Has Syria used chemical weapons?


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Israel is helping the U.S. to determine whether Syria has used chemical weapons.This is mainly because the United States is having a hard time conclusively determining if its “red line” on the use of chemical weapons in Syria has been crossed, due to a lack of credible intelligence and forensic evidence, the Washington Post reported on Sunday.

Syrian rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar Assad accuse the other side of responsibility in an alleged chemical weapons attack last week near the city of Aleppo that resulted in 26 fatalities.

The Syrian military controls a substantial stockpile of chemical warfare agents and the means of delivering them. President Obama has repeatedly warned that Damascus would be held accountable for any chemical attack in the nation’s long-running civil war. However, it is not known if the United States would respond with a military intervention if it determines weapons of mass destruction have been used.

The Defense Department has drafted contingency plans that include bombing raids of chemical sites and the Syrian air force, and the deployment of specialized forces to secure chemical weapons. Those plans have not been fully developed due to worries about political repercussions to a possible U.S. military campaign and difficulties in collaborating with partner states in the area, unidentified officials said.

“If we had to go in tomorrow, I’d say we aren’t ready,” an informed Obama official said. “One thing we want to avoid is having one group securing the sites and another group bombing them.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said he is certain Damascus has carried out limited-size chemical attacks even though U.S. spy officials have not reached that conclusion. The lawmaker urged “action to disrupt [the Syrian government's] ability to deliver chemical weapons.”

The United Nations has announced an investigation of the chemical attack report. Investigators are not expected to find much environmental evidence, according to officials. Analysts instead will have to collect statements from eyewitnesses and track the medical conditions of those who might have been contaminated with chemical agents.

A source with ties to the Syrian army told the London Sunday Telegraph that opposition forces in last week’s attack near Aleppo fired a crude indigenously built-rocket filled with a type of chlorine solution.

Russia on Monday accused Western countries of pressuring U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon into an unwarranted expansion of the U.N. investigation to include separate alleged chemical weapon incidents in Syria, Reuters reported.

“We consider this approach counterproductive,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in released comments, asserting that there is no evidence of chemical attacks beyond what took place near Aleppo. “Attempts to drag this issue out and turn an investigation under the aegis of the United Nations … into an additional element of pressure for regime change are unacceptable.”

Ban on Thursday emphasized the probe would deal chiefly with the Aleppo incident.

Moscow is also insisting that it and China be included in the U.N. probe.

Syrian activists on Monday said forces loyal to Assad launched several chemical-armed rockets at opposition fighters who were approaching an army installation not far from Damascus, Reuters separately reported.

“Doctors are describing the chemical weapons used as phosphorus that hits the nervous system and causes imbalance and loss of consciousness,” said activist Mohammad al-Doumani in Douma, where the injured are being taken.