Did Syria Use Gas In The Ongoing Conflict?

Did Syria use gas against citizens in the protracted war that has raged on in the country since 2011? A new report from the international watchdog Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons indicates that the Syrian government has crossed President Barack Obama’s famous “red line” for chemical weapons like gas in the conflict, reported The New York Times.

Toxic chemical chlorine was likely used in April “systemically and repeatedly” in the northern Syrian villages Talmanes, Al Tamanah and Kafr Zet. Months of investigation produced the results, which show that despite assurances that Syria did not use gas, chemical weapons have indeed been brought against the opposition. Syrian officials previously promised to “forswear the weapons, surrender its arsenal and tear down its manufacturing plants.”

Whether Syria did use gas or if the attacks came from rebel fighters is still unconfirmed. However, the organization’s report did heavily hint that they believed the chlorine came from official sources. Additionally, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf expressed doubts that Syria’s opposition forces have the ability to spread such gas weapons, reported Reuters.

“The moderate opposition do not possess air capability power that could do this. This points to the conclusion that the Assad regime is responsible for the attacks. They are the ones with this helicopter capability.”

Few doubts plague the organization that Syria did use gas against rebels, saying in the report that it had “a high degree of confidence that chlorine, pure or in mixture, is the toxic chemical in question.” Testing for the chemical was based on “descriptions, physical properties, behavior of the gas, and signs and symptoms resulting from exposure, as well as the way victims responded to treatment.”

Although chlorine may not sound as deadly as mustard or nerve gas, the chemical was actually used liberally in World War I. Chlorine turns to hydrochloric acid when it enters the pulmonary system, ending in scorched tissue and eventual drowning due to the body’s natural reactions to the gas. While chlorine is “not a prohibited substance” according to Reuters, Syria did join the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention last year — under which chlorine is prohibited.

Videos posted by rebels have been claiming that Syria used gas for several weeks, but this official report may be the final push for international reaction in the conflict, although key figures have not yet made any such promises.

What do you think? Did Syria use gas against opposition forces?

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