MESOP NEWS INSIGHT REPORT : UN Confirms Assad Regime’s Sarin Attack on NW Syria in April

UN investigators have confirmed the Assad regime’s sarin attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in northwest Syria on April 4.The team said the assault, which killed at least 92 people and injured almost 600, was among 27 chemical attacks by the regime: “Government forces continued the pattern of using chemical weapons against civilians in opposition-held areas. In the gravest incident, the Syrian air force used sarin in Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib, killing dozens, the majority of whom were women and children.”

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons had already found that “sarin or a sarin-like substance” was used on Khan Sheikoun, but its fact-finding mission did not have the authority to assign responsibility.

Multiple witnesses have said a regime Su-22 jet fighter dropped the munition with the nerve agent, amid other conventional airstrikes. Unlike the other bombs, the device with sarin did not explode but landed with a thud as the chemical was released.

The Assad regime and its ally Russia have put out a series of contradictory explanations to try and dismiss the incident. Bashar al-Assad has said the attack was “100% fabrication”; however, his agencies gave Khan Sheikhoun samples to the OPCW that verified the presence of sarin. Russia has acknowledged that a chemical was released and that a Su-22 was attacking, but it created the story that the jet fighter hit a “rebel warehouse” with chemical stocks. No evidence of such a warehouse was ever produced, and Moscow’s explanation overlooked that sarin is not active until it is mixed in a munition.

The UN team said they had documented 33 chemical weapons attacks, confirmed the 27 by the Assad regime, including seven between March 1 and July 7.

In addition to the assault on Idlib Province, pro-Assad forces have been using a chemical, probably chlorine, in “toxic gas” attacks in northeast Damascus and nearby suburbs. The UN team has not yet identified perpetrators in six of the earliest attacks.