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-Assal attack in the suburbs of Aleppo in March 2013. Several other attacks have been alleged, reported and/or 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.
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.
In August 2016, a confidential United Nations report explicitly blamed the Syrian military of Bashar al-Assad for dropping chemical weapons on the towns of Talmenes in April 2014 and Sarmin in March 2015.
- 1 Background
- 2 Incidents
- 3 Investigations
- 4 Other allegations
- 5 See also
- 6 Notes
- 7 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 possessing chemical weapons, although Western intelligence services believed it to hold one of the world's largest stockpiles.
In December 2012, the chemical plant SYSACCO 29 kilometers (18 mi) east of Aleppo was taken by rebel fighters from the Al-Nusra Front. The factory produces chlorine among other chemicals. On 5 November 2014, the Syrian UN-ambassador Bashar al-Jaafari, said "terrorist organizations stole about 200 tons of [chlorine gas] from" the factory.
On 30 May 2013, Turkish newspapers reported that Turkish security forces had arrested Al-Nusra Front fighters in the southern provinces of Mersin and Adana near the Syrian border and confiscated 2 kg of sarin gas. The Turkish Ambassador to Moscow later said that tests showed the chemical seized was not sarin, but anti-freeze (anti-freeze is either Methanol or Isopropyl alcohol). In September six of those arrested in May were charged with attempting to acquire chemicals which could be used to produce sarin; the indictment said that it was "possible to produce sarin gas by combining the materials in proper conditions."
According to Syria, on 1 June 2013, the Syrian Army seized two cylinders holding the nerve agent sarin in an area controlled by opposition fighters. The Syrian government declared the two cylinders "as abandoned chemical weapons" and told the OPCW that "the items did not belong to" them. On 14 June 2014, the Joint OPCW-UN Mission confirmed that the cylinders contained sarin. On 7 July 2014, the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon informed the U.N. Security Council about the findings.
Reported chemical weapons attacks
The table below lists the reported attacks and the main points. See the main articles for details.[N 1]
|Date||Location||Governorate||Impact points||Civilian victims||Soldier/militias victims||CW-agent||Main article||Notes|
|Time of day||Coordinates||Controlled by||Deaths||Non-fatal||Deaths||Non-fatal||Unit|
|17 October 2012||Salqin||Idlib||Reported by the Government of France.(p4)[N 2]|
|23 December 2012||Al-Bayadah||Homs||Free Syrian Army||5||App. 100||Most likely Agent 15||Reported by the Government of France, UK and Qatar,(p3) and also Haaretz and Foreign Policy.[N 2]|
|13 March 2013||Darayya||Rif Dimashq||Reported by the Government of UK and Qatar.(p4)[N 2]|
|14 March 2013||Otaybah||Rif Dimashq||Reported by Le Monde.|
|19 March 2013||Khan al-Asal||Aleppo||Early morning||Syrian Army||19||107||1||17||Syrian Army||Sarin||Khan al-Assal chemical attack||Reported by the Governments of Syria, Russia, France, UK and US. Confirmed by the U.N.|
|19 March 2013||Otaybah||Rif Dimashq||Reported by the Governments of France and UK.(p6)[N 2]|
|24 March 2013||Adra||Rif Dimashq||Reported by the Government of UK.(p4)[N 2]|
|11 April 2013||Jobar||Damascus||Jobar chemical attacks||Reported by Le Monde.|
|12 April 2013||Jobar||Damascus||Jobar chemical attacks||Reported by Le Monde.[N 2]|
|13 April 2013||Sheikh Maqsood||Aleppo||Kurdish forces||3||more than a dozen||Reported by the Government of US.(p4)[N 2]|
|13 April 2013||Jobar||Damascus||Jobar chemical attacks||Reported by the Government of France.(p5)[N 2]|
|14 April 2013||Jobar||Damascus||Jobar chemical attacks||Reported by the Government of France.(p5)[N 2]|
|25 April 2013||Darayya||Rif Dimashq||Reported by the Government of UK.(p4)[N 2]|
|29 April 2013||Saraqib||Idlib||A:
|Free Syrian Army||1||10||2||Free Syrian Army||Sarin/Tear gas||Reported by the Governments of UK and France.(p4) Allegedly some of the hand grenade–type munitions contained tear gas, whereas other grenades were filled with sarin. Ref. U.N.|
|14 May 2013||Qasr Abu Samrah||Hama||Reported by the Governments of US.(p5)[N 2]|
|23 May 2013||Adra||Rif Dimashq||Reported by the Governments of US.(p5)[N 2]|
|5 August 2013||Adra||Rif Dimashq||Ref. Human Rights Watch.|
|21 August 2013||Zamalka/Ein Tarma||Rif Dimashq||Between 02:00 and 03:00||Ein Tarma:
|734||Sarin||Ghouta chemical attack||Reported by multiple U.N. Member States.|
|21 August 2013||Muadamiyat al-Sham||Rif Dimashq||App. 05:00||Four 140mm rockets impacted next to the Rawda Mosque (). Three 140mm rockets impacted app. 500 meters to the east of the Rawda Mosque ( ).||103||Sarin||Ghouta chemical attack||Reported by multiple U.N. Member States.(p5)|
|22 August 2013||Al-Bahariyah||Rif Dimashq||App. 17:00||Syrian Army||16||Syrian Army||Reported by the Government of Syria.(p5) The U.N. mission investigated the attack, but did not find reliable information to support the allegation that a CW-agent were used.|
|24 August 2013||Jobar||Damascus||App. 11:00||Syrian Army||24||Syrian Army||Sarin||Ref. U.N.|
|25 August 2013||Ashrafiyat Sahnaya||Rif Dimashq||App. 20:00||Syrian Army||5||Syrian Army||Sarin||Ref. U.N.|
|10 April 2014||Kafr Zita||Hama||Midnight, night to 11 April||Syrian opposition||Chlorine||Ref. OPCW.|
|11 April 2014||Kafr Zita||Hama||18:00 – 19:00 hrs||A:
|Syrian opposition||2||107 affected, 5 seriously (12 patients)||Chlorine||2014 Kafr Zita chemical attack||Ref.OPCW, UNHRC, HRW, SOHR, VDC and SANA.|
|11 April 2014||Harasta||Rif Dimashq||Ref.|
|12 April 2014||Kafr Zita||Hama||21:00 – 22:00||Syrian opposition||5 patients||Chlorine||Ref. OPCW and UNHRC.|
|12 April 2014||Al-Tamanah||Idlib||22:45||Residential house, 100 m from Western school||Syrian opposition||–||25||Chlorine||Ref. OPCW and UNHRC.|
|13 April 2014||Al-Tamanah||Idlib||App. 22:30||Syrian opposition||–||112 affeted||Chlorine||Ref. Human Rights Watch|
|14 April 2014||Halfaya||Hama||23:00||4 patients||Chlorine||Ref. OPCW.|
|16 April 2014||Harasta||Rif Dimashq||Ref. The Times of Israel.|
|16 April 2014||Kafr Zita||Hama||22:00||Al-Zowar region||Syrian opposition||4 patients||Chlorine||Ref. OPCW and UNHRC.|
|18 April 2014||Al-Tamanah||Idlib||App. 22:00||Residential house, 150 m from medical unit||Syrian opposition||4||70||Chlorine||Ref. OPCW, UNHRC and HRW.|
|18 April 2014||Kafr Zita||Hama||22:30||Syrian opposition||App. 100 affected (35 patients)||Chlorine||Ref. OPCW, UNHRC and HRW.|
|21 April 2014||Talmenes||Idlib||Around 10:30 to 10:45.||Two “barrel bombs” struck two houses 100 m from each other, in the neighbourhood around the big mosque ().||Syrian opposition||3||App. 133 (4 severely)||Chlorine||Ref. OPCW, UNHRC and Human Rights Watch.|
|22 April 2014||Darayya||Rif Dimashq||Ref. The Daily Star.|
|29 April 2014||Al-Tamanah||Idlib||Night to 30 April||Residential house, 20 m from northern school||Syrian opposition||–||35||Chlorine||Ref. OPCW and UNHRC.|
|19 May 2014||Kafr Zita||Hama||20:00||Syrian opposition||1||130 affected (2 patients)||Chlorine||Ref. Al Arabiya.|
|21 May 2014||Al-Tamanah||Idlib||Chlorine||Ref. International Business Times.|
|21 May 2014||Kafr Zita||Hama||20:00||Syrian opposition||4 patients||Chlorine||Ref. OPCW|
|22 May 2014||Al-Tamanah||Idlib||10:00–11:00||Residential house||Syrian opposition||4||12||Chlorine||Ref. OPCW.|
|22 May 2014||Kafr Zita||Hama||20:00||Syrian opposition||dozens (38 patients)||Chlorine||Ref. OPCW and CNN.|
|25 May 2014||Al-Tamanah||Idlib||Night to 26 May||Residential house, 50 m from main road||Syrian opposition||–||–||Chlorine||Ref. OPCW.|
|29 May 2014||Al-Lataminah||Hama||Night||17 patients||Chlorine||Ref. OPCW.|
|12 July 2014||Avdiko||Aleppo||Kurdish forces||3||Kurdish forces||Most likely Mustard gas||Ref. The Huffington Post and the MERIA Journal.|
|27 July 2014||Kafr Zita||Hama||19:00||Syrian opposition||–||Chlorine||Ref. OPCW.|
|21 August 2014||Jobar||Damascus||6||Ref. ARA News.|
|28 August 2014||Kafr Zita||Hama||21:30 – 22:00||Syrian opposition||–||Chlorine||Ref. OPCW and Channel News Asia.|
|30 August 2014||Kafr Zita||Hama||Syrian opposition||Chlorine||Ref. OPCW.|
|15 February 2015||Darayya||Rif Dimashq||Around noon||
50 to 100 m northwest of the Shrine of Sukayna
|Syrian Army||4||Syrian Army||Possibly sarin||Five to eight government soldiers were allegedly exposed to sarin or a sarin-like substance. Ref.|
|21 February 2015||Hayan||Aleppo||Syrian opposition||Noxious gas||Ref. civil defence team.|
|9 March 2015||Mzeireb||Daraa||Syrian opposition||Chlorine||Ref. anti-regime activists.|
|16 March 2015||Qmenas||Idlib||Around 20:30 – 20:45||Ahrar al-Sham and Jund al-Aqsa||–||70 affected, 1 seriously||Most likely Chlorine||20 of the victims were from the western neighborhood of Sarmin. The wind allegedly carried the gas from Qmenas to Sarmin. Ref. MESOP.|
|16 March 2015||Sarmin||Idlib||Around 22:30 – 22:45||Two barrel bombs were allegedly dropped by a helicopter into the southeastern neighborhood of Sarmin (Kournesh).||Ahrar al-Sham and Jund al-Aqsa||6||30 affected, ranged between moderate and severe.||Most likely Chlorine||Ref. LCC and SOHR.|
|23 March 2015||Binnish||Idlib||About 19:30||Two barrel bombs filled with chlorine gas were dropped on Binnish.||Syrian opposition||–||At least 30 affected||Chlorine||Ref. The Times.|
|24 March 2015||Qmenas||Idlib||Chlorine||Ref. activists.|
|24 March 2015||Binnish||Idlib||Early evening||–||30 wounded||Chlorine||Ref. activists.|
|28 June 2015||Tell Brak||Al-Hasakah||17 projectiles impacted south of the village.||Kurdish forces||12||Kurdish forces||Mustard gas||Ref. CAR.|
|28 June 2015||Al-Hasakah||Al-Hasakah||7 projectiles impacted in the al-Salehiyah neighborhood.||Kurdish forces||Kurdish forces||Mustard gas||Ref. CAR.|
|21 August 2015||Mare'||Aleppo||About 19:30||Islamic Front||1 (a baby)||Around 30||Mustard gas||At least 50 mortar and artillery shells were fired at residential areas. At least half of them contained poisonous gas. Ref.|
|7 April 2016||Aleppo, Sheikh Maqsood||Aleppo||People's Protection Units||23||100+||Unknown||A district of Aleppo in Syria controlled by Kurdish fighters have been the target of a chemical attack by Islamic terrorists. Videos show a yellow gas rises above the Sheikh Maksoud neighborhood. Islamist group Jaysh al-Islam claimed responsibility and stated that they will punish whoever used the chemical weapon.|
|15 June 2016||Eastern Ghouta||Damascus||Syrian Army||None||Several||Syrian Army||Unknown||Reported by Syrian Army.|
|25 August 2016||Dandaniya||Aleppo||Around 17:00||Syrian Democratic Forces||Dozens||Unknown||Reported by local sources.|
|8 October 2016||Aleppo, Sheikh Maqsood||Aleppo||Early morning||People's Protection Units||3||4+||Unknown||Unknown||People's Protection Units||Noxious gas||Local sources reported an attack by elephant rockets loaded with chemical substances.|
|25 November 2016||Aleppo, Sheikh Maqsood||Aleppo||16:35||People's Protection Units||3 patients||Unknown||Unknown||People's Protection Units||Unknown||The Kurdish Red Crescent reported taking 3 patients with chemical wounds after the area was hit by shells suspected to be loaded with poisonous chemicals.|
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 Army's stockpile.
The Russian Khan al-Asal investigation
Vitaly Churkin, Russia's ambassador to the UN, said that its Syrian ally had asked Russian experts to look into the Khan al-Assal attack. 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. Churkin said the chemical agent was carried by a "Bashair-3 unguided projectile", which was produced by the Basha'ir al-Nasr Brigade, a rebel group affiliated with the Free Syrian Army.
The OPCW Fact-Finding Mission in Syria
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 for hostile purposes 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. According to the Associated Press, the OPCW said that the captive members of the mission were later "released after the intervention by Syria's main opposition group." The opposition Hama Media Centre said the attack on the convoy was carried out by President Bashar Assad's forces.
The UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism
On 7 August 2015, the United Nations Security Council adopted resolution 2235 (2015) to establish a joint investigation mechanism to identify the perpetrators responsible for the use of chemical weapons in Syria. The resolution was drafted by the United States, and adopted by all 15 members of the Security Council.
In February 2012 a defector, a lieutenant who worked in the chemical weapons department, claimed that "BZ-CS, Chlorine Benzilate, which damages people’s nerves and makes them fade away, is being used in Bab Amr." He said that some Syrian soldiers had been supplied with gas masks for protection.
In 2015 the OPCW-UN Joint Mission in Syria disclosed previously undeclared traces of sarin and VX precursor compounds in a military research site where use of those compounds had not been previously declared.
In September 2015 a US official stated that ISIS was manufacturing and using mustard agent in Syria and Iraq, and had an active chemical weapons research team. In February 2016, the CIA Director John O. Brennan said on 60 Minutes that there was "a number of instances where ISIL has used chemical munitions on the battlefield".
- List of Syrian Civil War barrel bomb attacks
- List of massacres during the Syrian Civil War
- Use of chemical weapons in the Iraqi Civil War
- All times given are given in Eastern European Time (EET), or UTC+02:00 unless otherwise stated.
- In their final report, the U.N. mission stated: "The United Nations Mission did not receive sufficient or credible information in respect of the alleged incidents in Salquin on 17 October 2012, Homs on 23 December 2012, Darayya on 13 March and 25 April 2013, Otaybah on 19 March 2013, Adra on 24 March and 23 May 2013, Jobar between 11 and 14 April 2013, and Qasr Abu Samrah on 14 May 2013."(p10)
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