by Ruby Henley
The report by the OPCW’s fact finding mission for Syria determined that chlorine was released from cylinders by mechanical impact in the Al Talil neighborhood of Saraqib.
President Trump was correct, and it appears the government of Syria was involved. The following statement from the report must be accepted as truth –
- In its latest report on the systematic use of banned munitions in Syria’s civil war, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) did not say which party was behind the attack on Saraqib, which lies in rebel-held territory in the province of Idlib.
- But witnesses told OPCW investigators that the munitions were dropped in barrel bombs from a helicopter, a report released by the OPCW showed. Only Syrian government forces are known to have helicopters.
The report can be read at www.opcw.org/fileadmin/OPCW/S_series/2018/en/s-1626-2018_e_.pdf
The following is the official witness report – read carefully.
- Witnesses described the night of 4 February 2018 as cold with no precipitation and virtually no wind. There was poor visibility due to low ambient light, and restricted use of artificial light due to fear of being targeted by aircraft.
- At approximately 21:00, eight men were taking shelter in a basement in the eastern neighborhood of Al Talil in the city of Saraqib when they heard a notification via radio from a spotter that a helicopter had entered the airspace of Saraqib from the south-east.
- At approximately 21:15, witnesses reported hearing a helicopter flying above the city and the sound of two “barrels” falling and impacting in close proximity to their location. They also indicated not hearing any explosion.
- According to witness statements, two cylinders (or “barrels” according to most witnesses) fell in an open field surrounded by building structures approximately 200 metres to the south-west of the Agricultural Bank in the eastern part of Saraqib (see Figure 3 below), and 50 to 100 metres to the south-west of the basement mentioned in paragraph 5.9 above.
- Both impact points were in this open field approximately 200 x 200 metres in size, which is in a depression 3 to 4 metres lower than the surrounding urbanised area. The impact locations, as given by witnesses, are shown in Figure 3 below. The initiation points were within a short distance and short time frame from one another. The FFM was unable to determine the chronological order of impact of the two cylinders; as such, they are numbered Impact Point 1 and Impact Point 2 for referencing purposes only.
- Figures 2, 3, and 4 below show the location of the alleged incident in Saraqib, the impact points, and the basement where the eight men had taken shelter. The impact points were identified based on the analysis of the information gathered by the FFM from different sources, including witnesses.
The following is the response from the United States to the attack – www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2018/02/277992.htm
- The United States is gravely alarmed by continued allegations of the use of chlorine gas by the Syrian Regime to terrorize innocent civilians, this time in Idlib Province near Saraqib.
- This attack is the sixth such reported instance in the past 30 days in Syria. We implore the international community to speak with one voice, taking every opportunity to publicly pressure the Assad regime, and its supporters, to cease its use of chemical weapons and hold those responsible accountable for these brutal attacks.
- The Secretary noted last month in Paris that Russia ultimately bears responsibility for the victims in East Ghouta and countless other Syrians targeted with chemical weapons since Russia became involved in Syria. By shielding the Syrian regime from accountability, Russia has not lived up to its commitments. The use of chemical weapons by all parties in Syria must unequivocally stop. The people of Syria are suffering; the rest of the world is watching.
Although the report on the chemical attack in Douma, eastern Ghouta, has not yet been published, the aspects of the evidence gathered at Saraqeb and Douma are very similar, weapons experts said.
OPCW does not have the power to attribute responsibility for attacks, and the UN body that did have the power to attribute blame has been closed after Russia used its veto to block the renewal of its mandate.
If you want to be suspicious now of anyone at this point, turn your eyes toward Russia. Why would they block the UN body to attribute blame for these attacks?
- The Syrian government produced a three-page denial of responsibility, and failed to answer a further set of OPCW questions sent on 14 March.
- In a brief statement Ahmet Üzümcü, the head of OPCW, said: “I strongly condemn the use of toxic chemicals as weapons by anyone, for any reason, and in any circumstances. Such acts contradict the unequivocal prohibition against chemical weapons.”
- Medics have claimed the Douma attack on 7 April led to 40 deaths. The scale of the attack prompted the UK, France and the US to mount cruise missile strikes on what it said were Syrian government chemical weapons sites.
- Following delays, the OPCW was allowed to access the Douma site where it gathered more than 100 environmental samples.
- Last month, Russia held a press conference close to the OPCW headquarters in The Hague, at which it produced witnesses that claimed no chemical weapons attack had occurred, and that any choking had been due to dust inhalation. Russia said the whole attack was faked on video footage by UK intelligence-funded Syrians.
- The UN secretary general, António Guterres, has been working privately to bridge the differences between Russia and the west on how to reform the OPCW so that it has powers to attribute responsibility. The French government is due to hold a ministerial-level conference in Paris on Friday to build an alliance of countries determined to reconstruct an accountability mechanism for chemical weapons use, if necessary outside the confines of the UN.
In conclusion, it is very troublesome that Russia or Syria do not even accept the findings of OPCW. WHY? First they block the body within the UN who had the ability to assign BLAME for the chemical attacks, then they are in conflict with OPCW – again the rule of law is being attacked.
The OPCW was birthed at the Hague – the international body of law – to monitor the use of chemical weapons throughout the world. This is international law, and if that is not respected by Countries throughout the world, again we will see the rule of law becoming useless. If this does occur, chaos will run even more rampant in the world than it is now.
When I say the word, “again” – I referring to what we have seen here in the U.S. in relation to the 2016 Presidential Election. The voter law in the United States has not been respected by the Democrats; thus, we are now witnessing total chaos within government.
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