Friday 23 March 2018

Syrian regime uses sarin gas on Isil fighters

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Photo: Reuters
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Photo: Reuters

David Blair

SYRIA has used sarin nerve gas for the first time since 2013, dropping bombs laden with the chemical agent on Isil fighters outside Damascus, according to a senior Israeli official.

This use of sarin would show that President Bashar al-Assad has retained the ability to gas his enemies, despite an agreement that supposedly disarmed Syria of its chemical arsenal. That deal was reached after the regime used sarin and VX gas to kill as many as 1,400 people in rebel-held areas of Damascus on August 21, 2013.

US President Barack Obama had declared the use of chemical weapons to be a “red line” that would trigger air strikes. Once Assad agreed to disarm, however, Mr Obama abandoned his plan for military action.

Since then, Assad’s forces are believed to have used relatively unsophisticated chlorine gas on several dozen occasions. But the regime refrained from employing sarin – a far more lethal substance – until the latest incident.

The Syrian air force dropped the bombs laden with sarin just over three weeks ago, said the official. The apparent aim was to prevent Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) from seizing two air bases north-east of Damascus. Israel believes that scores of Isil fighters were killed in the incident, although the exact impact is uncertain.

After the agreement to disarm Syria, John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, claimed: “We got 100pc of the chemical weapons out.”

But the Israeli official said that Assad had concealed a significant proportion of his chemical arsenal. In particular, he kept some of his sarin gas. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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