Syria denies responsibility for 2018 poison gas attack

Syria denies responsibility for 2018 poison gas attack

Syria has denied an Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) report blaming Damascus for a poison gas attack in 2018 that killed 43 and injured dozens. “Syria completely rejects the report,” Syria’s foreign ministry said on Saturday, according to state news agency SANA. “The report lacks scientific evidence,” the ministry said, criticizing “wrong conclusions”.

In its report published on Friday, the organization said that careful assessment of the evidence pointed to the Syrian Air Force perpetrators. There are “reasonable reasons to believe” that at least one Syrian Air Force helicopter dropped the two barrels of poison gas on the rebel-held town of Douma.

The attack led to conflict between the West and Syria for years. Western states blamed the leadership of ruler Bashar al-Assad. Syria and its ally Russia claimed that rebels disguised as aid workers were responsible for the attack on behalf of the United States.

Days after the attack, the United States, France and Britain launched airstrikes against targets they said were part of Syria’s chemical weapons program.

On the night of April 7, 2018, two barrels of poisonous chlorine gas were dropped from a helicopter onto two residential buildings in Douma, near the capital Damascus. According to the OPCW report, the helicopters belonged to the Syrian elite unit “Tiger Forces”. One of the containers broke, killing 43 people due to the highly concentrated gas, the report said. The second container hit an apartment, from which gas slowly escaped.

Damascus denies the use of chemical weapons. In 2013, after an alleged sarin gas attack in the Ghouta region that killed 1,400 people, Damascus vowed to give up its stockpiles of chemical weapons. The use of such weapons is prohibited worldwide by the Weapons of War Convention.

Syria is a member of the OPCW but lost its voting rights in 2021 due to repeated use of chemical weapons.

Austria has strongly condemned Syria’s use of chemical weapons. “Everyone who caused such an operation must be held accountable,” the State Department said on Twitter. Austria has “full confidence in the impartial and professional work of the OPCW”.