A United Nations report released Monday for the first time provided extensive forensic evidence of the type of chemical weapons used in the attack last month in Syria, which strongly implicated the al-Assad government as responsible for the attack, according to a New York Times report.
Though the report did not assign blame for the chemical attack, the details included the large size and shape of the munitions involved, and the precise direction from which two of them had been fired.
The evidence appears to contradict Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s claim that rebel forces were responsible for the attack. The rebels are not known to possess such weapons nor the training to use them.
The report was commissioned by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and was the first independent scientific investigation into the attack that gassed hundreds of civilians to death, including some children, on August 21.
“The report makes for chilling reading,” Mr. Ban said at a news conference. “The findings are beyond doubt and beyond the pale. This is a war crime.”
He declined to assign blame, saying that responsibility was up to others.
But the UN findings will likely strengthen the argument of those who say the Syrian government carried out the attacks, because there is no documentation that the Syrian rebels possess the type of weapons found to have been used.
The Syrian government has not yet issued a response to the report. But two days ago Syria agreed to join the international convention banning chemical weapons.
Syria has also agreed to abide by a joint United States and Russian plan to purge Syria of all chemical weapons by the middle of next year.
The two-year conflict in Syria has left more than 100,000 people dead and millions displaced. Last month’s chemical weapons attack elevated the conflict into a global political crisis, specifically over whether a United States-led military response to the attack was justified.
The joint American/Russia plan for Syria to surrender its chemical weapons arsenal was a last-ditch effort to find a political solution to the crisis and avoid a military response that had appeared increasingly likely. Image/AP