Chemical weapons watchdog OPCW blames Syrian air force for Douma attack

A child cries as they have their face wiped following alleged chemical weapons attack, in what is said to be Douma, Syria in this still image from video obtained by Reuters on April 8, 2018. (Reuters)

The global chemical weapons watchdog on Friday said a nearly two-year investigation had found that at least one Syrian military helicopter had dropped gas cylinders on to residential buildings in the rebel-held Syrian city of Douma in 2018, killing 43 people.

The April 7, 2018, attack on the outskirts of Damascus was part of a major military offensive that returned the area to the control of forces under Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after a prolonged Russian-backed siege against the rebel stronghold.

A previous investigation by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had already concluded in March 2019 that a chemical attack had taken place in Douma, but that inquiry had not been mandated to assign blame.

The Investigation and Identification Team was established by member states at the Hague-based OPCW in November 2018 to identify perpetrators of chemical attacks in Syria after Russia vetoed the joint United Nations-OPCW mission.

Syria denies using chemical weapons but a previous joint inquiry of the UN and the OPCW found that the Syrian government used the nerve agent sarin in an April 2017 attack and has repeatedly used chlorine as a weapon. It blamed Islamic State militants for mustard gas use.

“Our governments condemn in the strongest terms the Syrian regime’s repeated use of these horrific weapons and remain steadfast in our demands that the Assad regime immediately comply with its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and relevant UN Security Council resolutions,” the United States, Britain, France and Germany said in a joint statement on Friday.

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