A month after the world’s leading anti-chemical weapons group condemned both the Syrian military and Islamic State for “the use of chemical weapons and toxic chemicals as weapons” they’ve issued a new statement of concern involving the on-going conflict, but this time it involves a bombardment in which Russia appears to have played a central role.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, based in The Hague, Netherlands, refers to “allegations regarding the use of chemical weapons in the area of Uqayribat, in the Hama Governate in Syria.” It states that the allegations have been made in media reports, which note that people were found dead, but without any visible wounds.
“This area is located to the northwest of Palmyra and in territory understood to be controlled by the so-called Islamic State,” the statement reads. It goes on to say that “the use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances is reprehensible and wholly contrary to the legal norms established by the international community.”
In this instance, a BBC News report on a battle near Palmyra says Islamic State “members recaptured the city on Sunday, hours after Russian air strikes appeared to have driven them back.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that the death toll from this latest attack is now at least 53. According to their witnesses, the victims “were killed in bombardment by warplanes using rockets carrying toxic gases.”
While Syria still has jets capable of firing missiles, it has been widely reported that Russian jets were providing the air support in this battle.
Previous OPCW reports have stated that the Syrian Arab Armed Forces chemical attacks “involve helicopters dropping barrels containing chlorine gas.” In addition, they have said there is evidence that the Islamic State used mustard gas during an attack in Aleppo in 2015. The Islamic State is not believed to have a functional air force.
The observatory noted that 20 women and children were among the dead, and that the victims appeared to have died from suffocation, and showed “no trace of fractures, smash or blood on their bodies or their clothes.”
A Nov. 11 statement from the OPCW stated that “the Syrian Arab Armed Forces and the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have been involved in the use of chemical weapons and toxic chemicals as weapons.”
It also stated that the organization’s executive council “expressed its deepest sympathy for the victims of chemical weapons attacks and its conviction that ‘every actor involved in these chemical weapons attacks should be held accountable.’”