Rebels and the government have blamed each other for the alleged
poison gas attacks on Friday and Saturday on rebel-held Kfar Zeita
village in the central province of Hama, 125 miles north of
Both sides said chlorine gas — a deadly agent widely used in World
War I — had been used. The gas, which has industrial uses,
is not on a list of chemical weapons that Assad declared to the
global chemical weapons watchdog last year for destruction.
It is a so-called dual-use chemical, which would have to be declared
to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW),
a spokesman said.
State-run television on Saturday accused the al Qaeda-linked Nusra
Front of carrying out the attacks, which it said wounded dozens.
On Sunday, activists from the "Syrian Revolution in Kfar Zeita"
posted video footage and pictures of an unexploded canister with the
chemical symbol for chlorine, Cl2, on its side which they said was
found in the village.
Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the video or pictures.
Eliot Higgins, a respected UK-based researcher who trawls daily
through online videos of Syria's civil war to verify weapons in
them, could not verify the opposition's claims but said the videos
did appear to show an industrial chlorine cylinder.
"It looks like they (the government) have taken an industrial
chlorine cylinder, put it in a improvised barrel bomb and dropped it
out of a helicopter," he told Reuters.
The yellow paint on the cylinder complies with international
standards on industrial gas color codes indicating it contains
chlorine, he said.
A U.N. inquiry found in December that sarin gas had likely been used
in the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Ghouta, where hundreds of
people were killed.
The inquiry only looked at whether chemical weapons had been used,
not who used them. The Syrian government and the opposition have
each accused the other of using chemical weapons on several
occasions, and both have denied it.
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The Ghouta attack sparked global outrage and a U.S. threat of
military strikes, which was dropped after Assad pledged to destroy
his chemical weapons.
Syria has destroyed or surrendered 65.1 percent of the 1,300 metric
tons (1 metric ton = 1.1023 tons) of chemical weapons it reported
possessing but must increase the pace if it is to meet deadlines it
agreed to, the global chemical weapons watchdog said on Monday.
A 13th shipment was loaded onto cargo ships in the port town of
Latakia on Monday to be destroyed abroad, it said.
OPCW head Ahmet Uzumcu said while the latest handover was
encouraging, "both the frequency and volumes of deliveries have to
increase significantly to restore alignment of actual movements
against the projected time frame."
Syria has until June 30 to completely abandon its program but is
running several weeks behind schedule.
Syria's three-year civil war has killed more than 150,000 people, a
third of them civilians, and caused millions to flee.
(Reporting by Oliver Holmes in Beirut and Anthony Deutsch in
Amsterdam; editing by Sonya Hepinstall)
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