The global chemical weapons watchdog has “reasonable grounds to believe” that the Syrian Air Force dropped a chlorine bomb on a residential area in the rebel-controlled Idlib region.
The new report from the investigative arm of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said on Monday that no one was killed when the bottle of chlorine gas, delivered in a barrel bomb, hit the neighborhood Al Talil in the city of Saraqeb in February 2018.
However, a dozen people have been treated for symptoms consistent with chemical poisoning, including nausea, eye irritation, shortness of breath, cough and wheezing, he said.
“The cylinder ruptured and released chlorine over a large area, affecting 12 named people,” the watchdog said in a statement. Those affected all survived, he added.
There was no immediate comment from the Syrian government on Monday.
Syria and its military ally Russia have consistently denied using chemical weapons during President Bashar al-Assad’s decade-long conflict with rebel forces, claiming such attacks were organized by opponents to make Damascus the culprit.
Chlorine is not an internationally banned toxin, but the use of any chemical in armed conflict is prohibited under the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, the implementation of which is overseen by the Watchdog. The Hague based OPCW.
A crackdown on pro-democracy protesters by al-Assad in 2011 resulted in a civil war, with Russia and Iran supporting his government and the United States, Turkey and some Arab adversaries in Damascus supporting some of the many rebel groups .
As part of the investigation, experts interviewed witnesses, analyzed samples and remains taken from the city, as well as reviewed symptoms reported by victims and studied satellite images and modeled gas dispersion patterns. .
The OPCW cannot hold individuals criminally responsible for attacks. The report will be shared with member states of the organization and the United Nations.
In April 2020, the OPCW’s Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) concluded that Syrian warplanes and a helicopter dropped bombs containing chlorine and sarin gas on a village in the Syrian region. de Hama in March 2017.
The latest IIT report also involved Syrian government forces. He concluded that “there were reasonable grounds to believe that at least one bottle filled with chlorine had been dropped from a Syrian Arab Air Force helicopter, belonging to the Tiger Forces.”
The Tiger Forces are an elite Syrian military unit generally used in offensive operations in the war, which has largely subsided as al-Assad has ravaged most of the territory with crucial support from Russia and Iran. .
“All the elements indicated the presence of Tiger Forces near Saraqeb. They discovered that a helicopter was flying just over the bombed area at the time of gas development, ”reads a summary of the OPCW report.
He said samples taken at the scene had been examined and other possible means of chlorine contamination had been considered, but the OPCW team said there was no indication that the incident had been staged by the adversaries of al-Assad.
The team identified people suspected of being involved in the alleged attack but did not disclose their names.
Between 2015 and 2017, a joint UN-OPCW team known as the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) found that Syrian government troops had used barrel bombs containing sarin and chlorine on several occasions, while ISIS fighters (ISIS) had used mustard gas.