Syrian government behind sarin gas attack in April: UN probe

"Government forces continued the pattern of using chemical weapons against civilians in opposition-held areas".

The UN war crimes investigators said Wednesday that they had evidence Syrian government forces were behind a chemical attack which killed dozens of people in Khan Sheikhun in April, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The report, which also documents violations by al Qaeda's branch and other militant groups in Syria, said the commission is gravely concerned about the impact of coalition air strikes on civilians in Raqqa, where USA -backed Syrian forces are battling the Islamic State.

A previous investigation by chemical weapons inspectors had identified the use of sarin at Khan Sheikhoun but did not say who was responsible. "The aerial campaign also targeted medical facilities throughout the area, resulting in a severe weakening of their ability to provide assistance to victims of the sarin attack and a consequent increase in the number of civilian casualties. ese attacks constitute clear violations of worldwide humanitarian law and the Convention on Chemical Weapons, the report notes, which the Syrian Arab Republic ratified in 2013 following a previous sarin attack".

The Assad government has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons. Perpetrators had not been identified yet in six attacks, they said. The Syrian president denies using chemical weapons on his own people. But that conclusion, reached by a fact-finding mission of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), did not say who carried it out. Mr Pinheiro said: "It is our task to verify these allegations and we concluded... that this attack was perpetrated by the Syrian air force". The plane is used only by the Syrian air force.

The attack by the Syrian airforce also targeted medical facilities throughout the area, hampering attempts to treat the wounded and increasing the death toll.

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The attack on Khan Sheikhoun - which left 28 children and 23 women among the dead - prompted a retaliatory strike by the United States on the airfield from where the Sukhoi-22 aeroplane took off.

Noting concerns about the impact of worldwide coalition air strikes on civilians, the report highlighted US operations which hit civilians.

United Nations investigators said that so far, 33 chemical weapons attacks have been recorded in Syria since the civil war broke out; 27 were carried out by Assad's forces, while it is still unclear who was behind the other 6 attacks.

The White House last month called on the worldwide community to unite to ensure that anyone using chemical weapons faced "serious consequences" without commenting further on what those would be.

Investigators were not granted access to Syria and based their report on photos of bomb remnants, satellite imagery and witness accounts.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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