Ya’alon: Syrian regime used chemical weapons during truce
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Ya’alon: Syrian regime used chemical weapons during truce

Defense minister says government forces ‘dropped barrels of chlorine on civilians’ this week

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon at the Munich Security Conference on February 14, 2016 (Ariel Harmoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon at the Munich Security Conference on February 14, 2016 (Ariel Harmoni/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Tuesday Syrian government forces used chemical weapons against civilians this week in a particularly egregious violation of the ceasefire.

“The Syrians used military grade chemical weapons and lately have been using materials, chlorine, against civilians, including in these very days, after the supposed ceasefire, dropping barrels of chlorine on civilians,” he said, without providing further details, according to Reuters.

Ya’alon made the comments during an address at a conference hosted by the New Tech military and aviation group in Airport City, near Tel Aviv.

The minister’s claims came as Syrian President Bashar Assad pledged to do his part to guarantee the success of a shaky ceasefire that was largely holding into its fourth day.

World powers have thrown their weight behind the landmark truce as a way to bring an end to Syria’s conflict, which began in 2011 with anti-government protests.

Assad said the truce provided a “glimmer of hope” for Syria, where more than 270,000 people have been killed since the complex conflict erupted.

“We will do our part so that the whole thing works,” Assad told German public broadcaster ARD, referring to the cessation of hostilities reached by the United States and Russia.

“We have refrained ourselves from retaliating in order to give (a) chance for the agreement to survive. That’s what we can do, but at the end everything has a limit. It depends on the other side.”

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad listening to a question during an interview with AFP in the capital Damascus, February 11, 2016. (AFP/JOSEPH EID)
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad listening to a question during an interview with AFP in the capital Damascus, February 11, 2016. (AFP/JOSEPH EID)

The president also offered a wide amnesty to opposition fighters if they agree to disarm.

“The most important thing for me, legally and constitutionally… (is) that you’re not allowed, as a citizen, to hold machine-guns and hurt people or properties,” he said.

“This is the only thing that we ask. We don’t ask for anything. As I said, we give them full amnesty.”

The United Nations said the next round of peace talks would resume in Geneva on March 9, announcing a two-day postponement “to allow adequate time to address logistical and practical matters”.

The ceasefire deal brokered by Moscow and Washington excludes territory held by the jihadist groups the Islamic State, also known as ISIL, and the al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra. The two groups together control more than half of Syria.

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