Syrian forces conducted coordinated chemical attacks in Aleppo, says Human Rights Watch
 Source : News Bharati English  Date : 14-Feb-2017

New York, February 14: Despite the chemical attacks are been banned by the United States, Syrian forces conducted coordinated chemical attacks in rebel-held areas of Aleppo during the final stage of battle to retake the city killing at least nine people and wounding hundreds more.
Human Rights Watch on Monday said that Syrian government forces have used chemical attacks due to which several people are killed and many are injured. Human Rights Watch documented government helicopters dropping chlorine in residential areas on at least eight occasions between November 17 and December 13, 2016. The attacks, some of which included multiple munitions, killed at least nine civilians, including four children, and injured around 200.

Human Rights watch committee have investigated with their registered sources and citizens residing in Aleppo through phone and in-person interviews with witnesses and analysis of video footage, photographs, and posts on social media. During the investigation of Human Rights Watch, it was clearly found by the committee that the attacks took place in areas where government forces planned to advance, starting in the east and moving westwards as the frontlines moved.

Human Rights Watch said it had interviewed witnesses, collected photos and reviewed video footage to reach the conclusion that chlorine bombs were dropped from government helicopters during the operation. Around 200 people were wounded by the toxic gasses used in opposition-controlled areas of the northern city, according to Human Rights Watch.

“The pattern of the chlorine attacks shows that they were coordinated with the overall military strategy for retaking Aleppo, not the work of a few rogue elements,” said Ole Solvang, deputy emergencies director at Human Rights Watch. “The United Nations Security Council shouldn’t let Syrian authorities or anyone else who has used chemical weapons get away without consequences.”

The UN Security Council has yet to take action since the UN-appointed investigation, known as the Joint Investigative Mechanism, identified military units responsible for earlier attacks using chlorine in Syria. The Security Council should impose sanctions on senior leaders in the chain of command, Human Rights Watch said.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch called on the Syrian government to immediately stop using chemicals as weapons and fully cooperate with the UN-appointed investigation.

Notably, Chlorine use as a weapon is banned under the Chemical Weapons Convention, which Syria joined in 2013 under pressure from Russia. The use of chlorine bombs as an indiscriminate weapon could amount to war crimes. Earlier, the United States blacklisted 18 senior Syrian officials who were connected to the country’s weapon of mass destruction program and also identified five Syrian military branches as part of the Government of Syria was using chemical weapon attacks against civilians.

Importantly, Syrian government helicopters have dropped chlorine on opposition-controlled territory at least since April 2014. Chlorine has many civilian uses, but the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, which Syria joined in October 2013, bans the use of the toxic properties of any chemical as a weapon. Human Rights Watch has also documented that Syrian government forces used sarin in attacks in August 2013, and that the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) has used a mustard agent as recently as August 2016.

The most recent chlorine attacks took place during a final push by Syrian government forces and its allies to wrest control of eastern Aleppo from armed opposition groups. After a period of relative calm, Syrian government forces and its allies resumed military operations in Aleppo on November 17, starting with intensive aerial bombardment. The battle continued until December 13, when the parties agreed to a ceasefire and many of the fighters and civilians in eastern Aleppo were evacuated.