Chlorine Used in February Attack in Syria, Finds OPCW

Chlorine Used in February Attack in Syria, Finds OPCW

An global chemical weapons watchdog said on Wednesday that a recent report confirmed "chlorine was likely used as a chemical weapon" in Syria's Douma region.

The fact-finding mission by the OPCW on the Saraqeb attack determined that "chlorine was released from cylinders by mechanical impact on 4 February", it said on Wednesday. "Attribution was part of the mandate of the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism, set up by the UN Security Council, which expired in November 2017", the organization said.

In line with its mandate, the OPCW did not say which party was behind the attack on Saraqeb, which lies in rebel-held territory in the province of Idlib.

The conclusions were also based on eye-witness testimony, and the number of patients showing symptoms indicating exposure to chlorine and other toxic chemicals. "Such actions are in direct conflict with the unequivocal prohibition on the use of toxic substances contained in the Convention on the prohibition of chemical weapons".

On 4 February, the White Helmets search and rescue group and a medical charity reported that several people suffered breathing difficulties after a suspected chlorine gas attack on Saraqeb, days after the Trump administration accused Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's government of producing and using "new kinds of weapons" to deliver poisonous gases.

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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.

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

"We believe that the results of the investigation will be balanced and exhaustive ... and will help establish a real picture of what happened on April 7", she said in a televised briefing.

The move averted threatened U.S. air strikes by the previous U.S. administration after about 1,000 people died in an August 2013 sarin gas attack.

Russian Federation will not allow the mandate to be renewed unless the United Nations security council - on which Russian Federation has a veto - is empowered to reject or endorse the body's findings. Western observers said the use of helicopters in the attack suggested Syrian government involvement since the opposition did not have access to helicopters.

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