In a searing review released Monday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused the Syrian government of routinely using toxic chemical agents against civilian-populated areas since late 2016.
The New York-based group says Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad’s regime has intensified its use of chemical warfare with sarin and chlorine bombs and rockets tipped with chlorine.
“In the last six months, the government has used warplanes, helicopters, and ground forces to deliver chlorine and sarin in Damascus, Hama, Idlib and Aleppo,” said HRW executive director, Ken Roth.
Roth added: “That’s widespread and systematic use of chemical weapons.”
The report, compiled from interviews with eyewitnesses, concludes Damascus’ government is responsible for three separate attacks in the Hama Governorate on back-to-back days in December 2016; HRW contends a fourth attack occurred in March.
HRW says 64 civilians were killed in December attacks, but no deaths were reported in the March incident.
The fourth alleged attack, in which HRW claims 92 civilians were killed, took place April 4 at Khan Sheikhoun.
The Khan Sheikhoun attack, which captivated the world, has been roundly denied by Assad, who declared it to be a “100 percent fabrication” by the West. Both Damascus and its patron, the Kremlin, have stated the incident was the result of a Syrian airstrike which hit a opposition group chemical store, releasing the agent.
HRW responded to the claim the release of a chemical agent was the result of an airstrike as an “utter” impossibility.
Roth declared its report should inspire the UN to proceed with an International Criminal Court probe for alleged war crimes.
[AFP via Yahoo News] [Photo courtesy Reuters via BBC]