HRW: multiple chemical weapon attacks in Syria

Advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) said May 1 that it has found new evidence that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons in at least four recent attacks targeting civilians. The report, "Death by Chemicals: The Syrian Government's Widespread and Systematic Use of Chemical Weapons," states that local residents and activists in Khan Sheikhoun town identified at least 92 people who likely died from chemical exposure. It also named three pieces of additional evidence to support the finding that the government has been committing crimes against humanity:

The Khan Sheikhoun attack sparked international outrage, but the attack on Khan Sheikhoun was not the only recent chemical attack by the Syrian government. Three developments since late 2016 show that the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons has become widespread and systematic:

Government warplanes appear to have dropped bombs with nerve agents on at least four occasions since December 12, including in Khan Sheikhoun; The government’s use of helicopter-dropped chlorine-filled munitions has become more systematic;

Government or pro-government ground-forces have started using improvised ground-launched munitions containing chlorine.

In at least some of the attacks, the intention appears to have been to inflict severe suffering on the civilian population, which would amount to crimes against humanity. .

HRW called for the UN Security Council to "immediately adopt a resolution calling on all parties to the Syrian conflict to fully cooperate" with OPCW investigators and "facilitate their unimpeded access to locations of chemical attacks." The Syrian government has so far refused to fully cooperate with investigations concerning chemical weapons.

From Jurist, May 2. Used with permission.

UN investigators: Assad regime behind gas attack

Government forces have used chemical weapons more than two dozen times during Syria’s civil war, including in April’s deadly attack on Khan Sheikhoun, UN war crimes investigators have determined. A regime warplane dropped sarin on the town, killing more than 80 civilians, the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria said in the most conclusive findings to date from investigations into that chemical weapon attack.

The weapons used on Khan Sheikhoun were previously identified as containing sarin, an odorless nerve agent. But that conclusion, reached by a fact-finding mission of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), did not say who was responsible.

"Government forces continued the pattern of using chemical weapons against civilians in opposition-held areas. In the gravest incident, the Syrian air force used sarin in Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib, killing dozens, the majority of whom were women and children," the report said, declaring the attack a war crime.

Commission chairman Paulo Pinheiro told a news conference: “Not having access did not prevent us from establishing facts or reasonable grounds to believe what happened during the attack and establishing who is responsible.”

In their 14th report since 2011, UN investigators said they had in all documented 33 chemical weapons attacks to date. Twenty-seven were by the government of President Bashar al-Assad, including seven between March 1 to July 7. Perpetrators had not been identified yet in six attacks, they said. (Reuters, Sept. 6)

Israel bombs Syrian chemwar facility?

The Israeli military on Sept. 7 struck a chemical arms plant in in Syria, media reports claimed. The Syrian army's general command confirmed in a statement the attack on what they called a military facility, and said that two people were killed and that extensive damage was caused. Israel refused to comment on the reports. (Haaretz)

Israel has sporadically bombed targets in Syria over the past two years, although the Israeli security establishment seems divided on whether Assad or the jihadists who oppose him constitute the greater threat.