Syrian air force may have dropped chlorine bomb on town in rebel area in 2018: Chemical arms watchdog

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The international chemical weapons watchdog has “reasonable grounds to believe” that Syria’s air force dropped a chlorine bomb on a residential neighbourhood in the rebel-controlled Idlib area in February 2018, a report launched on Monday mentioned.

There was no quick remark from the Syrian authorities. Syria and its army ally Russia have constantly denied utilizing chemical weapons throughout President Bashar al-Assad’s decade-old battle with rebel forces, saying any such assaults have been staged by opponents to make Damascus appear to be the perpetrator.

The new report by the OPCW chemical weapons watchdog’s investigative arm mentioned nobody was killed when the cylinder of chlorine fuel, delivered in a barrel bomb, hit the Al Talil neighbourhood in town of Saraqib in February 2018.

However, a dozen folks have been handled for signs in line with chemical poisoning, together with nausea, eye irritation, shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing, it mentioned.

Chlorine isn’t an internationally banned toxin, however the usage of any chemical substance in armed battle is banned beneath the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, the implementation of which is overseen by the OPCW watchdog primarily based in The Hague.

A crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators by Assad in 2011 mushroomed into civil warfare, with Russia and Iran supporting his authorities and the United States, Turkey and a few Arab adversaries of Damascus backing a number of the many rebel teams.

In April 2020, the OPCW’s Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) concluded that Syrian warplanes and a helicopter had dropped bombs containing chlorine and sarin nerve fuel on a village in Syria’s Hama area in March 2017.

The newest report by the IIT additionally implicated Syrian authorities forces. It concluded that “there were reasonable grounds to believe that at least one cylinder filled with chlorine was dropped from a helicopter of the Syrian Arab Air Forces, belonging to the Tiger Forces.”

The Tiger Forces are an elite Syrian army unit usually used in offensive operations in the warfare, which has largely subsided with Assad having wrested again most territory with essential Russian and Iranian assist.

“All elements indicated the presence of Tiger Forces in the vicinity of Saraqib. They found that a helicopter was just flying above the bombed area at the moment of the gas release,” a abstract of the OPCW report mentioned.

It mentioned that samples collected from the scene have been examined and different potential technique of chlorine contamination thought of, however the OPCW crew mentioned nothing was discovered to point that the incident was staged by Assad’s adversaries.

The crew recognized people believed to be concerned in the alleged assault however didn’t launch them.

Between 2015 and 2017, a joint United Nations-OPCW crew generally known as the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) discovered that Syrian authorities troops had used the nerve agent sarin and chlorine barrel bombs on a number of events, whereas Islamic State militants have been discovered to have used mustard fuel.

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