Syria inspectors face grave danger: UN

2013-10-08 10:07
A UN vehicle is seen near the Masnaa border crossing on the Lebanon-Syria border as UN inspectors return to Syria. (STR, AFP)

A UN vehicle is seen near the Masnaa border crossing on the Lebanon-Syria border as UN inspectors return to Syria. (STR, AFP)

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

United Nations - The United Nations warned on Monday that inspectors face a year-long mission of unprecedented danger in trying to destroy Syria's chemical weapons arsenal, as rebels launched a major offensive.

In a report to the UN Security Council seen by AFP, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said it would take 100 foreign experts to complete "an operation the likes of which, quite simply, has never been tried before".

Ban set out a blueprint for the most dangerous disarmament operation ever staged, even as the United States and Russia praised steps taken so far by President Bashar Assad's government.

But a major rebel assault in northwest Syria highlighted the looming threats to inspectors from the joint United Nations and Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) mission.

The two international bodies have had to speedily gather a team after a Security Council resolution endorsed a Russian-US disarmament plan on 27 September.

The plan was launched after a chemical weapons attack near Damascus on 21 August, in which hundreds - Washington claims around 1 400 - people died.

‘Dangerous and volatile’

US President Barack Obama initially threatened a punitive military strike but when he struggled to win international or even domestic support for such a move agreed to a Russian disarmament plan.

Russia and the United States have the ambitious aim to seize and destroy Syria's huge chemical weapons arsenal, estimated at 1 000 tonnes, by mid-2014.

Some 19 OPCW arms experts and 16 UN logistics and security personnel are in Syria and have started to destroy weapons production facilities.

Ban recommended the team be increased to about 100 scientists, logistics and security experts who will stay for up to a year.

The mission will have bases in Damascus and Cyprus.

Ban highlighted the threat to the experts and Syrian civilians from the sarin, mustard gas and other chemical horrors which are to be moved amid the "carnage" of Assad's daily battle with rebels.

The experts will have to work in "dangerous and volatile" conditions, particularly in urban areas such as Damascus, Homs and Aleppo, the UN leader warned.

"Heavy artillery, air strikes, mortar barrages and the indiscriminate shelling of civilians areas are commonplace and battle lines shift quickly," he added.

Syria has already made a declaration of its weapons facilities. And the UN resolution set a 1 November deadline for the eradication of production and chemical mixing facilities.

That work started on Sunday when the first "missile warheads, aerial bombs and mixing and filling equipment" were cut up and destroyed, according to the UN.

Western countries blame Assad for the 21 August chemical attack, while his ally Russia blames the rebels.

Assad admitted in a recent television interview that his government had made "mistakes" in the country's 30-month old conflict in which the UN says well over 100 000 people have been killed.

But he again denied responsibility for the Damascus attack.


The Security Council resolution passed on 27 September threatened "measures" under Chapter VII of the UN Charter if an infringement of the disarmament accord is proved.

Chapter VII allows for possible military action or sanctions.

But US Secretary of State John Kerry welcomed progress made so far in the disarmament operation.

"I think it's extremely significant that yesterday, Sunday, within a week of the resolution being passed, some chemical weapons were being destroyed," Kerry told reporters in Indonesia after talks with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

"I think it's a credit to the Assad regime, frankly. It's a good beginning and we welcome a good beginning."

On the ground on Monday, Assad's army reopened the only supply route linking central Syria with the northern city of Aleppo after a year of fierce fighting.

But rebels launched a major assault on two key military bases in north-western Syria, with at least 14 people killed in the heaviest fighting the area has seen in months, activists said.

The offensive - dubbed "The Earthquake" - was aimed at seizing Wadi Deif and Hamidiyeh in Idlib province, which insurgents have besieged for almost a year, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Rebel rocket and mortar fire killed at least 10 soldiers and destroyed three tanks, said the British-based Observatory. Four rebel fighters were killed in the clashes.

Assad forces used helicopters to bombard rebel positions around the two bases with barrels filled with explosives, it added.

Elsewhere in the country, military air raids killed at least 10 people in Hammuriyeh, east of Damascus, said the Observatory.

Air strikes also killed six people in Shaddadeh, an eastern town held by the jihadist al-Nusra Front and the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), it added.

Read more on:    un  |  al-qaeda  |  al-nusra  |  is  |  opcw  |  isil  |  syrian observatory for human rights  |  barack obama  |  ban ki-moon  |  sergei lavrov  |  bashar assad  |  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.
NEXT ON NEWS24X 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
1 comment
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


WATCH: Man films himself going down water slide upside down as things go very wrong…

What is at first an exciting tummy-turning adventure stunt, quickly turns into a scarily bad idea caught on camera. Take a look:


You won't want to miss...

Best date night restaurants in South Africa
WATCH: Ryan Reynolds offers fans a free tattoo in new Deadpool 2 teaser
Should you date your co-worker?
Hip Cape Town bars to discover this summer
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.