United Nations inspectors say they have found “clear and convincing evidence” that rockets loaded with the nerve agent sarin were deployed in three neighborhoods of the Damascus suburb of Ghouta in a chemical attack on August 21. The report cites medical and environmental evidence, as well as more than 50 interviews with survivors and healthcare workers. It concludes “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.” The report did not assign responsibility for the attack. The United States, Britain and France seized on the findings to bolster claims that only the regime of President Bashar al-Assad could have conducted the attack, while Russia accused them of jumping to conclusions. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke to reporters about the report.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: “The findings are beyond doubt and beyond the pale. This is a war crime and grave violation of the 1925 protocol and other rules of international law, customary international law. It is the most significant confirmed use of chemical weapons against civilians since Saddam Hussein used them in Halabja in 1988 and the worst use of weapons of mass destruction in the 21st century.”
The U.N. inspectors plan to return to Syria to investigate other suspected chemical weapons attacks, including some which the Assad regime claims were perpetrated by rebels.