Syria gas attack confirmed: latest in history of atrocities
UN confirms 21 August attack on Damascus was gas – and the 'most significant' use of chemical weapons since Saddam's day
UN WEAPONS inspectors say the worst known chemical weapons attack since Saddam Hussein's 1988 murder of 5,000 Kurds took place in Damascus last month – and the US, UK and France insist it was the work of Bashar al-Assad's Syrian regime.
UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said it was a "despicable crime" and the "most significant" use of chemical weapons against civilians since Saddam's attack, reports The Guardian. He added:"The international community has pledged to prevent any such horror from recurring, yet it has happened again."
The inspectors were not charged with determining who was behind the attack. Asked if he knew who was responsible, Ban said: "We will all have our own thoughts on this."
The UK, US and France swiftly insisted the technicalities of how the weapons were used, revealed in the report, put it beyond doubt that Assad's military committed the atrocity.
Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom found that the chemicals were deployed by professionally-made rockets, including an M14 fired from a multiple launcher and a 330mm rocket.
Samantha Power, US envoy to the UN, said there was no indication in "thousands of videos" from the Syrian conflictthat the rebels possessed such weapons. Her UK counterpart, Mark Lyall Grant, said there was "no remaining doubt that it was the regime".
But Russia's UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin complained that "some colleagues" had "jumped to conclusions" and insisted that the "allegations that it was the opposition cannot simply be shrugged off".
Speaking on the BBC's Today programme, foreign secretary William Hague said all the areas believed to hold chemical weapons are regime-controlled and "even the Russians" are not talking about taking control of rebel-held chemical weapons – because, he said, the insurgents have none.
The Damascus attack is thought to have killed hundreds – but is by no means the worst ever use of chemical weapons on civilians or soldiers. There is a long, ugly history of such attacks.
First World War: The use of chemical weapons in the Great War was so widespread it has sometimes been dubbed the 'Chemists' War'. Chlorine, phosgene, cyanide and mustard gas killed around 90,000 combatants, leading 15 countries to sign the subsequent Geneva Protocol pledging not to repeat their use.
Mussolini: In 1935, Il Duce became the first to violate that protocol, dropping mustard gas on Ethiopia, killing 15,000 people in retaliation for the death of one pilot.
World War II: Hitler did not use chemical weapons in battle but used the cyanide derivative Zyklon B to kill millions of Jews and other minorities in gas chambers. The Japanese killed tens of thousands in China using toxic gas and bubonic plague.
Vietnam: The Americans used napalm and Agent Orange, nominally to destroy plant life giving cover to enemy fighters, but killing more than one million people and leading to 400,000 children with birth defects.
Saddam Hussein: The Iraqi dictator used sarin and mustard gas in battle against Iran during the 1980-88 war, killing up to 20,000. It is now known that the CIA knew this was taking place but refused to act because the US did not want an Iranian victory. In 1988, Saddam's forces murdered 5,000 Kurdish civilians with mustard gas, sarin and VX in northern villages and towns, including Halabja, in a systematic attempt at genocide. In response, the UN created its chemical weapons convention banning the production, use or stockpiling of such weapons. Only seven countries, including Syria, are not signatories. ·