Syria govt rejects watchdog report on deadly chlorine attack
CGTN

The Syrian government on Thursday rejected a report by the world's chemical weapons watchdog claiming chlorine was used in an attack against the town of Douma in April 2018.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said last Friday that there were "reasonable grounds" to believe toxic chemicals containing "reactive chlorine" had been used in the attack, which witnesses said killed 43 people.

It said two cylinders likely containing the chemical had smashed into a housing block in Douma, which was held by rebels at the time.

Syrians evacuate an injured boy following a reported airstrike on a rebel-held town of Douma, June 16, 2015. / VCG Photo

Syrians evacuate an injured boy following a reported airstrike on a rebel-held town of Douma, June 16, 2015. / VCG Photo

The team had no mandate to assign responsibility for the attack, but Western powers led by the United States blamed the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and unleashed air strikes on government military installations in response.

A spokesman for Syria's foreign ministry said Thursday the government rejected the OPCW's findings in their entirety.

The official "called on member states of the OPCW to denounce such false reports, which lack credibility," accusing the OPCW of being "biased and unobjective," state news agency SANA said in the first official response to the OPCW report.

The report was based on a visit to Douma by OPCW inspectors.

A general view of the destruction in Douma on the outskirts of Damascus, April 17, 2018. / VCG Photo

A general view of the destruction in Douma on the outskirts of Damascus, April 17, 2018. / VCG Photo

The team took more than 100 samples from seven sites in the town, to which the Syrian government had denied them access for several weeks.

The OPCW said it reached its conclusions based on "witnesses' testimonies, environmental and biomedical samples analysis results, toxicological and ballistic analyses from experts".

Friday's report also denied the Syrian government's claims that the gas came from a rebel chemical weapons facility and storehouse in the area.

"From the analysis of the information gathered during the on-site visits to the warehouse and facility suspected of producing chemical weapons, there was no indication of either facility being involved in their manufacture," it said.

The foreign ministry spokesman quoted by SANA said investigators were falsifying information.

Chemical products are seen inside a former rebel position shown to journalists during a media tour in Douma near Damascus, Syria April 23, 2018./ VCG Photo

Chemical products are seen inside a former rebel position shown to journalists during a media tour in Douma near Damascus, Syria April 23, 2018./ VCG Photo

"This is evidenced by their denial that armed terrorist groups posses toxic chemicals even though they found such chemicals" in warehouses owned by rebels, SANA quoted him as saying.

The OPCW has investigated multiple chemical attacks during the eight-year Syrian civil war, and has previously confirmed the use of "chlorine, sulphur mustard, and sarin as chemical weapons" in other incidents.

The organization previously had no mandate to assign responsibility for attacks, but has since been given powers to investigate responsibility for all chemical attacks in Syria back to 2014.

In response to persistent allegations of chemical weapon attacks in Syria, the OPCW Fact Finding Mission (FFM) was set up in 2014 to establish facts surrounding allegations of the use of toxic chemicals, reportedly chlorine, for hostile purposes in the Syrian Arab Republic.

Since its establishment, the FFM has looked into several incidents of allegations of use of chemical weapons in Syria. The FFM has confirmed with a “high degree of confidence” that chlorine and mustard were used as weapons in Syria. These reports were submitted to States Parties of the CWC and the UN Security Council.

(Cover image: Smoke rises after Assad Regime forces carried out airstrikes in Douma town in Damascus, April 07, 2018. / VCG Photo )