Reports of a chemical weapon attack in Syria’s Aleppo Province last week provoked leaders and politicians, particularly in the West, to advocate more fiercely for the overthrow of the Assad regime, despite the vague details surrounding the attack. Current data seem to suggest, however, that it was not government forces behind the attack, but rebel forces.
The attack, intelligence sources appear to agree, was launched by rebel fighters and not government forces. Since the victims were overwhelmingly the Syrian military, this was not a huge shock, but is important to reiterate.
Likewise, the Assad forces called upon the United Nations to launch an investigation into the attack.
Evidence also indicates that the attack involved lachrymatory agents, not nerve agents, and that the deaths were caused by suffocating on chlorine-based gas injected into the warhead. The significance of this information, as noted by AntiWar.com is that “it is not the sort of weapon Syria has in its arsenal, rather it is a lower-tech solution.”
The Telegraph reports that a “trusted and hitherto reliable source who does not wish to be identified” states that the military believes the “locally-manufactured rocket” contained a form of chlorine, which is available as a swimming pool cleaner, dissolved in saline solution. The warhead was fired at a military checkpoint near the entrance of the town of Khan al-Assai, which has been in government control since mid-March. Khan al-Assai, however is an area where much fighting has occurred and certain areas in the region frequently witness changes of control. According to the source, rebel Sunni groups with al-Qaeda sympathies have been attacking the town.
Because the weapon is believed to have contained chlorine, it is not considered a “chemical weapon” based on terms defined by international treaties.
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Photo of victim of chemical attack in Syria receiving treatment: AP Images