A report from a chemical watchdog concluded that a helicopter controlled by Syria’s elite “Tiger Forces” military unit dropped a chlorine cylinder on the rebellious city of Saraqib in February 2018.
“There is reasonable cause to believe that a military helicopter from the Syrian Arab Air Force under the control of the Tiger Forces hit eastern Saraqib by dropping at least one cylinder approx. 21:22 on February 4, 2018 during ongoing attacks against Saraqib. , ”Said the report from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. “The cylinder broke and released a toxic gas, chlorine, which spread over a large area and affected 1
The report noted that the dozen people who were exposed to the chemical suffered from skin irritation, chest pain and nausea.
Witnesses told the OPCW that “they heard a helicopter noise between 9:15 p.m. and 9:22 p.m. on the day of the attack, and one or two objects fell and hit the ground.” A person who had lived in a nearby shelter “told that he went to see what had happened and began to get sick as he got closer to the area in the direction of the origin of the sound.” Video evidence obtained by OPCW certified witness accounts.
Despite growing evidence to the contrary, the Assad regime has denied using chemical weapons in the conflict.
The OPCW report was based on interviews with victims and medical staff who responded to the incident, samples from the scene examined by toxicologists and satellite images obtained by the team that identified several “battle points”.
In response to the investigation, Syrian authorities claimed that rescue workers in the white helmet had worked with jihadist groups to “stage” the incident to “provoke accusations against the Syrian Arab army.” The Watchdog team found no evidence to support this claim.
Syria’s infamous Tiger Forces are a pro-government, Russian-backed, intelligence-driven air militia “widely regarded as the most powerful and most brutal of the four intelligence branches,” according to the Middle East Institute. The unit’s founder has been accused of ordering the killing of hundreds of protesters in the early days of Syria’s decades-long conflict.
Monday’s report is the second OPCW study of the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war. The first confirmed the use of a sarin nerve agent and chlorine against civilians in a March 2017 attack on the city of Ltamenah, killing three people and injuring 32 suffering from vomiting, difficulty breathing and foaming at the mouth.