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UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria Accuses Syrian Army Of Khan Shaykhun Chemical Attack

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UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria Accuses Syrian Army Of Khan Shaykhun Chemical Attack

On September 6, a report of the United Nation (UN) commission of inquiry on Syria accused the Syrian government of carrying out a chemical attack on Khan Shaykhun village in the southern Idlib countryside on April 4. The UN commission of inquiry claimed that it was a government warplane that dropped the sarin on Khan Shaykhun.

Government forces continued to deliberately target civilians, including through the use of chemical weapons against civilians in opposition-held areas. As part of an aerial campaign in northern Hama and southern Idlib, on 4 April the Syrian Air Force used sarin in Khan Shaykhun, killing over 80 people, most of whom were women and children” the UN report said.

The Syrian government has not respond to the UN accusations yet.

Moreover, the UN claimed that the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) carried out more than 7 other chemical attacks between March 1 and July 7. The UN also said that the Syrian government is responsible of 20 out of 25 documented chemical weapons attacks in Syrian from 2013 to 2017.

Between March 2013 and March 2017, the Commission documented 25 incidents of chemical weapons use in the Syrian Arab Republic, of which 20 were perpetrated by government forces and used primarily against civilians. During the reporting period, government forces further used chemical weapons against civilians in the town of Khan Shaykhun, in Al-Latamneh, located approximately 11 kilometres south of Khan Shaykhun, and in eastern Ghouta.

While Khan Shaykhun and Al-Latamneh are controlled by Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, Ahrar-al-Sham and various Free Syrian Army groups, eastern Ghouta is primarily controlled by Jaish al-Islam and Faylaq al-Rahman. At the time of the use of chemical weapons in Khan Shaykhun and Al-Latamneh, Syrian and Russian forces were conducting an aerial campaign against Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham and armed groups in northern Hamah and southern Idlib.”

The UN report was widely criticized by pro-government figures and media outlets for lacking decisive, material evidences and being based on assumptions.

A major part of the report’s claims is based on “interviews” with locals in the areas controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) and other militant groups.

Al-Latameneh attack:

“At around 6.30 a.m. on 30 March — five days after the chlorine attack on Al-Latamneh hospital by Syrian forces (see para. 64 above) — an unidentified warplane dropped two bombs in an agricultural field south of Al-Latamneh village. Interviewees recalled how the first bomb made almost no sound but released a “toxic material” absent any particular smell, while the second bomb caused a loud explosion. As a result of the former, at least 85 people suffered from respiratory difficulties, loss of consciousness, red eyes and impaired vision. Among the injured were 12 male farmers located 300 metres away from the impact point, 2 of them minors. Nine medical personnel who treated patients without protection also fell ill.

While the Commission is unable to identify the exact agent to which the victims of the 30 March incident were exposed, interviewees described certain symptoms, including a very low pulse in one case, and contracted pupils, suffocation, nausea and spasms in another, that indicate poisoning by a phosphor-organic chemical, such as a pesticide or a nerve agent. The absence of a characteristic chlorine odour, coupled with secondary intoxications among medical personnel treating victims, supports the conclusion that a toxic chemical other than chlorine was employed. Given that Syrian and Russian forces were conducting an aerial campaign in the area, the absence of indications that Russian forces have ever used chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic, and the repeated use of chemical weapons by the Syrian air force, there are reasonable grounds to conclude that the Syrian air force used chemical weapons in Al-Latamneh on 30 March.”

Khan Shaykhun attack:

Interviewees and early warning reports indicate that a Sukhoi 22 (Su-22) aircraft conducted four air strikes in Khan Shaykhun at around 6.45 a.m. Only Syrian forces operate such aircraft. The Commission identified three conventional bombs, likely OFAB-100-120, and one chemical bomb. Eyewitnesses recalled that the latter bomb made less noise and produced less smoke than the others. Photographs of weapon remnants depict a chemical aerial bomb of a type manufactured in the former Soviet Union.

The chemical bomb killed at least 83 persons, including 28 children and 23 women, and injured another 293 persons, including 103 children. On the basis of samples obtained during autopsies and from individuals undergoing treatment in a neighbouring country, those who undertook the fact-finding mission of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons concluded that the victims had been exposed to sarin or a sarin-like substance. The extensive information independently collected by the Commission on symptoms suffered by victims is consistent with sarin exposure.

Interviewees denied the presence of a weapons depot near the impact point of the chemical bomb. The Commission notes that it is extremely unlikely that an air strike would release sarin potentially stored inside such a structure in amounts sufficient to explain the number of casualties recorded. First, if such a depot had been destroyed by an air strike, the explosion would have burnt off most of the agent inside the building or forced it into the rubble where it would have been absorbed, rather than released in significant amounts into the atmosphere. Second, the facility would still be heavily contaminated today, for which there is no evidence. Third, the scenario suggested by Russian and Syrian officials does not explain the timing of the appearance of victims — hours before the time Russian and Syrian officials gave for the strike.”

Furthermore, many believe that another reason to doubt the report is that the the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) refused the Russian proposal to organize an independent international committee to investigate the Khan Shaykhun attack.

The OPCW didn’t even inspect the Shayrat airbase after US claimed that chemical weapons were stored there, although the OPCW got the right to carry out such inspection misisions.

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