United Nations: Assad Regime Used Chemical Weapons Numerous Times in 2018
Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on three separate occasions this year used chemical weapons, raising to 33 the number of such instances documented since 2013 by the United Nations’ Commission of Inquiry on Syria. The team of human rights investigators previously published evidence of six additional chemical attacks perpetrated by opposition fighters. As regards conventional warfare, the Commission accused the Syrian army and its allies of launching indiscriminate attacks on densely populated areas, in particular during the months-long fight to retake the strategic Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta. The report, which highlighted that over one million Syrian civilians were displaced during the first six months of 2018, comes amid growing fears of an imminent regime-led offensive in northwest Idlib province, the last rebel-held bastion in the country. Concerns have been raised over the potential deployment of chemical weapons during the prospective mission, a fear backed up by the Commission which confirmed that government forces perpetrated a chlorine gas attack in the region in February. Russian jets have been pounding the territory over the past week while Syrian and Iranian-controlled troops have amassed near rebel strongholds. Turkey, which is already hosting 3.5 million Syrian refugees, has warned against a major attack that is likely to displace at least 800,000 people. Ankara in the meanwhile has stepped up arms shipments to the 70,000-strong rebel-led National Army, which it controls.