UN details 'chilling' Syria chemical weapon attack
By Tim Witcher, AFPUNITED NATIONS -- The United Nations on Monday revealed what it called “chilling” details of a sarin gas attack in Syria, leaving the major powers to battle over who was responsible.
September 18, 2013, 12:11 am TWN
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria as “a war crime” as the country's conflict again spilled into neighboring nations, with Turkey saying it had shot down a Syrian military helicopter.
U.N. experts said they had gathered “clear and convincing evidence” that surface-to-surface rockets took sarin gas into the opposition-held Damascus suburb of Ghouta on August 21.
The United States, which had threatened a military strike on Syria over the attack, says more than 1,400 people were killed in Ghouta.
Ban said the report prepared by the experts “makes for chilling reading.”
He added that the use of sarin had been proved “unequivocally and objectively” and that the Ghouta attack was “the most significant” use of chemical weapons since Saddam Hussein unleashed poison gas in Halabja, Iraq in 1988, killing thousands.
Ban described how doctors treated civilians with no external signs of injuries in the streets of Ghouta in the hours after the attack and that the weather conditions had maximized the casualties.
“The downward movement of air would have allowed the gas to easily penetrate the basements and lower levels of buildings and other structures where many people were seeking shelter,” Ban said.
“The environmental, chemical and medical samples we have collected provide clear and convincing evidence that surface-to-surface rockets containing the nerve agent sarin were used” in Ghouta, said the report by U.N. inspectors who were in Syria when the attack was staged.
The experts concluded that “chemical weapons have been used in the ongoing conflict between the parties in the Syrian Arab Republic, also against civilians including children on a relatively large scale.”
A separate U.N.-mandated independent human rights inquiry announced separately on Monday that it was investigating 14 alleged chemical weapons attacks in Syria.