International Community Reacts to Syrian Chemical Weapons Attack

October 5, 2013

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. casualty [KAZH-oo-uh l-tee] (n.) – a person killed in a war, accident, disaster, etc.
ExampleThe number of casualties in the Syrian War has now reached 100,000.

2. look into [look IN-too] (phrasal v.) – to try to acquire information about something; to investigate
ExampleThe investigators came to the country to look into possible cases of war crimes.

3. humanitarian [hyoo-man-i-TAIR-ee-uh or, often, yoo-] (adj.) – relating to the safety and welfare of human lives
Example: Organizations like Red Cross give humanitarian aid to people living in conflicted areas.

4. atrocity [uh-TROS-i-tee] (n.) – a very cruel act
Example The murder of hundreds of children was an atrocity committed by the terrorists.

5. mandate [MAN-deyt] (n.) – the official authority or power to do something
Example: Peacekeeping operations are included in the mandate of the United Nations.


Read the text below.
The international community has reacted strongly to reports about the Syrian government using chemical weapons on its citizens that killed thousands.

The Syrian opposition claims that government forces launched an attack on several Damascus suburbs with weapons containing deadly chemicals. According to the opposition leader George Sabra, as many as 1,300 people died from the attack. The casualties had no visible signs of injuries.

The Syrian government denies the allegation. The regime says that the opposition is trying to distract the United Nations investigators who are in the country looking into another incident.

Following the reports of chemical weapon use, the UN Security Council held an urgent meeting. UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said that the report represents the worsening of an already grave humanitarian crisis. 

France and Turkey urge the nations of the world to use force if the allegations turn out to be true, while the Arab League and Western nations including the US are calling for an immediate investigation into the atrocity.

On the other hand, Russia, which is a strong ally of Syria, accused the opposition of intentionally provoking in making such claims against the government.

The White House says the Syrian government should allow the UN investigators to closely and freely examine the area. However, due to its limited mandate, UN can only determine whether toxic gases were used but cannot establish who used them.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Do you agree with some countries’ opinion that force should be used against the Syrian government? Why or why not?
·         Why do you think people would resort to using chemical weapons? Please explain your answer.

Discussion B

·         Should other countries interfere or be involved in a country’s internal conflict? Why do you say so?
·         What could be the consequences if a country got involved in another country’s war or conflict? Please explain to your tutor.


October 5, 2013