UN team probing chemical attacks to visit Syria

UN team tasked with identifying those responsible for chemical attacks in Syria will begin investigations in early March.

Ben Ariel,

Syria chemical weapons
Syria chemical weapons

A UN team of experts tasked with identifying those responsible for chemical attacks in Syria will begin in-depth investigations on the ground in early March, the head of the panel said Monday, according to AFP.

Virginia Gamba told reporters after meeting with the UN Security Council that "security permitting", two teams plan to carry out field visits in the coming weeks.

Gamba heads the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) set up in August by the council after reports surfaced of chlorine gas attacks on three villages in Syria that left 13 dead.

The panel has been tasked with drawing up a list of individuals and entities deemed responsible for the attacks, noted AFP.

Gamba said the panel was looking into seven potential cases of serious chemical weapons use including five in Idlib province in 2014 and 2015.

Two other cases are under investigation in Hama and Marea in Aleppo province, where Islamic State fighters allegedly used mustard gas in August last year.

Previous fact-finding missions by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in Syria have pointed to the use of chlorine and mustard gas during the civil war in that country, but the OPCW was not tasked with finding out who was to blame for the attacks.

President Bashar Al-Assad's regime and rebel groups have accused each other of using chemical weapons in the nearly five-year war in which more than 260,000 people have been killed.

Syria has denied ever using chemical weapons in the civil war, and it argues that claims otherwise or only meant to " serve political agendas".

After an August 2013 sarin attack outside Damascus that much of the international community blamed on Assad's government, the regime agreed to turn over its chemical arsenal.