Kerry: We're Investigating Syria Chlorine Attack

Secretary of State warns Syria of consequences if it is discovered the regime used chlorine gas this week.

Ben Ariel ,

John Kerry
John Kerry

The United States is looking into allegations that the Syrian regime unleashed chlorine gas in an attack in the northwest of the war-ravaged country earlier this week, Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday.

"While we cannot yet confirm details, if true, this would be only the latest tragic example of the Assad regime's atrocities against the Syrian people," he said in a statement quoted by the AFP news agency, warning that the international community would not "turn a blind eye to such barbarism."

A monitoring group and opposition activists said earlier in the week that six people, including three young children, were killed in the alleged regime gas attack in the village of Sarmin, in Idlib province.

"We are looking very closely into this matter and considering next steps," said Kerry, who led moves to force Syria to hand over its stock of chemical weapons last year to the international community for destruction.

"What is clear is that the Assad regime continues to flout international standards and norms, including, if these latest allegations are verified, the Chemical Weapons Convention," he added.

Activists in Sarmin said chlorine gas had been used and published videos of a chaotic field hospital where disoriented victims coughed and held gas masks over their faces, as children cried in the background.

They also published videos of people trying to revive three young children who lay motionless in the field hospital, noted AFP.

"Any and all credible allegations of chemical weapons use, including the use of toxic industrial chemicals, must be investigated," Kerry said, accusing the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad of terrorizing Syrians "through indiscriminate airstrikes, barrel bombings, arbitrary detention, torture, sexual violence, murder and starvation."

"The Assad regime must be held accountable for such atrocious behavior," he declared.

The Sarmin attack is certainly not the first time that the Assad regime has been accused of using chlorine gas against civilians.

Activists in Syria have claimed several times over the past year that there have been chlorine gas attacks in the country, prompting the United Nations Security Council to call for an investigation into the alleged use of chlorine.

In January, an OPCW report said chemical weapons investigators had concluded "with a high degree of confidence" that chlorine gas was used as a weapon against three opposition-controlled villages in Syria last year. The Security Council later adopted a resolution condemning the use of chlorine in Syria and threatening measures if chemicals are used in future attacks.

Syria agreed to give up its arsenal of lethal nerve agents under an agreement brokered by the United States and Russia. International monitors verified the removal of the substances last year, but Damascus did not have to declare its stocks of chlorine under that agreement because it is widely used for legitimate commercial and domestic purposes.