Ryan Pickrell on July 9, 2018
Investigators have concluded that chlorine was used in a deadly chemical attack on civilians in Syria in April, but there is no evidence that a nerve agent was also used, a chemical weapons watchdog reported Friday.
“Along with explosive residues, various chlorinated organic chemicals were found in samples from two sites,” the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) explained in an interim report Friday. “OPCW designated labs conducted analysis of prioritised samples. The results show that no organophosphorous nerve agents or their degradation products were detected in the environmental samples or in the plasma samples taken from alleged casualties.”
A fatal chemical attack on a suburb of the Syrian capital — a rebel stronghold in Douma in Eastern Ghouta — on April 7 killed at least 70 people and injured another five hundred. The U.S., having assessed the Syrian regime led by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chlorine and possibly sarin as well in the devastating attack, launched strikes on Syrian chemical weapons facilities in coordination with British and French forces.
“A significant body of information points to the regime using chlorine in its bombardment of [Douma], while some additional information points to the regime also using the nerve agent sarin,” the White House assessment stated, “This is not an isolated incident—the Syrian regime has a clear history of using chemical weapons even after pledging that it had given up its chemical weapons program.”
Within the U.S. government and military, assessments varied on the use of sarin in April attack. The Department of State said there was a “very high level of confidence” Assad used chemical weapons, but as for the “exact kind or the mix,” investigations were ongoing.
It appears the attack, unlike a fatal chemical attack one year prior, did not involve sarin, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has determined. The use of any chemical as a weapon against civilians or military targets is a violation of international law, but only sarin is barred by international treaties. President Donald Trump ordered a strike on a Syrian airbase in April 2017, after the Syrian regime allegedly killed more than 70 people with sarin gas.
The Syrian government, supported by Moscow, denies any involvement in the chemical attacks.
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