HRW: Strong evidence of Syria regime chemical attacks

2015-04-14 21:15
(Aris Messinis, AFP)

(Aris Messinis, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Beirut - Eyewitness accounts and evidence collected from Syria's northwestern Idlib province "strongly" suggest regime forces dropped toxic chemicals on civilians several times last month, Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday.

A high-ranking Syrian security official denied the claim, saying the accusations were "lies the insurgents say when they incur losses".

The report came as a monitor said at least 12 people were killed on Tuesday in a barrel bomb attack in the province.

Human Rights Watch said the chemicals appeared to have been packed into crude explosives-filled barrels that were dropped by military helicopter on rebel-held areas during heavy fighting for the city of Idlib.

"Evidence strongly suggests that Syrian government forces used toxic chemicals in several barrel bomb attacks in Idlib governorate between March 16 and 31, 2015," the New York-based group said.

It called on the UN Security Council to investigate what would be a breach of both its own resolutions and Damascus's obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention.

HRW said it had investigated six reported attacks in Idlib and villages outside, collecting evidence from rescue workers and other civilians that provided a compelling case in three of them.

The most conclusive evidence came from a March 16 attack on the village of Sarmin, which left a family of six, including three children, dead, and an attack on Idlib city on March 31.

"The children were foaming at the mouth, they were suffocating, then their hearts stopped," said Leith Fares, a rescue worker in Sarmin.

HRW said it could not conclusively establish the chemical used, but volunteers from the Syrian Civil Defence said they found remnants of barrel bombs at attack sites and smelled chlorine gas on victims' clothes.

The Syrian security official told AFP these were "lies" that armed rebels spread to "explain their failures to their funders".

"If the army used chemical weapons or chlorine gas every time they say it did, those people would have been completely wiped out by now," he said.

Regime ignoring UN: HRW

The world's chemical weapons watchdog had already expressed "serious concern" on March 25 over the reported use of toxic agents in Idlib province.

In January, it reported the use of chlorine gas in three attacks on three Syrian villages last year.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons did not attribute responsibility for those attacks, although its report cited witnesses saying they heard helicopters, which only the regime possesses.

In early March, the UN Security Council adopted a US-drafted resolution condemning the use of chlorine in Syria and threatening sanctions if the chemicals were used again.

"The Syrian government appears to be thumbing its nose at the Security Council and international law yet again," HRW's deputy Middle East director, Nadim Houry, said.

Damascus did not have to declare its stocks of chlorine under a 2013 agreement to dismantle its chemical arsenal as the substance is widely used for commercial and domestic purposes.

But using the gas for military purposes would be a breach of its undertakings under the Chemical Weapons Convention, which it signed as part of the deal.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, reported at least 12 people were killed Tuesday in a regime barrel bomb attack on the town of Saraqeb in Idlib province.

The group said the toll was expected to rise because a number of the wounded were in a serious condition.

And in the southern province of Daraa, at least six children were killed in barrel bomb attacks on Al-Krak, the Observatory said.

More than 215 000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began with anti-government protests in March 2011 that spiralled into a war after a regime crackdown.

Read more on:    syria  |  syria conflict

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.