United Nations accuses Syrian government of April sarin attack

United Nations accuses Syrian government of April sarin attack

Ronald Pratt
September 7, 2017

The Syrian government acknowledges for the first time that it has chemical weapons and threatens to use them in the event of military operations by Western countries, but not against its own population. "In the gravest incident, the Syrian Air Force used sarin in Khan Sheikhun, Idlib, killing dozens, the majority of whom were women and children", the United Nations report said, declaring the attack a war crime.

The report also criticised the United States for a failure to carry out sufficient checks before launching an attack on a mosque in Al Jinah, Aleppo, targeting an alleged meeting of senior Al Qaeda leaders.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has denied responsibility for the April 4 attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in the rebel-held Idlib province that killed dozens of people, including children. Investigators have so far been able to pinpoint who was responsible for the six remaining attacks which all occurred earlier in the conflict.

In late August, a United States intelligence report says with "high confidence" that Syria's government carried out the attack.

Noting concerns about the impact of worldwide coalition air strikes on civilians, the report highlighted US operations which hit civilians. At least 84 civilians including many children were killed in the attack.

The UN is reporting that the Syrian government has used poison gas to attack civilians at least 27 times.

"We have analyzed all the other interpretations" of who might have conducted the attack, commission chairman Paulo Pinheiro said at a Geneva news conference.

North Korean bomb prompts global condemnation, calls for talks
After Pyongyang fired a ballistic missile over Japan last week, he tweeted that "talking is not the answer". The statement did not say whether the conversation came before or after the North's latest claim.

Since the April 6 attack on the Syrian airbase, the Trump administration has changed direction in Syria in promising Russia, Assad's staunch ally, to end a covert Central Intelligence Agency program that armed opposition forces there.

The White House last month called on the worldwide community to unite to ensure that anyone using chemical weapons faced "serious consequences" without commenting further on what those would be.

Wednesday's report, the 14th by the commission since it was set up by the UN's Human Rights Council in 2011, is based on information retrieved from satellite images, video, photos, medical records, and over 300 interviews.

The regime accepted that it had attacked the town but said the gas was released after its aircraft targeted a chemical weapons factory.

The Obama administration "guaranteed" in 2013 that "100%" of Syria's chemical weapons were removed by Russian Federation.

In its most important direct finding of banned chemical weapons use by the regime, an inquiry today dismissed alternative theories promoted by the regime, Russian Federation and some journalists for the deaths in Khan Shaykhun, near Hama, on April 4.