Chlorine likely used in February attack in Idlib, Syria: chemical weapons agency

Syrians suffering from breathing difficulties following Syrian regime air strikes on the northwestern town of Saraqeb rest around a stove at a field hospital in a village on the outskirts of Saraqeb (Omar Hajj Kadour/AFP)
Updated 16 May 2018
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Chlorine likely used in February attack in Idlib, Syria: chemical weapons agency

  • The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons released details of a report into the chlorine use on Wednesday
  • Several people were treated at local medical facilities for breathing difficulties after the attack on Feb. 4

AMSTERDAM: Banned chlorine munitions were likely dropped on a Syrian neighborhood in February, an international body on chemical weapons said on Wednesday, after laboratory tests confirmed the presence of the toxic chemical.
In its latest report on the systematic use of banned munitions in Syria’s civil war, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) did not say which party was behind the attack on Saraqib, which lies in rebel-held territory in the province of Idlib.
An OPCW fact finding mission for Syria “determined that chlorine was released from cylinders by mechanical impact in the Al Talil neighbourhood of Saraqib,” the organization said in a statement.
Several people were treated at local medical facilities for breathing difficulties after the attack on Feb. 4.
The conclusions are based on the presence of two cylinders, which were determined as previously containing chlorine, witness testimony and environmental samples confirming "the unusual presence of chlorine", it said.
A joint OPCW-United Nations mechanism for Syria has previously concluded that the Syrian government has used both sarin nerve agent and chlorine, killing and injuring hundreds of civilians. Rebels were found to have used sulphur mustard once on a small scale.
The government of Syrian President Bashar Assad has denied using chemical weapons and instead has blamed rebels for staging attacks to falsely implicate his forces in the atrocities.
The mechanism was disbanded in November following a Russian veto at the UN Security Council, a move which ratcheted up tension between Moscow and Western powers over chemical weapons use in Syria.
A suspected chemical attack on April 7 in the Douma enclave near Damascus prompted missile strikes by the United States, France and Britain against alleged chemical weapons facilities in Syria.


Israel to build 2,500 new settler homes

Many Palestinians regard the announcement of the new settlements as being directly linked to the recent opening of the new US Embassy and the killings in Gaza. (Reuters)
Updated 18 min 35 sec ago
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Israel to build 2,500 new settler homes

  • The stark warning comes after Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman confirmed on Thursday that he would seek final approval for 2,500 homes to be built across 30 settlements.
  • They are working to superimpose greater Israel on all of historic Palestine, says Hanan Ashrawi

AMMAN, Jordan: Israel’s decision to build thousands of new homes for settlers in the occupied West Bank has “ended the two-state solution,” according to Palestinian officials.

The stark warning comes after Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman confirmed on Thursday that he would seek final approval for 2,500 homes to be built across 30 settlements. The work is likely to be approved at a planning committee meting next week.

The timing of Lieberman’s announcement is regarded as particularly provocative by Palestinian officials, still angered by the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem and the killing of 60 protesters in Gaza on May 15.

In a statement published by the official Palestinian news agency WAFA, Nabil Abu Rudeina, spokesman for the Palestinian president, said: “The continuation of the settlement policy, statements by American officials supporting settlements, and incitement by Israeli ministers have ended the two-state solution and ended the American role in the region.”

The 2,500 houses, which are illegal under international law, will be spread across the occupied West Bank, with construction work due to begin immediately after approval is granted. The new houses will include 400 dwellings in Ariel, north of Jerusalem, and 460 in Ma’ale Adumim, a city already inhabited by about 40,000 people. Lieberman also said that “in coming months” he would push for the approval of another 1,400 settler houses now in the preliminary stages of planning.

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) executive committee, said the plans reveal “the real nature of Israeli colonialism, expansionism and lawlessness.”

She said: “Undoubtedly, Israel is deliberately working to enhance its extremist Jewish settler population and to superimpose greater Israel on all of historic Palestine.”

In an appeal to the International Criminal Court earlier this week, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry branded Israeli settlements “the single most dangerous threat to Palestinian lives and livelihoods.” 

Ashrawi called for the legal body to “open an immediate criminal investigation into Israel’s flagrant violations of international law.”

According to a June 2017 article in the liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz, more than 380,000 settlers live in the West Bank, with more than 40 percent based outside official settlements. Many Palestinians regard the announcement of the new settlements as being directly linked to the recent opening of the new US embassy and the killings in Gaza.

Khalil Tufakji, director of the maps and survey department at the Arab Studies Society, a Jerusalem-based NGO, told Arab News that the houses were designed to placate demands from the Israeli rightwing to create “a single state between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River.”