UNITED NATIONS —
The United Nations and officials from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons say the Syrian government is responsible for a third chemical attack that affected a region already torn by war.
The group's fourth report during a 13-month investigation sent to the U.N. Security Council late Friday shows there is “sufficient evidence” to confirm the government’s role in the March 16, 2015 strike on Qmenas in Idlib governorate.
The report blames President Bashar al-Assad’s government for using several barrel bombs containing chlorine gas dropped by military helicopters.
The investigation could not confirm the personnel in control of the military units, but the weapons originated from two bases belonging to the 63rd helicopter brigade in Syria. The report said officials “must be held accountable."
Accusations of chemical attacks have been a fixture of the Syrian conflict with both the government and rebels blaming each other during the past five years of war.
The ongoing investigation attributes three chemical attacks to the Syrian government and one to the Islamic State group. No conclusion was reached in five other alleged chemical attacks.
Besides Qmenas, experts blame the Syrian government for two chlorine attacks - in Talmenes, April 21, 2014, and Sarmin, March 16, 2015. The information was released in a third report two months ago.
Experts were not able to confirm who was responsible for the 2014 barrel bombs in Kfar Zita in Hama governorate because fragments of the device used in the strike had been removed and could not be definitely associated with the location.
The United States, Britain and France are urging the U.N. Security Council to enforce sanctions on the Syrian government for using chemical weapons. Russia and China, however, are not likely to agree and could veto any new sanctions measures.
Before submission of the latest report, Russia said the conclusions could not be used to impose U.N. sanctions.
The U.N. is scheduled to discuss the report next Thursday.