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Syria rejects surveillance investigation into 2018 gas attack

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) – Syria on Wednesday dismissed as fabricating the results of an investigation by the global chemical weapons watchdog, which found “reasonable grounds to believe” that an army helicopter Syrian air force dropped a bottle of chlorine on a Syrian city in 2018,

In a statement, the Syrian Foreign Ministry said it condemned in the strongest terms the report released on Monday by the Netherlands Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

This was the second time that the OPCW’s investigation and identification team concluded that the Syrian government armed forces were likely responsible for a gas attack. Last year, the team also found reasonable grounds to believe that the Syrian Arab Air Force was responsible for attacks with chlorine and the nerve agent sarin in March 2017 in the town of Latamneh.

In the latest report, the OPCW investigative team said they found evidence that a military helicopter belonging to the Syrian Air Force’s tiger forces dropped at least one bottle of chlorine on the rebel-held town of Saraqeb in northern Syria on February 4, 2018, sickening 12 people.

Syria has been repeatedly accused of using chemical weapons during the country’s bitter civil war. The government of President Bashar Assad denies these claims.

In its statement on Wednesday, the foreign ministry again categorically denied its use of poison gas in the city of Saraqeb “or any other town or village in Syria”.

The OPCW cannot hold individuals criminally responsible for attacks.

The investigation team was created after Russia blocked the extension of a joint investigation mechanism set up by the UN and the OPCW in 2015. The team accused Syria of using chlorine in at least two attacks in 2014 and 2015 and triggering sarin in an airstrike on Khan Sheikhoun in April 2017 that killed around 100 people.


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