UN: Assad used banned chlorine weapons in 3 attacks this year
U.N. investigators said on Wednesday that they had documented three further uses of banned chlorine weapons by Syrian government forces that constituted war crimes, and urged major powers to help avert a “massacre” in the final battle for Idlib.
According to the investigative team, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad used chlorine on three separate occasions in the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Douma and in Idlib.
The investigators noted that weaponizing chlorine is prohibited under the Chemical Weapons Convention, which was ratified by Syria.
“To recapture eastern Ghouta in April, government forces launched numerous indiscriminate attacks in densely populated civilian areas, which included the use of chemical weapons,” the UN report said. This was in reference to the attacks earlier this year on the rebel-held town of Douma, eastern Ghouta, near Damascus.
The April attack resulted in the U.S., British and French missile strikes on sites believed to be linked to Syria’s chemical weapons program.
Following the attacks, the Syrian government and its ally, Russia, were accused of attempting to cover up the use of chemical weapons by delaying access to investigators in Douma. The US and other Western powers claimed that Syria attacked Douma with sarin, a lethal nerve agent, and followed that with a chlorine attack, intended partly to conceal the sarin.
Inspectors from the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) were not given access to the site for two weeks. The more time that passes, the greater the difficulties in determining what chemicals were used.
In recent years, the Assad regime has been the party most frequently employing banned chemical weapons. While investigating reports of the use of such weapons in Syria, the OPCW’s mission was to determine if they had been used, but not who was responsible.
Now, both the OPCW and the UN are building a case against the Syrian regime.
John Bolton, U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, said on Monday that the United States, Britain and France had agreed that another use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government would result in a “much stronger response” than previous such incidents.