Testimony from victims now strongly suggests it was the rebels, not the Syrian government, that used Sarin Nerve Gas during a recent incident in the revolution-wracked nation, a senior UN diplomat said Monday.
Carla del Ponte, a member of the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, told Swiss TV there were “strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof,” that rebels seeking to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had used the nerve agent.
But she said her panel had not yet seen any evidence of Syrian government forces using chemical weapons (CW), according to the BBC, she added that more investigation was needed.
Damascus is facing growing Western accusations that its forces used such weapons, which US President Obama has described as crossing a Red Line. But Ms. del Ponte’s remarks may serve to shift the focus of international concern.
Ms. del Ponte, who in Y 1999 was appointed to head the UN was crimes tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda, has sometimes been a controversial figure. She was removed from her Rwanda post by the UN Security Council in Y 2003, but she continued as the Chief prosecutor for the Yugoslav tribunal until Y 2008.
Rebel Free Syrian Army spokesman Louay Almokdad denied that rebels had use chemical weapons (CW).
News Analysis: Who Has Interest in Using Chemical Weapons in Syria?
This is very interesting, just a couple of days after the arrival of the UN chemical weapons inspectors, the Syrian opposition accused the Syrian army of killing hundreds of people by chemical agent Wednesday in the countryside of capital Damascus.
Local experts doubted that the army has a real interest in taking such a step while it is gaining the upper hand over the rebels.
Earlier in the day, the pro-opposition activists alleged that the government troops used chemical weapons in their attacks in rebel-held areas in the eastern countryside of Damascus.
Activists ‘ social networking pages also posted haunting photos of victims, including women and children, alleging that those were killed in the government troops’ attack. Syria’s main opposition group in exile, the National Coalition, said in a statement that 1,193 people were killed in the attack.
However, the Syrian army denied using chemical weapons, saying such accusations were part of a “dirty” media war against Syria.
Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said the report came to cover for the rebels’ losses especially as the Syrian army is gaining the upper hand in the fight against them.
Wednesday morning, the army unleashed a wide-scale offensive targeting almost all the rebel positions in the countryside of Damascus. Sounds of air strike and shelling were clearly heard by mo residents in the capital.
Experts charged that the rebels resorted to such claim aiming to push the international community to intervene to stop the advancement of the army.
Hamdi al-Abdullah, a political analyst, scoffed at the rebels’ report, saying that they aimed to frame the Syrian army as the troops unleashed a ferocious attack around Damascus.
“The Syrian army has repeatedly said it would never use the chemical weapons for many reasons,” he said, adding “The huge army operation pushed the rebels to resort to such claim.”
For his side, Maher Morhej, head of the Youth Party, agreed with al-Abdullah, saying that the army’s operation pushed the rebels to make such
“They want to divert the attention of the UN inspection team to the countryside of Damascus and to tarnish the advancement of the Syrian
army,” he noted.
While stressing that the allegations are “games” the rebels were playing, Morhej did not shun aside the possibility of a real chemical weapon attack but by the opposition rebels “because they have the interest in stirring up the West’s fears and draw in intervention.”
He said if the rebels actually used chemical weapons, the UN team would figure out “but the problem is that the team would never be able to determine the party that used the weapons.”
The chemical frenzy came amid a UN mission here to investigate possible use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict. The probe was requested by the Syrian government, who accused the Western backed rebels of using sarin agent in the northern town of Khan al- Asal.
TheUnited States and its allies have expressed fears that Syria’s chemical weapons may “fall into the wrong hands” if the Syrian administration falls.
While Washington warns the Syrian forces’ use of chemical weapons would be “a Red line,” Damascus repeatedly stressed “even if we had such weapons, we would not use them,” and alleged the rebels might use chemical bombs against civilians to frame the government.