Syrian activists returned to Khan Shaykhun on April 5 to investigate the blast site of a suspected chemical attack that occurred one day earlier at the northern edge of town. At least 70 civilians died and hundreds more were wounded.
Doctors Without Borders said, “Medical reports strongly suggest that victims of the attack on Khan Shaykhun were exposed to at least two chemical agents.” It deployed medical teams to support emergency operations in Idlib province and at Bab al-Hawa Hospital, where medics donned protective clothing as they inspected patients who they said had symptoms consistent with exposure to sarin and possibly chlorine gas. The World Health Organization said the suspected chemical weapons incident marked the “most horrific since Ghouta in August 2013.”
Various photos of the blast crater and remnants of the munitions have been distributed by local activists. An opposition activist in al-Marj published photos of a munition from a suspected chemical attack in January 2017. That shell was identified by digital forensic investigators as a 107 mm rocket, which has been used by the Syrian military. Both the casing of the Khan Shaykhoun munition and its strike plate are notably different from that which had been used in al-Marj. In this context, the impact crater in Khan Shaykhoun is notably bigger than that identified earlier this year in al-Marj, suggesting the munition may have been a 130 mm or 152 mm artillery rocket.
Such munitions, of Russian origin, have been documented to have been used by the Syrian military, as well as by rebels throughout Syria in recent years. The Syrian military has a reported presence in the northern Hama provincial town of Hamamiya, located just 11 miles southwest of Khan Shaykhun, suggesting it may have been a 152 mm artillery rocket, which boasts a range of approximately 13 miles.
Storyful could not independently verify the type of munitions used at Khan Shaykhoun. Credit: YouTube/SMART News Agency via Storyful