Syrian opposition condemns chlorine gas attacks by regime
A Syrian political opposition group has condemned the international silence over the regime's use of chlorine gas in attacks on rebel forces, while a campaign called for "safe zones" to be created for civilians caught in the war.
The National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, more commonly known as the Syrian National Coalition, on Thursday said evidence of chlorine gas attacks had been found for the second time this week in the city of Sarmin, Idlib, a day after the nearby town of Banash was hit in a toxic gas attack.
Rebel forces began a push on the city of Idlib this week, attacking regime checkpoints around the city. Regime forces have responded by shelling rebel-controlled towns in the surrounding province.
Salem al-Maslat, the Coalition's spokesman, said on Thursday: "Assad regime forces respond with reprisals against civilians with every rebel advancement they encounter, in an attempt to cover up their defeats and those of their affiliate militias.
"The recent attacks were a repeat of this tactic, and take advantage of the silence of the international community while the region is preoccupied with the war against the Islamic State group and Yemen.
|The recent attacks ... take advantage of the silence of the international community.
He said the regime "had expanded its atrocities against Syrian civilians through the use of internationally prohibited weapons. This has been made possible through the international community's recklessness and failure to observe the daily atrocities committed against the Syrians."
The Coalition, an exile group which operates in Turkey, said it believed that opposition forces were "the remaining source of hope after the international community had failed the Syrian nation and failed to safeguard its rights and desire for freedom, justice and dignity".
The Syrian regime gave up its chemical arsenal last year after it was blamed by the US and its allies for a gas attack on several Damascus suburbs which killed several thousand people. The UN determined that Sarin was used from stockpiles held by the regime.
However, the deal, brokered through the Russians, did not specify the destruction of Syria's chlorine stockpile, which is considered a "dual use" substance under international law that has many industrial uses. It's battlefield use is however banned under international law.
Petition for 'safe zones'
Meanwhile, Syrian activists have appealed to the US, Turkey and France to create a no-fly zone in the north of Syria to protect civilians in safe havens near the border.
The appeal by the Avaaz group, said: "We do not want a world that watches in silence a dictator while he targets his own people with chemical weapons. We want serious steps to be made to prevent such crimes."
About 900,000 people signed a petition that was presented as part of the appeal.
The US secretary of state, John Kerry, last year said he was open to the idea of "safe zones" in the north of Syria following suggestions by the Turkish president Recep Erdogan. However, the suggestion has never been implemented.
This is an edited translation of the original Arabic.