Chemical weapons watchdog says no proof of gas attacks on Syrian troops

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has said there were “no reasonable grounds” to prove Syria’s allegations that poison gas was used against its soldiers in two incidents in 2017.

Damascus claimed seven Syrian troops were wounded in two mortar attacks involving chemical weapons during clashes with rebels in the village of Kharbit Massasneh, in the central province of Hama.

But investigators from the world chemical weapons watchdog found there were “inconsistencies” and a lack of evidence to back up Syria’s allegations.

OPCW investigators made several trips to Syria during which they interviewed 18 people including casualties, and gathered evidence including photos and videos from the hospital, plus medical records.

They also “concluded that there are no reasonable grounds to determine that chemicals were used as a weapon in the reported incidents,” the Hague-based OPCW said in a statement.

But the watchdog said it “faced challenges in collecting sufficient information.”

These included being unable to visit the front-line site of the alleged attacks, combined with the fact that Syria provided no photo or video evidence from the location, munition remnants or blood, clothing or soil samples.

Therefore investigators “cannot confidently provide a toxicological assessment of the reported exposure,” the OPCW report said.

President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has been blamed by the watchdog for a series of chemical attacks during Syria’s civil war, including sarin and chlorine at Lataminah, near Kharbit Massasneh in March 2017.

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