In the gas sector: what is known about the chemical attack in Syria

On Tuesday, April 4, the town of Khan Shaykhun the southern Syrian province of Idlib was subjected to chemical attack. On the same day announced in the London Syrian monitoring centre for human rights (SOHR).

According to SOHR, the attack killed at least 72 people, including 20 children and 17 women. The number of victims among the civilian population can grow due to the large number of wounded and missing people, human rights activists believe. The responsibility they put on the Syrian government. According to SOHR, the aircraft Syrian air force continue to strike at different areas of the city. Wednesday, April 5, the organization has recorded five attacks, information about the victims there.

TV channel Al-Jazeera and the Turkish news Agency Anadolu on April 4 reported by other victims, citing a statement by the Minister of health of the provisional government of the opposition in Idlib Firas al-Jundi — more than 100 killed and 500 wounded in the incident.

What gas was used

On Tuesday, the witnesses were not recorded by typical chlorine green smoke, but the videos taken that day, see the clouds of dust and smoke from exploding shells. That previously, chlorine was used by the Syrian government, reported the Human rights organization Human Rights Watch.

From the scene received conflicting information. Activists in opposition media center of Idlib province indicate that victims have noted the symptoms of sarin poisoning — the isolation of his mouth white foam, convulsions, and absence of reaction to light. In addition, the video media center correspondent says that at the crash site of one of the shells on the North of the city for a long time felt the characteristic odor of poison gas.

The Syrian army would use sarin against civilians, but this information is not completely confirmed, shared with CNN his version, two American officials. According to them, an assumption based on a large number of casualties and nature of injuries.

Confirm the use of sarin gas in Khan Sheyhun can only chemical analysis, since this gas is colorless and clear odor, said a former member of the UN Commission on biological and chemical weapons Igor Nikulin. “Media can be anything is and chemical bombs on industrial production and artisanal mines, tanks with fuse,” explains the expert.

If they provided evidence that it manufactured the shells, terminals and dies, you can say that it is the handiwork of the Syrian government army. Otherwise, specifies Nikulin, it will be on the artisanal manufacture of the opposition.

Traces of the government

As stated by the opposition media center in Idlib representative non – “Syrian civil defense” (the organization better known as the “White helmets”), Khan shaykhun attacked by aircraft of government forces. Was fired four missiles, including one with poison gas, the residential quarters on the North of the city in the early morning, about 7 hours.

Evidence of the involvement of the armed forces of Syria told Reuters a source in American intelligence. According to him, the attack is “cause of action” of the Assad government. “If the Assad regime was truly responsible for the attack, based on data available, this incident could be the largest such attack since the attack in August 2013 in the suburbs of Damascus,” — said the representative of intelligence in a conversation with Reuters.

The administration of U.S. President Donald trump also blamed the chemical attack on the Assad regime, calling the actions of the government troops “disgusting.” Press Secretary of the White house Sean Spicer said on Tuesday that the United States are working to establish the circumstances of the incident, however, the American administration sees this as a trace of the actions of the Syrian regime. He also noted that the attack was “the result of weak and indecisive” policies of the Obama administration, which in 2012 promised to draw a red line against the use of chemical weapons, but it never did.

The Minister of foreign Affairs of great Britain, Boris Johnson said that as the rebel commanders, and weapons experts agree that the currently available evidence indicates that the attack was carried out by Syrian government forces, reports BBC.

The city of Khan shaykhun is in the southern part of Idlib province. It is controlled by the opposition, including the moderate group “Ahrar al-sham”. Of the opposition conducts offensive operations in the province of Hama. Thanks to the recent success of opposition groups, the front line moved away from town for a few tens of kilometers. Armed forces groups in the region, according to estimates by the Financial Times, up to 25 thousand people. Earlier, the “Ahrar al-sham” joined announced in 2016 in Syria the truce, reported Russian defense Ministry.

Russia and Syria deny

The Syrian army in an official statement published by news Agency SANA, has denied involvement in a government aircraft to chemical attack at Khan shaykhun. According to the military, the army has never used chemical or toxic substances and “will not make such in the future.” Arguments and photos, given the opposition, the government forces called the “false accusations”.

The defense Ministry of Russia reported that Russian aircraft in the attack on the city was not involved. According to the official version of the military Department presented on Wednesday, major-General Igor Konashenkova, in Khan Sheyhun was a large warehouse of ammunition of the opposition. According to the defense Ministry, in the territory affected by the Syrian air force military warehouse, “there were workshops for the manufacture of bombs, stuffed with poisonous substances.” These shells have been transported to Iraq, said the representative of the military. Confirm the information about the ammunition using aerial survey data Konashenkov couldn’t.

“In the period from 11:30 to 12:30 local time, Syrian aircraft attacked in the Eastern outskirts of Khan Shaykhun large warehouse of ammunition of terrorists and the accumulation of military equipment”, — transfers words Konashenkov “Interfax”.

The time specified the Russian defense Ministry, contrary to “White helmets” and interviewed by The New York Times the witnesses of the attack. They said that the air raids began about seven o’clock in the morning. A few hours later, according to witnesses, Syrian air force struck at one of the hospitals where victims were treated. The wounded were admitted to small hospitals and private clinics as the main hospital area was severely damaged in the bombing two days earlier, according to the newspaper.

The United Nations and the Organization for the prohibition of chemical weapons (OPCW) there was no evidence that the incident with chemical weapons in Khan Aahun was the result of the air strike, on Wednesday said the UN high representative for disarmament, Kim Won-soo during his speech at the meeting of the Security Council. “According to reports, the attack came from the air, and the strike had been a residential area. However, to confirm method of realization of the proposed attack at this stage with certainty is impossible”, — he said. (Quoted by TASS).

He also said that the Mission to establish the facts of the OPCW and the Joint UN and OPCW to investigate chemical attacks in Syria has started gathering information on the incident. Kim Won-soo assured that both organizations would ensure an “independent and impartial” investigation of the incident in Idlib province.

One of the leaders of the Syrian opposition Hassan Haj Ali, a commander of the group “Free army Idlib,” refuted the statement of the Ministry of defense of Russia that a shot was allegedly caused by the Syrian air force large warehouse of ammunition of the opposition, gave the Agency The Arab Khalij New. He said that civilians know that in this area the armed opposition has no headquarters or any industries. He also added that all of the formation of the opposition together is unable to produce such substances.

Resolution of contention

On Tuesday, the United States, Britain and France have made to the UN Security Council a draft resolution on the proposed himatake in Syria, than with reference to the diplomats, according to Reuters. According to the Agency, all three countries believe the Assad regime is guilty in the incident.

According to the draft resolution, the Syrian government should provide the security Council flight plans and records made on the day of the alleged attack and the names of the commanders of the crews, carrying out missions. In addition, the initiators of the resolution demanding international inspectors access to the airbase, where they had made flights of government aircraft. The vote on the resolution could take place on Wednesday, April 5, indicate the sources of Agency. The official representative of Russian foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova said that the draft document is “anti-Syrian character.”

U.S. Secretary of state Rex Tillerson called on Assad allies Russia and Iran “to influence the Syrian regime and to ensure that this kind of horrific attack will never happen again”. “Russia and Iran also have a great moral responsibility for those deaths,” he added.

“International law prohibits the use, production and storage of any chemical weapons. Therefore, any application is regarded as an international crime,” — said the Professor of international law Department of MGIMO Dmitriy Labin. He stressed that in order to be responsible, the international community must first establish an independent expert group that will investigate and establish the fact of the crime.

Chemical weapons in Syria

The production of chemical agents in Syria according to non-governmental organizations and the CIA, began in 1970-1980, with the participation of French organizations and experts.

The biggest attack with chemical weapons occurred on 21 August 2013 in Eastern ghouta, a suburb of Damascus. As a result of the firing of projectiles with the nerve gas sarin killed, according to various estimates, from 280 to 1,700 people. The UN inspectors managed to establish that this place was used missiles “ground-ground” with poison gas sarin, and applied them to the Syrian military.

Ambassador of the attack who was then President Barack Obama announced the possibility of introducing troops to Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin made a plan for the destruction of chemical weapons in Syria. After that, the UN security Council adopted resolution #2118 on the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons. 14 Oct 2013 Syria acceded to the Convention on the prohibition of chemical weapons.

In October 2013, under the supervision of experts of the United Nations and the Organization for the prohibition of chemical weapons (OPCW) began destroying Syria’s chemical weapons. The expert group consisted of representatives of Russia, USA, UK, Czech Republic, Uzbekistan, China, Canada, Netherlands and Tunisia. 23 June 2014, OPCW reported the last batch of chemical weapons from Syria.

However, after that, in Syria, the UN and the OPCW has recorded at least three cases of the use of the Syrian military chemical weapons. So Syrian troops used chemical weapons on 16 March 2015 in the village of Kaminas Idlib province. In another five cases, the organizer of the attack could not be established.