Syria chemical weapons attacks since 2011

Tuesday’s toxic gas strike on rebel-held town is the latest in a string of such incidents since the war began 6 years ago

An unconscious Syrian child is carried at a hospital in Khan Sheikhoun, a rebel-held town in the northwestern Syrian Idlib province, following a suspected toxic gas attack on April 4, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / Omar haj kadour)
An unconscious Syrian child is carried at a hospital in Khan Sheikhoun, a rebel-held town in the northwestern Syrian Idlib province, following a suspected toxic gas attack on April 4, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / Omar haj kadour)

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Warplanes carried out a suspected toxic gas attack on a rebel-held town in northwestern Syria on Tuesday, killing at least 58 people, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said.

Syria’s opposition accused the regime of being behind the attack on Khan Sheikhun, in Idlib province, and demanded a United Nations probe.

It is the latest in a string of chemical attacks since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011.

Here is a recap.

Damascus threatens to use chemical weapons

• July 23, 2012: The Syrian government acknowledged for the first time that it has chemical weapons and threatened to use them in the event of military operations by Western countries, but not against its own population.

The following month, US president Barack Obama said the use or even movement of such weapons would be a “red line” for his administration.

Sarin gas attack near Damascus

August 21, 2013: Hundreds of people were killed in the east and southwest of Damascus, including in Moadamiyet al-Sham, in chemical weapons strikes after Syrian troops launched an offensive in the area.

The opposition blamed the regime, which denied the charge.

In late August a US intelligence report blamed Syria’s government for the attack with “high confidence.” It said 1,429 people were killed, including 426 children.

September 14, 2013: The United States and Russia reached a deal to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons by the middle of 2014, averting punitive US strikes against the regime of President Bashar Assad.

Two days later, a UN report said there is clear evidence sarin gas was used in the August 21 attack.

Chlorine attacks

September 10, 2014: The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said chlorine was used as a weapon “systematically and repeatedly” in villages in northwestern Syria’s Idlib province earlier in the year.

Human Rights Watch said Syrian government forces were behind attacks there.

In 2016, a UN commission found helicopters from two regime-controlled air bases dropped chlorine barrel-bombs on the villages of Qmenas, Talmenes and Sarmin, in rebel-held Idlib province, in 2014 and 2015.

August 7, 2015: The UN Security Council agreed to form a panel of experts to investigate chlorine attacks in Syria.

Washington, London and Paris blamed the Syrian regime, but Moscow said there is no irrefutable evidence proving the claim.

In late August, a UN commission accuses Syrian authorities of using chemical weapons, probably chlorine, eight times in the west of the country.

IS accused of mustard gas attacks

August 25, 2015: Syrian rebels and activists said they documented a chemical weapons attack on August 21 in the rebel stronghold of Marea in northern Aleppo, affecting dozens of people.

Locals and the Britain-based Observatory accused the Islamic State group of being behind the attack.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said it treated four civilians at a nearby field clinic for “symptoms of exposure to chemical agents.”

Patients at an MSF hospital in Aleppo said a mortar round hit their house and “after the explosion, a yellow gas filled the living room.”

A 2016 UN investigation blamed IS for the attack, saying it was “the only entity with the ability, capability, motive and the means to use sulfur mustard.”

New suspicions

August 2, 2016: The Observatory reported 24 cases of suffocation in Saraqeb, a rebel-held town near Aleppo.

October 21, 2016: The UN-led Joint Investigative Mechanism said that of nine alleged chemical attacks it is examining, three could be attributed to the Syrian government and one to IS jihadists.

Regime backer Russia later dismissed the findings as “unconvincing.”

Russian-Chinese veto

February 28, 2017: Russia and China blocked a Western-backed UN resolution that would have imposed fresh sanctions on Damascus over chemical weapons use.

March 3, 2017: The OPCW said it was examining allegations of eight toxic gas attacks in Syria since the beginning of the year.

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