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Chemical weapons watchdog: Sarin, chlorine "very likely" used in 2017 Syria atatcks

14 June 2018

The global chemical weapons watchdog has said it is "very likely" that gas was used on civilians in Syria during attacks past year.

The organization's fact-finding team is not mandated to apportion blame for chemical attacks.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) announced that its fact-finding mission in Latamneh concluded that "sarin was very likely used as a chemical weapon" in a March 24, 2017, attack.

In a statement, the body said sarin was "very likely" used on 24 March 2017 in southern Ltamenah, in the Hama governate.

The findings in Ltamenah were based on witness testimony, epidemiological analysis and environmental samples, it said.

Lab analysis shows banned nerve agent sarin and chlorine were most probably used in attacks in northern Syria, according to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

The OPCW did not assign blame for the attack. "The first attack in 2018 occurred in the area between Douma and Harasta in Damascus Ghouta on January 13, 2018, the second attack took place on January 22, 2018, in the north-western area of Douma, and the third attack took place on February 1, 2018 in Douma as well", the report indicated, referring to a city slightly north of Damascus. We propose the OPCW begins attributing responsibility for chemical weapons attacks in Syria. At the time, the UN-OPCW investigative team blamed that attack on Syrian government forces.

Physicians for Human Rights reported the hospital attack past year, saying that the Latamneh surgical hospital - a facility built into a cave to protect it from airstrikes - was hit by multiple barrel bombs.

The hospital's coordinator told PHR that the attack and chemical exposure led to the death of one of the hospital's doctors, Dr. Ahmed Darwish, the group said.

The OPCW said its investigators were "required to study available information relating to allegations of use of chemical weapons in Syria, including information provided by the Syrian Arab Republic and others". It also prompted a series of coordinated strikes from the U.S., France and the United Kingdom that targeted facilities associated with Syria's chemical weapons program. It is expected to publish the results of that inquiry this month.

Tragically there is still no global mechanism to attribute responsibility for these attacks on Ltamenah.

Chemical weapons watchdog: Sarin, chlorine