Syria Gas Claims Mount as World Races to Respond

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Global Security Newswire Staff
April 23, 2014, 6:58 a.m.

Syr­ia’s op­pos­i­tion ac­cused the coun­try’s re­gime of drop­ping chlor­ine-loaded bar­rel bombs on two towns this week, NBC News re­ports.

Loc­al politi­cians and act­iv­ists charged Pres­id­ent Bashar As­sad’s forces with car­ry­ing out a Monday strike on the Syr­i­an vil­lage of Telminnes and a Tues­day as­sault on the Daria com­munity neigh­bor­ing Dam­as­cus. The in­cid­ents re­portedly oc­curred with­in a day of each oth­er as gov­ern­ments at­temp­ted to sub­stan­ti­ate a string of al­leged tox­ic-gas at­tacks in the vi­ol­ence-racked Middle East­ern na­tion.

Par­ti­cipants in Syr­ia’s 3-year-old civil war have re­por­ted no few­er than sev­en gas strikes in the coun­try since April 11, the Lon­don Tele­graph re­por­ted. Monday’s pos­sible at­tack was said to have killed at least one child, ac­cord­ing to the news­pa­per. Wit­nesses coun­ted no deaths from Tues­day’s al­leged in­cid­ent, but de­scribed vic­tims with some­times severe breath­ing dif­fi­culties, NBC News re­por­ted.

Ex­perts said the claims ap­peared to re­flect the use of chlor­ine as part of a con­cer­ted of­fens­ive strategy, with in­creas­ing in­dic­a­tions that the gov­ern­ment is re­spons­ible, Re­u­ters re­por­ted.

As­sad’s re­gime, though, has blamed any chlor­ine re­leases on rebel fight­ers. The com­mon in­dus­tri­al sub­stance is not part of the chem­ic­al-war­fare stock­pile the gov­ern­ment has largely re­lin­quished un­der an agree­ment reached last year, fol­low­ing a large-scale nerve agent re­lease in a Dam­as­cus sub­urb.

Wash­ing­ton has not yet veri­fied spe­cif­ics about the latest al­leged at­tacks, but “the use of any tox­ic chem­ic­al with the in­tent to cause death or harm is a clear vi­ol­a­tion of the [Chem­ic­al Weapons] Con­ven­tion” signed by Dam­as­cus last year, State De­part­ment spokes­wo­man Jen Psaki told re­port­ers on Tues­day.

The Or­gan­iz­a­tion for the Pro­hib­i­tion of Chem­ic­al Weapons on Tues­day said it was be­gin­ning a pre­lim­in­ary re­view of the re­por­ted at­tacks ahead of a po­ten­tial form­al probe, the Wall Street Journ­al re­por­ted.

A Brit­ish gov­ern­ment source, though, said “you can’t ask for in­vest­ig­a­tions un­til you ac­cu­mu­late and present evid­ence,” the Tele­graph re­por­ted.

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