Syria used chemical weapons attack

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The Syrian Air Force used chlorine in an attack in the city of Saraqeb in 2018, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) announced on Monday after an investigation.

This is the second report of the OPCW’s Identification and Investigation Team (IIT), which now has the power to identify the perpetrator of a chemical attack.

The ITT “concluded that units of the Syrian Arab Air Force used chemical weapons on February 4, 2018 in Saraqeb”, some 50 kilometers south of Aleppo, the organization based in Aleppo said. The Hague in a press release.

The report establishes “that there are reasonable grounds to believe” that a military helicopter of the Syrian Air Force “struck the east of Saraqeb by dropping at least one cylinder”.

“The cylinder ruptured and released chlorine over a large area, affecting 12 people,” the report said.

OPCW investigators interviewed 30 witnesses, analyzed samples taken at the scene, examined symptoms reported by victims and medical staff, as well as satellite images in order to reach their conclusions.

Symptoms “included shortness of breath, skin irritation, chest pain and cough,” according to the report.

Investigators said they “regret” that the Syrian regime denied them access to the very site of the attack, despite repeated requests.

The ITT published its first report a year ago, in which it established that Bashar al-Assad’s air force dropped bombs containing sarin and chlorine in 2017 in Latamne, in the north. of Syria, thus violating the Chemical Weapons Convention.

“Required orders”

Despite strong objections from Syria and its allies, including Moscow, a majority of the 193 OPCW member states in 2018 authorized the organization to designate the perpetrator of a chemical attack and no longer just to document the use of such a weapon.

The Syrian government has consistently denied any involvement in chemical attacks, claiming to have put all of its chemical weapons stockpiles under international supervision under an agreement reached in 2013.

OPCW investigators said the orders leading to the attack on Saraqeb in 2018 must have come from senior officials, and that there was no indication that “lone elements or individuals” were involved. ‘origin.

“The IIT has obtained information from various sources suggesting that in order for chemical weapons to be used in the manner described above, orders would be required,” the full report explains.

Although there is no “specific chain of command” identified, the Syrian military general command seems to have “delegated decisions on the use of chlorine to commanders at the operational level”, add the investigators.

OPCW member states will vote later this month on whether to impose sanctions on Syria, which could see its right to vote in the organization suspended if the country does not take action.

The OPCW had previously urged Syria to declare all remaining chemical weapons it has, including sarin and chlorine, with Western powers expressing concern that Damascus has not destroyed all of them.

The organization’s chief executive, Fernando Arias, said in March that there were still gaps and inconsistencies in the reports Syria sent to the OPCW.

According to the UN, Damascus has still not answered 19 questions asked over the years about facilities that could have been used in the production or stockpiling of chemical weapons.