Syrian regime blamed for chemical attacks

For the first time, Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons says Assad regime is behind toxic gas attacks.

Elad Benari, Canada ,

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

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on Wednesday for the first time explicitly blamed Syria for toxic attacks, saying President Bashar Al-Assad's air force used the nerve gas sarin and chlorine three times in 2017, AFP reports.

The findings came in the first report from a new investigative team set up by the global chemical weapons watchdog to identify the perpetrators of attacks in Syria's ongoing nine-year-long civil war.

In March 2017, Syrian fighter jets dropped sarin on the northern village of Lataminah and a military helicopter dropped a barrel bomb full of chlorine on the same village, the probe found.

The OPCW said the team "has concluded that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the perpetrators of the use of sarin as a chemical weapon in Lataminah in 2017... and the use of chlorine... were individuals belonging to the Syrian Arab Air Force".

The report will now go to the UN Security Council which will decide what, if any, further action to take.

Member states of the OPCW agreed two years ago to give The Hague-based watchdog new powers to attribute blame for attacks, after previously it had only been able to say whether chemical strikes had occurred but without naming the perpetrators.

The OPCW said the new Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) could not identify the precise chain of command but that orders for the attacks must have come from senior commanders.

"Attacks of such a strategic nature would have only taken place on the basis of orders from the higher authorities of the Syrian Arab Republic military command," IIT coordinator Santiago Onate-Laborde said, according to AFP.

"Even if authority can be delegated, responsibility cannot. In the end, the was unable to identify any other plausible explanation," he said in a statement.

Western nations and human rights groups praised the OPCW report, saying it proved Syria continued chemical attacks on its own population.

The report said two Syrian Arab Air Force Sukhoi SU-22 jet fighters dropped two bombs containing sarin on Lataminah on March 24 and 30, 2017.

A Syrian military helicopter dropped a cylinder containing chlorine on a hospital in the sane village on March 25 that year, the report said.

In total, 106 people were affected by the attacks, the OPCW said.

Last March, a report issued by a fact-finding mission from the watchdog that found “reasonable grounds” that chlorine was used in a deadly attack on the eastern Damascus suburb of Douma in 2017.

Assad later claimed that the OPCW faked and falsified the report “just because the Americans wanted them to do so.”

The Syrian regime repeatedly denies having any connection to chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Passover in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)