OPCW finds "likely use of chlorine as chemical weapon" in Saraqib, Syria

Watchdog confirms chemical weapon use in Syria’s Douma

Watchdog confirms chemical weapon use in Syria’s Douma

Douma probe ongoing: Another OPCW investigative team is now assessing evidence from the Syrian town of Douma to determine whether an April 7 attack that left 40 dead used chlorine and sarin gas.

In its latest report on the systematic use of banned munitions in Syria's civil war, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) did not say which party was behind the attack on Saraqib, which lies in rebel-held territory in the province of Idlib. "Attribution was part of the mandate of the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism, set up by the UN Security Council, which expired in November 2017", the organization said.

An OPCW fact-finding mission for Syria "determined that chlorine was released from cylinders by mechanical impact in the Al Talil neighbourhood of Saraqib", the organisation said in a statement.

Environmental samples also "demonstrated the unusual presence of chlorine in the local environment", said the organisation, based in The Hague. Its team had also interviewed witnesses, and found that a number of patients at medical facilities shortly after the incident showed signs and symptoms consistent with exposure to chlorine.

State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert reported about the attack with the use of chlorine gas near the city of Saraqib on February 6. Only Syrian government forces are known to have helicopters.

The use of chemical weapons has become systematic in Syria's seven-year war, but political rifts between Western powers and Russian Federation have hamstrung the United Nations and the OPCW, leaving them unable to act against violations of worldwide law.

Banned chlorine munitions were likely dropped on a Syrian neighbourhood in February, an worldwide body on chemical weapons said on Wednesday, after laboratory tests confirmed the presence of the toxic chemical.

Medics have claimed the Douma attack on 7 April led to 40 deaths.

Following delays, the OPCW was allowed to access the Douma site where it gathered more than 100 environmental samples. Russia, which supports Assad in the Syrian conflict, chemical attack denies and considers it a production of the West to justify a military strike on Syria.

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