France issues report detailing evidence of Assad role in chemical attacks
France declassified a report on Saturday laying out evidence that officials said proves that a chemical attack in Syria last week was carried out by the government of President Bashar Assad.
The report claims that several chemical strikes were carried out in the Damascus suburb of Douma on April 7, and that symptoms experienced by the victims — skin burns, suffocation and other breathing difficulties, among other markers — were consistent with the effects of chlorine gas.
“Reliable intelligence indicates that Syrian military officials have coordinated what appears to be the use of chemical weapons containing chlorine on Douma, on April 7,” the report, released by the French Foreign Ministry, reads.
The report also states that the Syrian government has carried out a number of chemical weapons strikes since April 4, 2017 — the same day a chemical attack in Syria’s northern Idlib province left more than 80 civilians dead.
The U.S. issued an assessment on Friday night pointing to the Syrian government’s role in the alleged chemical attacks in Douma.
That report cites “multiple media sources, the reported symptoms experienced by victims, videos and images showing two assessed barrel bombs from the attack, and reliable information indicating coordination between Syrian military officials before the attack.”
The assessment also suggests that the Syrian government not only used chlorine in the attack on Douma, but that reported symptoms were also consistent with exposure to sarin, a deadly nerve agent.
Syria and its allies, Russia and Iran, have denied that Assad’s government used chemical weapons, and have sought to blame both foreign actors and militant groups for staging the attacks in Douma.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the international chemical weapons watchdog, launched an investigation into the alleged chemical strikes on Douma on Saturday.
The allied strikes on Friday were cast by U.S. officials, not as a punishment for Assad’s government, but as a means to eradicate Syria’s chemical stockpile and production capabilities.
Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff, said Saturday that while the allied attacks dealt a blow to Syria’s chemical weapons program, Damascus likely retained “residual” elements of its chemical arsenal.
President Trump and other U.S. officials have said that they are prepared to take further action in Syria, unless Assad’s government ceases its alleged use of chemical weapons.
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