There's "clear and convincing evidence" that surface-to-air rockets loaded with sarin gas rained down on the Ghouta area of Damascus last month, UN weapons inspectors announced today. The panel concluded that chemical weapons have been used "against civilians, including children, on a relatively large scale." The inspectors were only tasked with determining whether chemical weapons had been fired, not who fired them, the AP explains; though CNN reports that the report will cover "signs of culpability." Earlier today, a separate UN commission said it was investigating reports of 14 chemical attacks, but that it had already determined that both sides had committed war crimes, with or without chemicals.
The Assad regime has committed both war crimes and crimes against humanity, the commission determined. The rebels hadn't committed crimes against humanity only "because there is not a clear chain of command." The reports follow Syria's admission that it has chemical weapons, as part of a deal to disarm. Some recent fallout of that deal:
- The Assad government called the disarmament deal a "victory," and the rebels seem to agree, the New York Times reports. They expect Assad to break his word, and to step up his conventional weapons offensives.
- Indeed, the violence escalated appreciably last week, the Washington Post points out, with some towns facing their first airstrikes in weeks, and more than 1,000 killed. Now that the threat from the US has evaporated, "the regime has regrouped and is back on the offensive with a vengeance," one expert on the region says.
- Some rebels said arms shipments from foreign backers had increased, but complained that they were light weapons, and speculated that their backers only want to see the war drag on. "We won't get advanced weapons," a spokesman for a brigade in Aleppo says, "Because that would mean we would achieve victories."