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On April 7, reports emerged from Syria’s civil war that residents of the city of Douma east of Damascus were potential victims of chemical weapons. The reports have yet to be confirmed, but footage of women and children foaming at the mouth threaten to draw a military strike by Western forces.
The California-based non-interventionist website Antiwar.com posted an article saying the Syrian Red Crescent, which is a member of the international Red Cross/Red Crescent federation, rejected the idea of a chemical attack.
"The Syrian Red Crescent issued a statement Monday dismissing the allegations of a weekend chemical weapon attack in the city of Douma," the April 9 article said. "The statement insisted their medical personnel in the city had found no evidence any such attack took place."
PolitiFact contacted the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (the organization typically includes the Arab designation) to confirm the statement.
"We are not aware of such a declaration," said Rana Sidani Cassou in the Beirut office of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. "Neither the Syrian Arab Red Crescent nor the International Federation are in a position to confirm or deny any attack."
In fact, during the April 7 attack, Syrian jets had targeted the Syrian Red Crescent hospital in Douma and the next day, the group tweeted that the Douma branch had shut down.
When we contacted Eric Garris, director of Antiwar.com, the website retracted the article, and posted a new one with the headline "Report of Syrian Red Crescent Statement on Alleged Douma Attack Incorrect."
Garris told PolitiFact that they based the original story on an article that appeared April 8 on the Russian-state sponsored news website Tass. That article said the Syrian Red Crescent had issued a statement.
We can’t verify that. The Tass article quotes doctors who work with the Syrian Red Crescent talking about an attack that took place in January. Garris said his news editor believes Tass might have changed the article from the version he first saw.
Garris said his group moved ahead with the story, even though he did not find confirmation on the Syrian Red Crescent website.
"I have no excuse for letting it slip through like this," Garris said. "We should have been more diligent. There’s enough misinformation out there, and we don’t want to be a part of that."
The retraction said, "In the future, we will not use foreign news sources as the sole source for important articles like this."
The Antiwar.com website said that the Syrian Red Crescent had issued a statement saying that they found no evidence of a chemical attack in Douma. The organization’s director said that was based on an article from the Russian news service Tass.
The Syrian Arab Red Crescent did not make such a statement. Antiwar.com posted a full retraction of its article and apologized for the mistake.
We rate this claim False.
Antiwar.com, Red Crescent Says No Evidence of Chemical Attack in Syria’s Douma, April 9, 2018
Antiwar.com, Retraction: Report of Syrian Red Crescent Statement on Alleged Douma Attack Incorrect, April 12, 2018
Syrian Arab Red Crescent, The sub-branch of Syrian Arab Red Crescent in Douma was declared out of service, April 8, 2018
Tass, No toxic agents found by Red Crescent specialists in Syria’s Douma, April 8, 2018
Russia Today, Red Crescent says it found no trace of ‘Ghouta chem attack’ used by US to blame Damascus & Moscow, April 9, 2018
BBC, Syria war: What we know about Douma 'chemical attack', April 10, 2018
Violations Documentation Centre, Suspected chemical attack in Douma City, April 8, 2018
Interview, Eric Garris, director, Antiwar.com, April 12, 2018
Email interview, Rana Sidani Cassou, head of communications, Beirut office – International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, April 12, 2018
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