Wednesday, 18 July, 2018

OPCW confirms chlorine use in February attack in Syria

Syrians suffering from breathing difficulties following Syrian regime air strikes on the northwestern town of Saraqeb. Omar Haj Kadour  AFP Syrians suffering from breathing difficulties following Syrian regime air strikes on the northwestern town of Saraqeb. Omar Haj Kadour AFP
Melinda Barton | 16 May, 2018, 17:38

In a statement released Wednesday, the global chemical weapons watchdog said it determined chlorine was "released from cylinders by mechanical impact" on neighborhoods in Saraqib during the February 4 attack.

Investigators had "determined that chlorine was released from cylinders" in the Ali Talil neighborhood of Saraqeb in the northern province of Idlib.

The OPCW said its team had interviewed witnesses, and found that a "number of patients at medical facilities shortly after the incident showed signs and symptoms consistent with exposure to chlorine".

OPCW are now investigating another suspected chlorine attack that hit the town of Douma, Eastern Ghouta, in April that killed at least 60 civilians. Western observers said the use of helicopters in the attack suggested Syrian government involvement since the opposition did not have access to helicopters.

Attack: The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based war monitor, reported government airstrikes on rebel-held Saraqeb on February 4, adding 11 people had to be treated for breathing difficulties after the attack.

"I strongly condemn the use of toxic chemicals as weapons by anyone, for any objective and under any circumstances, said the Director General of the OPCW Ahmet üzümcü, commenting on the conclusions of the experts of the organization".

The team exhumed bodies as well as gathering over 100 environmental samples which are being analysed in different OPCW-designated labs.

OPCW Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu resolutely denounced the use of toxic substances as weapons by anyone for any purposes and under any circumstances, saying that such actions directly contradict the strict ban for the use of poisonous substances enshrined in the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Samples taken from the soil, canisters and impact sites tested positive for other chemicals, bearing the "markers of the Syrian regime", said Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a biological and chemical weapons expert working in Syria. Russia, which supports Assad in the Syrian conflict, chemical attack denies and considers it a production of the West to justify a military strike on Syria.

Syria and Russian Federation accused volunteer rescue workers of staging the Douma attack at the behest of the U.S. and its allies.

Poison gas was released from cylinders and used as chemical weapons.