Syrian troops and Islamic State militants carried out chemical weapon attacks in the war-torn country during 2014 and 2015, say the United Nations and a global chemical weapons watchdog group.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s air force was responsible for at least two chlorine gas attacks against opposition-controlled towns in April 2014 and September 2015, say the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The determination follows a year-long joint probe by the two groups.
“It is now impossible to deny that the Syrian regime has repeatedly used industrial chlorine as a weapon against its own people,” says White House National Security Council spokesman Ned Price.
Chlorine’s use as a weapon is prohibited under the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, an international treaty that Syria joined in 2013. That year, Syria agreed to dismantle and destroy its stockpile of chemical weapons.
In addition, the UN-OPCW team concludes that the Islamic State was “the only entity with the ability, capability, motive, and the means to use sulfur mustard” in Aleppo on Aug. 21, 2015. Also known as mustard gas, this material too is banned as a chemical warfare agent under the international accord.
The UN-OPCW team says that since December 2015, it received more than 130 new reports of chemical weapons use in Syria. It says 41 claim the use of chlorine, 13 sarin, 12 mustard gas, and four VX nerve gas, and 61 of the allegations involve other toxic chemicals.
The 15-member UN Security Council is due to discuss the report the week of Aug. 29. It will debate potential responses that could range from a statement of condemnation to referral to the International Criminal Court or additional sanctions.