Nerve Gas use in Syria? Maybe
One report claims as many as 1200 rebels have been killed from the use of nerve gas in Syria. Is it true? Maybe.
There have been conflicting reports from both sides in Syria about the use of nerve gas. Originally Al-Arabiya reported 280 deaths from the gas on twitter. The estimate was later upgraded to 1188 from sources in the ‘Free Syrian Army.’
A group called the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights puts the estimate at dozens, a much lower figure.
Reuters and AP put the number lower as well. They say the number is in the hundreds, but none of the figures can be verified.
An RT Arabic reporter interviewed locals who say they did not witness any ‘poisonous attack’ in the area. They did hear a great deal of gunfire.
Syrian government authorities claim “there is no truth whatsoever” that chemical weapons were used near Damascus.
The alleged attack came on the same day UN inspectors arrived in Syria.
The location was Ghouta, a green area surrounding the nation’s capital. This area has been the frequent site of battles between government and rebel forces.
“Jabhat al-Nusra has had a long-time presence there and the region has borne the brunt of sustained military pressure for months now,” Charles Lister, an analyst at IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Center, told Reuters, referring to a hardline Sunni Islamist rebel group allied to al-Qaeda.
The head of the UN inspection team said they only saw the dead on television, and that the reported numbers are suspicious.
“It sounds like something that should be looked into,” he told TT by phone. “It will depend on whether any UN member state goes to the secretary-general and says we should look at this event. We are in place.”
He said that the high numbers of killed and wounded being reported are “suspicious.”
Among those who also voiced their concern are the Arab league spokesman and UK foreign secretary William Hague.
Syrian government representative, Dr. Abdulqader Azouz, told an Arabic news network that they “are winning the battle against the rebels,” and have no need to use chemical weapons.
“America has always put the pretext of using chemical weapons on the top of its agenda as a means of intervention in Syria,” Azouz told Rossiya al-Yaum. He went on to stress that the Syrian government has pledged “its commitment to full cooperation with the investigation committee and other specialized committees.”
The Syrian ambassador, who is visiting Russia, Riyadh Haddad, said that the claims of chemical weapons use are being made by the rebels to influence the UN inspectors. He says “it’s just not true.”
Pictures submitted by the rebels display what they claim are victims of chemical weapons. The government says that these are pictures of bodies who were killed when security forces attacked rebel strongholds and they “demolished a number of terrorists’ hideouts, leaving many of them dead and injured.”
In July a Russian investigative team examined about 30 bodies allegedly killed by chemical agents, and said the release of gas was the result of rebel action and not the Syrian government.
The United States disputed the findings. They claimed their investigation proved that the attack was committed by the forces of President Assad. A UN committee said that the American investigation was ‘sub-standard.’
The UN team will hopefully unravel the situation in the next few days. For now the question remains; was nerve gas used in Syria? If so, which side used the poisonous substance?
James Turnage Reporting