Sunday, 22 July, 2018

OPCW Confirms Chemical Weapons Use in Syria's Douma, Chlorine Likely Culprit

OPCW confirms chlorine gas used in February attack in Syria's Idlib Chemical watchdog says chlorine likely used in February attack on Syrian town
Kenny Thornton | 16 May, 2018, 17:40

Banned chlorine munitions were likely dropped on a Syrian neighbourhood in February, an global body on chemical weapons said on Wednesday, after laboratory tests confirmed the presence of the toxic chemical.

But witnesses told OPCW investigators that the munitions were dropped in barrel bombs from a helicopter, a report released by the OPCW showed.

The OPCW said its Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) has "confirmed that chlorine was likely used as a chemical weapon on February 4, 2018 in Saraqib, Idlib Governorate, Syrian Arab Republic".

The OPCW has said all of Syria's declared toxic arms stock has since been destroyed, but has warned repeatedly about gaps in the Syrian regime's declaration.

Eleven people had to be treated for breathing difficulties on February 4 after Syrian regime raids on Saraqeb, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at the time.

The samples tested positive for precursors needed to make the nerve agent sarin, he said. 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.

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"The FFM determined that chlorine was released from cylinders by mechanical impact in the Al Talil neighbourhood of Saraqib". The organization found two cylinders and an analysis found both had previously contained 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.

Reuters reported in January that tests found "markers" in samples taken at three attack sites between 2013 and 2017 from chemicals from the Syrian government stockpile.

Before the panel's mandate ran out late a year ago, it also found the Syrian military to blame for at least three chemical attacks in villages in 2014 and 2015.

The OPCW is to report soon on whether chemical weapons were used on a larger-scale attack in Douma, eastern Ghouta, in May. The French government is due to hold a ministerial-level conference in Paris on Friday to build an alliance of countries determined to reconstruct an accountability mechanism for chemical weapons use, if necessary outside the confines of the UN.

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