Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reported Saturday facts and figures adding detail to earlier reports of alleged chemical weapon use in Syria—important in its potential to motivate stronger U.S. action in the region. MSF received approximately 3,600 patients displaying symptoms of neurotoxic poisoning within a three-hour window at three hospitals in Damascus, Syria, on Wednesday, Aug. 21. Of the 3,600, 355 died.
Dr Bart Janssens, MSF director of operations, is quoted in the MSF release: “Medical staff working in these facilities provided detailed information to MSF doctors regarding large numbers of patients arriving with symptoms including convulsions, excess saliva, pinpoint pupils, blurred vision and respiratory distress.”
In a press gaggle Friday, Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters: “I think what the President acknowledged yesterday is that there were reports of widespread civilian deaths in one area in Syria. There is some evidence to indicate that chemical weapons may have been involved. The President described that yesterday in the interview as a big event of grave concern.
“And given our interest in ensuring that weapons of mass destruction are not proliferating and the need to protect our allies in the region, the President believes that this is something that requires our attention. This is also something that requires the attention of the international community. That’s why you heard from the State Department yesterday that Senator Kerry has been in touch with some of our allies around the globe on this.”
Obama has expressed reluctance to get involved in a Syrian intervention without strong support of allies, citing the costly and lengthy intervention in Afghanistan.