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Chlorine gas likely used in Feb Saraqeb attack - OPCW

16 May 2018

A still image from a video said to be taken on August 1, 2016, shows a man breathing through a mask in what is said to be in Saraqeb, Syria.

The experts of the Organisation for the prohibition of chemical weapons have not yet rendered a verdict on the probable use of poison gas in the Syrian city of Duma in April of this year.

An OPCW fact-finding team is also now awaiting the results of its hard mission to the Syrian town of Douma, after medics and rescuers said 40 people died in a chlorine and sarin attack on April 7.

The OPCW does not have the power to attribute responsibility for attacks, and the United Nations body that did have the power to attribute blame has been closed after Russian Federation used its veto to block the renewal of its mandate.

A fact-finding mission by the OPCW determined that "chlorine was released from cylinders by mechanical impact in the Al Talil neighborhood of Saraqeb" on February 4.

About 11 people were treated after the attack on February 4. for mild and moderate symptoms of toxic chemical exposure, including breathing difficulties, vomiting and unconsciousness, the report said. "Such acts contradict the unequivocal prohibition against chemical weapons enshrined in the Chemical Weapons Convention". The team's conclusions were based on finding two cylinders that were determined as previously containing chlorine.

The OPCW is to report soon on whether chemical weapons were used on a larger-scale attack in Douma, eastern Ghouta, in May.

The OPCW's fact-finding mission was set up in 2014 to investigate repeated allegations of chemical weapons use in the Syrian conflict.

The probe into the use of chlorine gas in the Saraqeb attack comes amid the OPCW's investigation into another attack two months later in Douma, near the capital Damascus - a much larger attack in April that triggered U.S., British and French strikes against government posts in Syria a week later.

Reuters reported in January that tests found "markers" in samples taken at three attack sites between 2013 and 2017 from chemicals from the Syrian government stockpile. However, its mandate is only to verify whether chemical weapons have been used, not to establish responsibility.

Chlorine gas likely used in Feb Saraqeb attack - OPCW