Rescue Workers: Syria Still Using Chemical Weapons

Witnesses say chlorine gas keeps coming, but UN won't officially point finger
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 7, 2015 12:17 PM CDT
Rescue Workers: Syria Still Using Chemical Weapons
In this Feb. 10, 2015, file photo released by SANA, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad talks during an interview with the BBC in Damascus, Syria.   (AP Photo/SANA, File)

In 2013, Syria agreed to get rid of its chemical weapons, a promise allegedly broken multiple times last year. Now more evidence reported by rescue workers and citizens has piled up that toxins continue to be deployed via chlorine bombs in the war-torn country, the New York Times reports. The UN adopted a resolution in March that permits economic or military action against parties using chlorine gas as a weapon in Syria; the resolution was partly necessary because the toxin, due to its use in everyday applications, wasn't technically on the list of chemicals President Assad was ordered to destroy, per the Times. However, neither of the warring factions—Assad's forces or anti-Assad insurgents—has been officially blamed, which stalls meting out punishment. Meanwhile, rescue workers and doctors in Syria are gathering as much evidence as they can to present to foreign governments—a challenge since chlorine doesn't last long in blood, urine, air, or soil, per the Times.

The UN Security Council has been stuck in assigning blame, with Russia—a Syrian ally—creating the greatest obstacle due to its veto against blaming Syria, the paper notes; the US ambassador to the UN told the AP in March that Russia's resistance has been "extremely disruptive" to ending the four-year civil war in Syria. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, a watchdog group keeping an eye on activity in Syria and reporting on the bombings, has also been unable to definitively point the finger, per the Times. Witnesses have their suspicions, however. "We know the sound of a helicopter that goes to a low height and drops a barrel," a White Helmets rescue worker tells the paper. "Nobody has aircraft except the regime." In the meantime, residents continue to carry around walkie-talkies to warn each other of approaching aircraft and keep water supplies well-stocked to wash victims down after the bombs are dropped, the Times notes. (More Syria stories.)

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