

    I am strongly pro-peace, pro-compromise, pro-two-state-solution.  I also have not a shred of doubt, that if Assad and his Israel-hating equivalents are willing to gas their own citizens, would they hesitate for one second to do the same to us Israelis, if only they could? 

     Nearly every Israeli [including my wife and I] has a gas mask in his or her home, including versions for children.  Is there any other country, among the 242 nations of the world, that has to store gas masks at home?  

     Russia and China, Assad supporters, are accomplices in Sarin war crimes.  So is Obama, whose empty ‘red line’ words humiliate and demean all Americans.  So are we all, who just sit silently and cluck our tongues.   And where, by the way, are the demonstrators in Arab nations and abroad, who are quick to boycott Israeli-designed water meters sold in UK, for example?