A new UN-OPCW report on the chemical attack in Syria has stated that the Joint Investigative Mission is “confident” that Damascus is responsible for the assault in Khan Shaykhun in April. America’s UN envoy claimed the report “confirms what we have long known.”
The new UN-sponsored report by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), conducted by the Joint Investigation Mission (JIM), supported the initial findings which blamed Syria’s Air Force for deploying sarin in the Syrian town, according to media reports.
JIM said it “is confident that the Syrian Arab Republic is responsible for the release of sarin at Khan Shaykhun,” AP and AFP reported citing key findings and conclusions it has seen. The report’s authors also asserted that the “sarin was delivered via an aerial bomb that was dropped by an airplane.”
The new report echoes the initial findings by the joint mission released in June, as well as remote investigations conducted by the US, France and Britain which immediately blamed Damascus for carrying out the chemical attack.
The US has welcomed the conclusions, saying the latest report further “confirms what we have long known to be true,” UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said. “In spite of these independent reports, we still see some countries trying to protect the regime. That must end now.”
Russia and Syria have long questioned the previous report’s findings, noting, that the investigating team never actually visited the site of the alleged attack, but relied on the evidence and samples collected by militant groups controlling the area. The ‘experts’ also failed to inspect the Shayrat Airbase, which was struck by a barrage of US cruise missiles just days after the chemical incident.
Upon reviewing the collected evidence and data, Moscow said it tends to believes that the incident could have been staged; and that the deadly chemical agent was detonated on the ground and not on impact from a Syrian airstrike.
Noting the rather small crater left after the alleged Syrian bombing, Russia further questioned the symptoms displayed by victims in the footage from the scene. Noticing dilated pupils amongst the alleged victims, Russian authorities pointed out that if sarin agent was used, their eyes instead would substantially contract.
The Khan Shaykhun chemical attack happened on April 4, 2017, an area of Idlib Governorate that was under the control of Tahrir al-Sham, better known as the Al-Nusra Front terrorist group.
The sarin gas release, which reportedly claimed the lives of between 74-100 civilians, happened after the town was struck by the Syrian Air Force.
Damascus said it targeted the terrorists using only conventional weapons.
Russia and Syria have yet to comment on the latest report. On Wednesday, however, Russia blocked a UN Security Council (UNSC) draft resolution on the extension of the OPCW-UN mission’s mandate, emphasizing that a continuation of the decree should be decided only after assessing JIM’s report, as well as the investigative team’s performance, independence, objectivity and professionalism.