An alleged chemical weapons attack near Aleppo yesterday, for
which the Syrian regime and the opposition traded accusations of
responsibility, almost certainly did not feature a lethal agent
proscribed under international convention, say chemical weapons
experts after considering the available evidence.
Video footage and eyewitness accounts suggest that if a chemical
agent was used in a missile attack on Khan al-Aasal that reportedly
killed 31 people and wounded more than 100, it was most likely a
riot-control agent designed to cause irritation, which is not
In the end, all I can say with confidence is that whatever the
conventional or non-conventional munition was, it was not a CW
[Chemical Weapons] agent as defined by the CWC [Chemical Weapons
Convention], says Charles Blair, senior fellow for state and non-
state threats at the Washington-based Federation of American
Eyewitnesses reported a powerful explosion yesterday morning in
Khan al-Aasal, a village southeast of Aleppo where regime and rebel
forces have battled for control.
The regime blamed Syrian opposition rebels for firing a
chemically-tipped missile, while the Free Syrian Army accused
Damascus of launching a Scud missile fitted with a chemical warhead.
The Syrian military has fired several Scud ballistic missiles at
rebel strongholds in northern Syria since December.
Securing Syrias chemical weapons arsenal has been a matter of
international concern since the uprising evolved into an armed
conflict in late 2011. There are at least four suspected sites where
chemical weapons are manufactured and as many as 50 storage
facilities. Diplomatic and rebel sources have claimed that some of
the chemical weapons stockpile has been moved to new facilities,
namely in the coastal region where support for the Assad regime
still runs high.
The US has warned Syria that the use of chemical weapons would
constitute a red line requiring unspecified action. The
international community is also concerned that chemical weapons
could fall into the hands of radical groups.
In another indication of second thoughts over the validity of the
alleged chemical weapons claim, Russia appeared to backtrack today
from its initial endorsement of the Syrian regimes position that
rebels were responsible for the use of chemical weapons in Khan al-
The story concerning the use of chemical weapons must be
meticulously investigated, Gennady Gatilov, the Russian deputy
foreign minister, said on Twitter. For now, there is no unequivocal
evidence about this.
The United States has repeated its warning of consequences should
chemical weapons be employed in a conflict that already has killed
more than 70,000 people in the past two years. But US Ambassador to
Syria Robert Ford, who was recalled to the US in 2011, told a House
of Representatives hearing today that there was no evidence that
chemical weapons had been used in Khan al-Aasal.
So far, we have no evidence which substantiates the reports that
chemical weapons were used yesterday. …