Use of chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war
Use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Civil War has been confirmed by the United Nations. The deadliest attacks were the Ghouta attack in the suburbs of Damascus in August 2013 and the Khan al-Asal attack in the suburbs of Aleppo in March 2013. Several other attacks have been alleged, reported and investigated.
A U.N. fact-finding mission and a UNHRC Commission of Inquiry have simultaneously investigated the attacks. The U.N. mission found likely use of the nerve agent Sarin in the case of Khan Al-Asal (19 March 2013), Saraqib (29 April 2013), Ghouta (21 August 2013), Jobar (24 August 2013) and Ashrafiyat Sahnaya (25 August 2013). The UNHRC commission later confirmed the use of Sarin in the Khan al-Asal, Saraqib and Ghouta attacks, but did not mention the Jobar and the Ashrafiyat Sahnaya attacks.That Sarin was used in Khan al-Asal was also the conclusion of the Russian investigation of the attack.
The UNHRC commission also found that the Sarin used in the Khan al-Asal attack bore "the same unique hallmarks" as the Sarin used in the Ghouta attack and indicated that the perpetrators likely had access to chemicals from the Syrian Army's stockpile.
- 1 Background
- 2 Incidents
- 2.1 Salqin, 17 October 2012
- 2.2 Homs, 23 December 2012
- 2.3 Darayya, 13 March 2013
- 2.4 Khan al-Asal, 19 March 2013
- 2.5 Otaybah, 19 March 2013
- 2.6 Adra, 24 March 2013
- 2.7 Jobar, 12–14 April 2013
- 2.8 Sheikh Maqsood, 13 April 2013
- 2.9 Darayya, 25 April 2013
- 2.10 Saraqib, 29 April 2013
- 2.11 Qasr Abu Samrah, 14 May 2013
- 2.12 Adra, 23 May 2013
- 2.13 Ghouta, 21 August 2013
- 2.14 Al-Bahariyah, 22 August 2013
- 2.15 Jobar, 24 August 2013
- 2.16 Ashrafiyat Sahnaya, 25 August 2013
- 2.17 Kafr Zita, 11 April 2014
- 2.18 Harasta, 11 April 2014
- 2.19 Harasta, 16 April 2014
- 2.20 Darayya, 22 April 2014
- 2.21 Talmenes, 22 April 2014
- 2.22 Kafr Zita, 19 May 2014
- 2.23 Al-Tamanah, 21 May 2014
- 2.24 Kafr Zita, 22 May 2014
- 3 Investigations
- 4 Notes
- 5 References
The use of chemical weapons must be seen in the context of the Syrian Civil War. On 20 August 2012, President Barack Obama used the phrase "red line" in reference to the use of chemical weapons. On 6 September 2013 a bill was filed to authorize the use of military force against the Syrian military, mainly in response to the use of sarin in the Ghouta attack on 21 August 2013. On 9 September 2013, the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stated that the air strikes could be averted if Syria turned over "every single bit" of its chemical weapons stockpiles. Hours after Kerry's statement, the Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov announced that Russia had suggested to Syria that it relinquish its chemical weapons. The Syrian foreign minister Walid al-Moallem immediately welcomed the proposal.
Prior to September 2013 the Syrian government had not publicly admitted to possess chemical weapons, although Western intelligence services believed it to hold one of the world's largest stockpiles.
The following is a chronological listing of the attacks and the main points. See the main articles for details.[N 1]
Salqin, 17 October 2012
Homs, 23 December 2012
Chemical weapons were allegedly used in Homs on 23 December 2012 against civilians. The attack resulted allegedly in 7 fatalities and scores of injuries. The U.N. mission investigated the attack, but did not find sufficient or credible information to support the allegation.
Darayya, 13 March 2013
Khan al-Asal, 19 March 2013
Otaybah, 19 March 2013
Adra, 24 March 2013
Jobar, 12–14 April 2013
Sheikh Maqsood, 13 April 2013
Chemical weapons were allegedly used in Sheikh Maqsood on 13 April 2013 against opposition fighters and civilians. The attack resulted allegedly in 3 fatalities (a woman and her two children), and injured more than a dozen people. An anonymous doctor reported that the victims had signs consistent with a nerve gas attack. The U.N. mission investigated the alleged attack, but did not find reliable information to support the allegation.
Darayya, 25 April 2013
Saraqib, 29 April 2013
Qasr Abu Samrah, 14 May 2013
Adra, 23 May 2013
Ghouta, 21 August 2013
Several surface-to-surface rockets containing Sarin were used in the Ghouta area of Damascus on 21 August 2013 against opposition fighters and civilians. The attack resulted in at least 281 fatalities and an estimated number of 3,600 injuries.
Al-Bahariyah, 22 August 2013
Jobar, 24 August 2013
Sarin was most likely used in Jobar on 24 August 2013 against Syrian Army soldiers. The attack resulted in 24 being affected, 4 severely affected and a further 20 alleged, but in stable condition sent back to their units. All samples allegedly withdrawn by the Syrian Government on 24 August 2013 tested positive for sarin signatures. Of the 4 samples collected by the United Nations Mission on 26/28 September 2013 one tested positive for sarin signatures. The rest were negative.
Ashrafiyat Sahnaya, 25 August 2013
Sarin were most likely used in Ashrafiyat Sahnaya on 25 August 2013 against Syrian Army soldiers. The attack resulted in 5 injuries. Samples taken from the 5 soldiers tested positive for signatures of Sarin.
Kafr Zita, 11 April 2014
Harasta, 11 April 2014
Harasta, 16 April 2014
Darayya, 22 April 2014
Talmenes, 22 April 2014
Kafr Zita, 19 May 2014
A chlorine gas attack were reported in Kafr Zita on 19 May 2014. The attack reportedly killed one boy and leaved 130 civilians in need of medical attention, including 21 children who were in critical condition.
Al-Tamanah, 21 May 2014
Kafr Zita, 22 May 2014
The UN mission to investigate alleged use of chemical weapons
The United Nations Mission to Investigate Allegations of the Use of Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic was a fact-finding mission to investigate possible use of chemical weapons in Syria. On 16 September 2013 the mission published a report with focus on the Ghouta attacks. On 12 December 2013, the UN mission delivered its final report.
The UNHRC commission of inquiry
The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic was set up by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on 22 March 2011 to investigate human rights violations during the Syrian civil war. In its report dated 12 February 2014 they confirmed the use of Sarin in the case of Khan Al-Assal (19 March 2013), Saraqib (29 April 2013) and Al-Ghouta (21 August 2013). The UNHRC commission also found that the Sarin used in the Khan al-Asal attack bore "the same unique hallmarks" as the Sarin used in the Ghouta attack and indicated that the perpetrators likely had access to chemicals from the Syrian Armys stockpile.
The Russian Khan al-Asal investigation
A Russian team investigated the Khan al-Asal incident on 19 March 2013. The Russian UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin delivered a report with analysis of the samples taken at the site to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on 9 July 2013. They declared that the sarin had been produced in "cottage industry" conditions without the use of chemical stabilisers and that the Sarin contained diisopropyl fluorophosphate.
Though the Russian report was not published certain Russian findings were restated by Vitaly Churkin. The rebels, the Russians maintained, launched an unguided "Basha'ir-3" projectile towards Khan al-Assal. The results of the analysis clearly indicated, according to the Russians, that the ordnance used in Khan al-Assal was not industrially manufactured and that the sarin was not industrially manufactured either. According to the Russians the production of "Basha'ir-3" unguided projectiles was started in February 2013 by the so-called "Basha'ir al-Nasr" brigade affiliated with the Free Syrian Army. In the final United Nations report the picture was one of contradicting information. The United Nations Mission was not able to collect any “untouched” artifacts relevant to the incident and necessary for an independent verification of the information gathered. No biomedical samples were handed over to the United Nations Mission by the Syrian Government. The UN report did not concur with the Russian results. In 2014 the U.N. concluded that the 8/21 Sarin bore the ‘same unique hallmarks’ as the Sarin used in the 3/19 Khan al-Assal attack. Describing the attack on the Ghouta district near Damascus, the report said: "The perpetrators likely had access to the chemical weapons stockpile of the Syrian military, as well as the expertise and equipment necessary to manipulate safely large amount of chemical agents." 
The OPCW mission to investigate alleged use of chlorine gas
On 29 April 2014, the Director General Ahmet Üzümcü of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) announced the creation of an OPCW mission to establish the facts surrounding allegations of the use of chlorine gas in Syria. The Syrian Government has agreed to the mission.
On 27 May 2014, members of the mission were ambushed and briefly held by gunmen in rebel-held territory as it headed toward Kafr Zita to investigate the alleged chlorine gas attacks. The opposition Hama Media Centre said the attack on the convoy was carried out by Assad's forces.
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