Assad regime repeatedly used chemicals, opposition claims

DAILY SABAH
ISTANBUL
Published 18.06.2015 22:08

Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) says it has evidence of the use of chlorine gas in repeated attacks by regime forces in Syria. The OPWC says there had been a "spate of new allegations" of chlorine attacks. The regime agreed to destroy its chemical weapons a year ago following global outrage over a sarin gas attack in Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus. However, opposition groups claim the regime has not handed over its entire chemical stockpile and still uses chemical weapons against its people. Although the U.S. and other Western countries had attempted to prevent the regime from using chemical weapons last year and even considered military intervention, their efforts remained insufficient.

On Aug. 21, 2013, it was the first time that the regime of Syrian president Bashar Assad killed dozens in rebel-held areas in the suburbs of Syria's capital, Damascus, by attacking with chemical weapons. The fired rockets were carrying the nerve agent sarin. The U.N. described the attacks as the worst chemical weapon use in the 21st century. U.S. President Barack Obama threatened to carry out punitive airstrikes against the Syrian government, touching off a flurry of diplomacy that eventually resulted in al-Assad accepting a U.S.-Russia brokered deal to relinquish his chemical arsenal. U.N. inspectors conducted a swift investigation that determined rockets loaded with sarin had been fired from an area where the Syrian military has bases. Over the past 11 months, a joint mission by the U.N. and OPCW has overseen the removal of Syria's entire declared chemical stockpile of 1,300 metric tons (1,430 tons) from the country.

Although the world condemned the Assad regime, even U.N. inspectors were not authorized to declare who was officially responsible. According to activists, the regime continued using chemical weapons, and still holds a big amount of the similar weapons.

The Arab uprisings, which euphorically swept across the Middle East and North Africa several years ago, appealed to Syrians who had lived under the dictatorship of the Assad family since 1970, when Bashar's father Hafiz Assad seized power. Since then, Syrians were forced to live in a police state that tried to control every movement, organization and business through the use of a wide-ranging intelligence services. In March 2011 Syrians were emboldened enough to raise their voice against dictatorship. However, the regime's response was not as peaceful as the protests and the country was subsequently dragged into a deadly civil war after opposition groups took up arms against the government. The Syrian civil war has now entered its fifth year and has caused the deaths of more than 200,000 people with at least 60,000 missing. The war has also displaced nearly 10 million people. While international and regional powers continue endless discussions, it is reported that the Syrian regime continues to use chemical weapons. About 13.6 million people, equivalent to the population of London, have been displaced by conflicts in Syria and Iraq, many without food or shelter, the U.N. refugee agency revealed. The 13.6 million include 7.2 million displaced within Syria – an increase from a long-held U.N. estimate of 6.5 million – as well as 3.3 million Syrian refugees abroad, 1.9 million displaced in Iraq and 190,000 who have left to seek safety. The vast majority of Syrian refugees have fled to Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey. Western countries have been frequently criticized by aid agencies and the U.N. for not opening their borders to Syrian refugees, as the most developed countries have received the least number of refugees.

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