Syrian forces used nerve gas in four recent attacks - HRW

2017-05-02 08:36
A Syrian man who arrived a day earlier from government-held Fuaa and Kafraya receives treatment from the Red Crescent as he waits with thousands of others in rebel-held Rashidin, west of Aleppo city, following delays in evacuating them as the hard-won evacuation deal ran into trouble. (Omar haj kadour, AFP)

A Syrian man who arrived a day earlier from government-held Fuaa and Kafraya receives treatment from the Red Crescent as he waits with thousands of others in rebel-held Rashidin, west of Aleppo city, following delays in evacuating them as the hard-won evacuation deal ran into trouble. (Omar haj kadour, AFP)

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

New York - Syrian government forces used deadly nerve gas in Khan Sheikhun and in three other recent attacks, Human Rights Watch said on Monday, describing a "clear pattern" of chemical weapons use that could amount to crimes against humanity.

President Bashar Assad's forces are also stepping up chlorine gas attacks and have begun using surface-fired rockets filled with chlorine in fighting near Damascus, the US-based rights group said in a new report.

"The government's use of nerve agents is a deadly escalation - and part of a clear pattern," said Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch's executive director.

"In the last six months, the government has used warplanes, helicopters, and ground forces to deliver chlorine and sarin in Damascus, Hama, Idlib and Aleppo."

"That's widespread and systematic use of chemical weapons," he said.

Pretext

In April, Assad said in an interview that the suspected sarin attack in Khan Sheikhun was "100%" fabricated, serving as a pretext for US missile strikes on a Syrian air field.

Human Rights Watch interviewed 60 witnesses and collected photos and videos providing information on the suspected April 4 attack, and on three other alleged uses of nerve gases in December 2016 and March 2017.

The rights group said at least 92 people including 30 children died from exposure to sarin in Khan Sheikhun and hundreds more were injured. The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights has put the death toll at 88.

Residents said a first bomb believed to be carrying the deadly agent sarin was dropped near the town's central bakery and was followed by three or four high-explosive bombs a few minutes later, the report said.

Dozens of photos and videos provided by residents of a crater from the first bomb showed a green-coloured metal fragment that Human Rights Watch said was likely the Soviet-produced KhAB-250 bomb.

Human Rights Watch said 64 people died from exposure to nerve agents after warplanes attacked territory controlled by the Islamic State group in eastern Hama on December 11 and December 12.

Activists and local residents provided names of the victims, while Human Rights Watch interviewed four witnesses and two medical personnel about the alleged attacks.

A third suspected nerve agent attack in northern Hama on March 30 caused no deaths but injured dozens of civilians and combatants, according to residents and medical personnel, the report said.

Suspected attacks

All four suspected nerve agent attacks were in areas where anti-government fighters were threatening Assad's military air bases, according to Human Rights Watch.

The alleged attacks were systematic and in some cases directed against civilians which would meet the legal criteria to be characterised as crimes against humanity, the rights group said.

HRW's Roth told a news conference that the string of suspected attacks cast doubt over Syrian and Russian claims that toxic agents were released in Khan Sheikhun after a bomb struck a chemical weapons depot on the ground.

It would be "utterly impossible" for warplanes to hit chemical caches repeatedly across the country, Roth said.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has said its experts were investigating 45 cases of alleged use of toxic gases in Syria since late in 2016.

Citing mounting evidence of repeated chemical weapons use, Human Rights Watch said the UN Security Council should once again ask the International Criminal Court to open a war crimes investigation.

Such a move by the council in 2014 was blocked by Russia, Assad's top ally, and China.

Read more on:    hrw  |  syria  |  syria conflict

Join the conversation!

24.com 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.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/Africa
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

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 24.com network.

Settings

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.