A New York Times investigation have shown how the Assad regime and its main ally, Russia, have distorted the facts surrounding the April 4 chemical weapons attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in rural Idlib.
The New York Times on Wednesday published a video which went into detail about what the Assad regime and Russia claimed happened during the attack compared to what satellite photos and video of the area showed.
The 7-minute video, titled “How Syria and Russia Spun a Chemical Strike”, refuted claims by the Assad regime and Russia about the time of the attack, the impact sites, and the weapons used.
According to the investigation, the attack took place minutes before 7:00 in the morning of April 4, contrary to claims made by the Assad regime and Russia that the attack took place around noon.
According to US satellite imagery, videos of the aftermath of the attack filmed by local activists, and an eyewitness account by a doctor who responded to the attack, field hospitals near Khan Sheikhoun began receiving the injured at around 8:30 am, more than an hour after the attack took place.
As for the Assad regime and Russia’s claims about the impact sites, satellite imagery taken before and after the attack clearly showed that the airstrikes hit small buildings and a street in the northern part of the town. These facts contradicted the Assad regime and Russia’s claims that the airstrikes targeted weapons depots containing chemical weapons on the eastern part of the town.
As to Assad’s claims that Syria has no chemical weapons, the New York Times cited remarks made by Ahmet Üzümcü, the Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) who on June 23, 2014, once the destruction of Syria’s declared stockpile of chemical materials was completed, said that “we cannot say as the Secretary of the OPCW that Syria does not possess any chemical weapons anymore.”
Moreover, in a 2016 report, the OPCW said that there were gaps in Syria’s account of its chemical weapons program. The report said that Syria had to explain the presence of indicators of four chemical agents the investigators found in Syria.
One wild inconsistency overarching the whole episode is that Russia and the Assad regime did not agree as to what exactly happened on April 4, according to the New York Times. While Russia appeared more specific, the Assad regime’s account of what happened was all over the map, giving various possibilities as to the nature of the target of the airstrikes that targeted the town on April 4.
The investigation stressed that these evasions and distortions are a technique that Russia and the Assad regime have used time and again through the conflict. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department + Al-Arabiya)