Poisoning in Warfare

  • Michael FarrellEmail author


Firstly, this chapter briefly defines warfare. It touches on chemical weapons, efforts to protect against them, and attempts to curtail their use. Historically, it looks at chemical weapons used in the First World War, the 1935–1936 Italo-Ethiopian War, and the Sino-Japanese War in 1943. The chapter examines more recent chemical attacks in Syria and Iraq. In Syria, these concerned Khan Sheikhoun in 2017, Khanal-Assal in 2013, and Ghouta also in 2013. Regarding Northern Iraq, the focus is the 1988 attack on the Kurdish city of Halabjain. These confrontations are each examined in relation to Situational Crime Prevention and means, motive, opportunity, location, and perpetrator–victim relationships.


Warfare Chemical weapons Khan Sheikhoun Khanal-Assal Ghouta Halabja 


  1. Barnard, A. (2013, March 19). Syria and Activists Trade Charges on Chemical Weapons. New York Times.
  2. BBC News. (2010, January 25). “Chemical Ali’ Executed in Iraq After Halabja ruling’ BBC.Google Scholar
  3. BBC News. (2013a, March 19). Syrians Trade Khan al-Hassal Chemical Weapons Claims.
  4. BBC News. (2013b, August 27). Syria Crisis: Russia and China Step Up Warning Over Strike.
  5. BBC News. (2017, April 26). Syria Chemical Attack – What We Know.
  6. BBC On This Day. (1988, March 16). 1988 thousands die in Halabja gas attack’ BBC.Google Scholar
  7. Blomfield, A. (2010, January 25). Chemical Ali Executed in Iraq. The Telegraph.
  8. Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, Joint Intelligence Organisation. (2013, August 29). Syria: Reported Chemical Weapons Use – Letter form the Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee London, Cabinet Office.;
  9. de Bretton-Gordon, H. (2016, March 16). Remembering Halabja Chemical Attack. Al Jazeera.
  10. Del Boca, A. (1969). The Ethiopian War, 1935–1941 (Trans. from the Italian by P. D. Cummins). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  11. Dickinson, E. (2013, September 9). Arab League Says Assad Crossed ‘Global Red Line’ with Chemical Attack. The National.
  12. Dupuy, R. E., & Dupuy, T. N. (2007 [1991]). The Collins Encyclopaedia of Military History from 3500 B.C. to the Present BCA/Harper Collins.Google Scholar
  13. Edmonds, J. E. (1993 [1932]). Military Operations France and Belgium, 1916 (History of the Great War Based on Official Documents by Direction of the Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence) London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  14. Ellison, D. H. (2007). Handbook of Chemical and Biological Warfare Agents (2nd ed.). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.Google Scholar
  15. Grip, L., & Hart, H. (2009, October). The Use of Chemical Weapons in the 1935–36 Italo-Ethiopian War. SIPRI Arms Control and Non-proliferation Programme. Stockholm, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
  16. Heller, C. E. (1984, September). Chemical Warfare in World War I: The American Experience, 1917–1918 US Army Command and General Staff College.Google Scholar
  17. Hiltermann, J. R. (2007). A Poisonous Affair: America, Iraq, and the Gassing of Halabja. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Hubbard, B., Mazzetti, M., & Landler, M. (2013, August 26). Blasts in the Night, a Smell, and a Flood of Syrian Victims. The New York Times.Google Scholar
  19. Human Rights Watch. (2013, September 10). Attacks on Ghouta – Analysis of Alleged Use of Chemical Weapons in Syria.
  20. League of Nations, Letter. (1936). Letter 13 April 1936, from the Ethiopian Representative to the Secretary-General, 13 April 1936, League of Nations Official Journal Annex 1592, April 1936, pp. 479–80.Google Scholar
  21. National Evaluation. (2017, April). Chemical Attack on 4 April 2017 Khan Sheikhoun – Clandestine Syrian Chemical Weapons Programme.
  22. Notman, N. (2014, June 9). Explosive End for Japan’s Second World War Chemical Weapons. Chemistry World (The Royal Society of Chemistry).
  23. Office of the Press Secretary, The White House. (2013, August 30). Government Assessment of the Syrian Governments Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013.
  24. Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. (2006). Remembering All Victims of Chemical Warfare (See and search ‘Remembering All Victims of Chemical Warfare’ 29 April 2006).
  25. Reuters. (2013, July 9). Russia: Syria Rebels Likely Behind Aleppo Chemical Attack. Reuters.Google Scholar
  26. Rosenfeld, E. (2017, April 6). Trump Launches Attack on Syria with 59 Tomahawk Missiles. CNCC.
  27. Schneditz, M. (2008). Chemische Kampfstoffe: Geschichte, Entwicklung und Einsatz GRIN Verlag Auflage.Google Scholar
  28. Sellstom, A., Cairns, S., & Barbeschi, M. (2013). Report of the United Nations Mission to Investigate Allegations of the Use of Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic on the Alleged Use of Weapons in the Ghouta Area of Damascus on 21 August 2013 United Nations 16 September 2013.Google Scholar
  29. Shea, D. A. (2013, September 13). Chemical Weapons: A Summary Report of Characteristics and Effects Washington, DC, Congressional Research Service 7-5700. RS42862 and
  30. Stepanov, A. A., & Popov, J. N. (1962). Khimicheskoe Oruzhiye i Osnovy Protivokhimicheskoi Zashchity (Chemical weapons and principles of anti-chemical defence) Moscow.Google Scholar
  31. Thomas, F. (2014). Behind the Gasmask: The US Chemical Warfare Service in War and Peace. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press.Google Scholar
  32. TIME. (2013, April 1). The Mystery Behind a Deadly Chemical Attack. TIME.Google Scholar
  33. United Nations. (2013, December 12). United Nations Mission to Investigate Allegations of the Use of Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic – Final Report United Nations.Google Scholar
  34. United Nations General Assembly Human Rights Council. (2014, February 12). Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Stoke Lacy, HerefordshireUK

Personalised recommendations