A metal piece from a device witnesses say was dropped by helicopter into a home in Sheihk Maqsoud, a neighborhood in Aleppo, Syria, lies on a staircase.
A metal piece from a device witnesses say was dropped by helicopter into a home in Sheihk Maqsoud, a neighborhood in Aleppo, Syria, lies on a staircase. The device appeared to have contained a small explosive. (PHOTO BY: Rojhat Azad)

ALEPPO, Syria — Yasser Younes went to bed around midnight on April 13. When he woke up two days later, he was in a hospital, and his wife and two young children were dead.

Younes, who lives in the Kurdish-controlled neighborhood of Sheikh Maqsoud, said he doesn't remember much from that night. He recalled waking up to a loud noise at 3 a.m. Opening the door, he said he saw smoke. And that was it.

At Avreen Hospital in Afrin, about 40 miles away, the doctors who received the emergency call said they had little doubt about what was going on. Dr. Kawa Hassan prepared his staff to receive 22 patients suffering from conditions he believed were caused by a chemical weapons attack.

The main body of the device was made of plastic.
The main body of the device was made of plastic. (PHOTO BY: Rojhat Azad)

"I received the call at 3:30 a.m.," said Hassan, who has worked as the director of Avreen Hospital for the past eight months. "I had no idea what chemical it might be so we prepared masks and protective clothing. I was scared, not for myself, but for all of Syria. I didn't think it would come to this."

A closer analysis, however, raises doubts and highlights the challenge of confirming whether the Syrian government - or anyone else - is using chemical weapons. The reality could have major implications for Syria and beyond, prompting foreign powers to either intervene directly or continue with the status quo.


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Looking at video and photos obtained by GlobalPost at the scene, experts say the spent canister found in Younes' house and the symptoms displayed by the victims are inconsistent with a chemical weapon such as sarin gas, which is known to be in Syria's arsenal. Sarin is typically delivered using artillery shells or spray tanks, not in the grenade-like device found in this Aleppo attack and in

Kurdish police and members of a Kurdish militia gather the remains of a device witnesses say was dropped by a helicopter onto the courtyard staircase of a
Kurdish police and members of a Kurdish militia gather the remains of a device witnesses say was dropped by a helicopter onto the courtyard staircase of a family home in Sheikh Maqsoud, a neighborhood in Aleppo, Syria. Syrians suspect the device is some kind of chemical weapon. But experts have their doubts. (PHOTO BY: Rojhat Azad)