Experts identify, investigate chemical attacks in Syria

International body responsible for establishing culprit of chemical attacks in Syria identifies five cases for further investigation

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Syrians living in Bulgaria gathered on Friday to protest against a chemical weapons attack in Damascus in Sofia, August 23, 2013.

Updated Feb 14, 2016

An international body in charge of confirming the culprit over the chemical attacks in Syria says that it has identified at least five potential cases for examination, with four of the attacks being chlorine gas and the other mustard gas that were allegedly used in rebel-held areas.

Established by the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the investigation body said in its first report on Friday that it plans to start the next phase in March, including an in-depth analysis of the cases, field visits, witness interviews as well as obtaining information from UN member states and others.

This phase will continue “until sufficient information and evidence is gathered” to enable it to report its findings to the UN, the Joint Investigation Mechanism (JIM) said.

The UN and OPCW were only able to investigate attacks, but were barred from blaming anything on the regime, up until the council established the JIM last August.

Although the Syrian regime denies using chemical weapons, the US and other Western nations assert the regime to blame, especially for dropping barrel bombs containing chlorine and toxic agents with helicopters.

The opposition does not have air forces.

DAESH terrorist organisation has also used toxic chemicals, according to reports that surfaced in recent months.

The JIM report said that OPCW investigators mention 116 incidents where chemical weapons had been used in Syria, while having investigated 29 of them.

OPCW reports were evaluated by the JIM experts and five potential cases were identified for its investigation.

Four involve the alleged use of chlorine gas dropped from barrel bombs — in Kafr Zita in Hama governorate on April 11 and April 18, 2014, and in three villages in Idlib governorate, Talmenes on April 21, 2014, and Qmenas and Sarmin, both on March 16, 2015.

The JIM said the fifth case was on Aug. 21, 2015 in the strategic town of Marea near the Turkish border.

The OPCW reported two other cases that are likely to merit the investigation, one involving a sarin gas attack in the Damascus suburb of Daraya on Feb. 15, 2015 and the other a chlorine attack in Binnish in the Idlib Province on March 23, 2015.

The JIM's leaders said they strongly believe "that all individuals, groups, entities or governments that have any role in enabling the use of chemicals as weapons, for whatever reason and under any circumstances, must understand that they will be identified and made accountable for these abhorrent acts.”

TRTWorld, AP