An international inquiry has identified two Syrian Air Force helicopter squadrons and two other military units as responsible for chlorine gas attacks on civilians, a Western diplomat told Reuters.
The finding by the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the global chemical weapons watchdog, is based on Western and regional intelligence, the diplomat said.
“It was the 22nd Division, the 63rd Brigade and the 255 and 253 squadrons of the Syrian government,” the envoy said.
The identification of specific military institutions responsible for attacks could strengthen a push by some Western members of the UN Security Council for a robust response, focused on sanctions and accountability.
The year-long joint U.N. and OPCW inquiry, which is investigating reports of attacks between April 11 2014 and Aug 21 2015, is due to submit its fourth report to the UN Security Council next week. The third report, in August, blamed Assad regime forces for two chlorine gas attacks and ISIS militants for using sulfur mustard gas.
The inquiry has focused on nine attacks in seven areas of Syria, where a separate OPCW fact-finding investigation concluded that it is likely chemical weapons have been used.
Eight of the attacks investigated involved the suspected use of chlorine. The inquiry said it has not yet been able to reach a conclusion in six cases, though it said three of those cases warranted further investigation.
“At least two others were chlorine and were carried out at the hands of the Syrian Air Force,” the diplomat said. “There is no indication that any opposition groups used chlorine.”
President of the Syrian Coalition Anas Alabdah in early September sent a letter to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and to former president of the UN Security Council Ramlan Bin Ibrahim concerning the third report of the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) on the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
The letter called for “punitive measures under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, as required by Security Council resolutions 2118 (2013), 2209 (2015) and 2235 (2015) sanctioning the Syrian regime for its defiance of international law and its willful killing of innocent civilians.” (Source: Syrian Coalition + Agencies)