Global chemical weapons watchdog to investigate Syria gas attacks

Global chemical weapons watchdog to investigate Syria gas attacks
A spate of gas attacks in Syria will be investigated by the international chemical weapons body, as pressure mounts for action.
2 min read
07 February, 2018
The Syrian regime has been blamed for a spate of gas attacks [AFP]

An international chemical weapons watchdog has launched an investigation into a spate of gas attacks in Syria, the body announced Wednesday.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said it will look into all "credible allegations" of chemical attacks in Syria, the group said in a statement.

The OPCW said chemical strikes "continue to be of grave concern" as the body sends a task-finding mission to Syria "to establish the facts surrounding allegations of the use of toxic chemicals".

Syrian opposition officials will likely be disappointed as the body does not have the power to appropriate blame for the gassings.

Bashar al-Assad's regime has been held responsible for a number of recent chlorine, and possibly one sarin, gas attacks on Syrian opposition territories over the past two months.

The new trend has led the US warn the Syrian regime against any further chemical strikes.

Washington and its allies have also cautioned that a lack accountability could lead to chemical attacks becoming norm in warfare.

The OPCW echoed these fears. "Any use of chemical weapons is a violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the hard-won international norm prohibiting these weapons," said OPCW head Ahmet Uzumcu.

"Those responsible for their use must be held accountable. These abhorrent weapons have no place in the world today."

France has said "all indications" point to the Syrian regime being responsible for terrifying chemical attacks on opposition areas around Damascus.

The area most affected is rebel-held Eastern Ghouta in the Damascus' countryside, with dozens of civilians - including children - receiving medical treatment after exposure to what appeared to be chlorine gas in January.

Eastern Ghouta has also been subject to horrendous Syrian regime air raids in recent days with scores killed.

Independent bodies have identified the Syrian regime as being responsible for a number of sarin chemical strikes on opposition areas in Eastern Ghouta and Idlib province, which have left hundreds dead.

The US targeted a Syrian airbase with cruise missiles last year after the Assad regime was blamed hitting the Idlib village of Khan Sheikhoun with gas, leading to up a hundred deaths.

Veto-wielding Russia has been blamed for blocking international efforts to tackle the trend and to take action against those responsible for the killings. 

Agencies contributed to this story.