Rockets armed with the banned chemical nerve agent sarin were used in a mass killing near Damascus, Syria on Aug. 21, U.N. chemical weapons inspectors reported Monday in the first official confirmation by nonpartisan scientific experts, saying such munitions had been deployed “on a relatively large scale” in the Syria conflict.
Though the widely awaited report did not ascribe blame for the attack, it provided in graphic and clinical detail the evidence of sarin residue in three neighborhoods in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, the precise types of projectiles and trajectories to deliver it and the symptoms of the victims.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the attack the most horrific use of chemical weapons since Saddam Hussein of Iraq gassed the Kurdish village of Halabja a quarter century ago.
“The report makes for chilling reading,” Ban told a news conference after he delivered the report to the Security Council. “The findings are beyond doubt and beyond the pale. This is a war crime.”
Ban declined to say which side he blamed.
The United States and its allies quickly seized on the volume of evidence in the report to draw the conclusion that only Syrian government forces of President Bashar Assad had the capability to carry out such a strike, calling it validation of their own long-held assertions. But Russia’s ambassador said there too many unanswered questions to draw such a conclusion.