Over 160 chemical attacks in Syria over five-year period

TOPSHOT - EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / Syrian civilians flee from reported regime air strikes in the rebel-held town of Jisreen, in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, on February 8, 2018. A fourth consecutive day of heavy regime bombing raids on the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta near Damascus killed 22 civilians on February 8, a monitor said. / AFP PHOTO / ABDULMONAM EASSA (Photo credit should read ABDULMONAM EASSA/AFP/Getty Images)

An investigation carried out by the BBC has determined that there is proof that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has launched 164 chemical attacks on his own people since 2013. President Assad denies the allegations.

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In September 2013, Assad signed the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which stated that he agreed to destroy the countries stockpile of chemical weapons. This cam a month after an attack using the nerve agent Sarin left hundreds dead in various suburbs of Damascas.

Almost half of the attacks were in the Idlib and Hama provinces, with Aleppo third, and Damascus fifth. The use of these chemical weapons has been described as “vile” by Karen Pierce, the UK’s permanent representative to the UN.

Assad strongly denies all allegations of the use of chemical weapons, and assures they were destroyed in 2013, calling it a “farce”.

“We don’t have any chemical arsenals since we gave them up in 2013, and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) made investigations about this and it’s clear and documented that we don’t have [chemical weapons].

“Let’s presume that this army has chemical weapons and it’s in the middle of war. Where should they be used? At the end of the battle? They should use them somewhere in the middle or where the terrorists made advancements, not where the army finished the battle and the terrorists gave up and said: ‘We are ready to leave the area’, and the army is fully controlling that area.

“The Western narrative started after the victory of the Syrian army. Not before. When we finished the war, they said we used chemical weapons.

“Why do all the supposed chemical weapons only kill children and women and don’t kill any militants? If you look at the videos, it’s completely fake, I mean, when you have chemical weapons, how could the doctors and nurses be safe dealing with the chemical atmosphere without any protective clothes, without anything, just throwing water at the victims and the victims became okay, just because you washed them with water?

So it’s a farce. It’s a play. It’s a very primitive play just to attack the Syrian army.”

The argument that OPCW investigators documented that no chemical weapons are in the country is true, however, it is important to note that inspectors only had information they were given. Julian Tangaere, former head of the OPCW mission to Syria explained:

“Everything that we knew to be there was either removed or destroyed. All we could do was to verify what we’d been told was there. The thing about the Chemical Weapons Convention is it’s all based on trust”

But, the OPCW have admitted that there are “gaps, inconsistencies and discrepancies” in Syria’s declaration that a team of investigators is still trying to resolve.

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Syrian’s on the front line still claim that chemical weapon attacks are happening. Abdul Hamid Youssef lost his wide, his 11-month old twins, two brothers, his cousin and many neighbours in an attack on 4th April 2017.

“They were shivering, and foam was coming out of their mouths. It was terrifying. That’s when I knew it was a chemical attack. After about 15 minutes, they brought them all to me – dead. I lost the most precious people in my life.”

A joint mission between the OPCW and the UN concluded that both sulphur mustard and Sarin were used, in a finding that “deeply concerned” the Leadership Panel. The panel also encouraged the “international community to make united efforts to ensure that such use will not be repeated”.

Karen Pierce claims that President Assad will be brought to justice at some point over the attacks.

“There is evidence being collected. One day there will be justice. We will do our best to try to bring that about and hasten it.”

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