Syria Says Rebels Attacked Chemical Weapons Sites

Syria accuses "terrorists" of recently attacking two sites where chemical arms were stored.

Elad Benari,

UN chemical weapons experts in Syria.
UN chemical weapons experts in Syria.

Syria accused rebels on Tuesday of recently attacking two sites where chemical arms were stored, AFP reported, citing the state news agency SANA.

A source in Syria’s foreign ministry claimed the attacks on December 21 came just as preparations were being made for the arms at the sites to be destroyed outside Syria, under a UN resolution decreeing the elimination of the country's chemical arsenal.

"On December 21, 2013, armed terrorist groups staged a major attack against one of the sites, located in central Syria... but the authorities fought back and the attack failed," the source told SANA.

"Terrorists" is the term used by the Syrian regime to refer to rebels fighting to oust President Bashar Al-Assad.

The source did not say where in central Syria the site was located.

He also said rebels, among them Al-Nusra Front jihadists and members of the Salafist group Jaysh al-Islam, attacked a second site in Damascus province.

They "tried to attack it using an armored vehicle loaded with large amounts of explosives, but troops tasked with guarding the site fought them off and detonated the (vehicle) before it made it in."

The attack, he added, killed four regulars and wounded another 28.

"Attempts (to attack) these sites are ongoing," said the source.

The source also accused states that back the Syrian opposition of "leaking" information on the location of chemical weapons sites "and of encouraging the terrorists to attack" them.

The source did not specify which countries, but Damascus has systematically blamed violence in Syria on a "foreign conspiracy" fuelled mainly by the West, Gulf countries Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and Turkey.

"Syria holds these countries... responsible for the danger... and for the catastrophic consequences" that such "leaks" could have, said the source.

An international operation to destroy Syria’s stockpile of deadly chemicals is currently underway, and is a joint Russian-U.S. Syrian chemical plan that was endorsed by the UN Security Council in September.

The resolution was a last-minute measure to prevent an American strike on Syria in retaliation for the regime's alleged use of chemical weapons in an attack on a Damascus suburb in August that left hundreds dead.

A recent report by UN inspectors released last week said that chemical weapons have been used at least five times during the Syrian conflict and in some cases children and civilians have been slaughtered.

The report cited "credible evidence" and "evidence consistent with the probable use of chemical weapons" in the Syrian districts of Ghouta, Khan Al Asal, Jobar, Saraqueb and Ashrafieh Sahnaya.

However, the report did not attribute blame for the attacks, as this was not part of the mandate given to the team by the UN Security Council.

Russia has in the past accused Syrian rebels of using sarin nerve gas, but the U.S. dismissed these allegations and said more proof was required.