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Entries in Chemical Weapons (15)


Syria Opinion: How to Meet the Challenge of Covering Conflict

Dramatic and complex events like those in Syria, with the prospect of further escalations both in and beyond that country's borders, demand careful, dedicated and in-depth coverage and analysis. Yet, on Wednesday, The Guardian announced that after 28 months, it is ending its Live Coverage not just of Syria, but of the entire Middle East. Its reason --- news is slowing to "gradual incremental developments" and it can no longer justify expenditure of resources on the project.

Of course, the decision was probably reached because of "business", not journalism. However, if news is to be effective, media have to find a way out from the financial dead end. An initiative has to put a relatively small investments into high-quality, dedicated work that might stand a chance of building an audience and encourage readers to pay attention to a story on a continuing basis.

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Syria Analysis: Chemical Weapons Attack --- Is This Plastic Canister A Vital Clue?

Update: A new video (above) of the canister that allegedly carried a cehmical weapon in Saraqib.


Despite increasing reports that Assad's forces have used chemical weapons attacks against insurgents, so far there has been no concrete evidence. A video taken yesterday of a small piece of plastic, burned up deep inside Syria's warzone, may actually contain a vital clue as to whether forces loyal to Assad have deployed chemical agents.

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Syria Today: A Chemical Weapons Attack in Idlib Province?

1506 GMT: Death Toll Rising.

According to the Local Coordination Committees, 105 people have been killed so far today across the country:

34 martyrs were reported in Damascus and its suburbs, among them 13 martyrs in Marjeh explosion; 25 in Hama; 13 in Homs, among them 9 martyrs in Arbaeen neighborhood in Hama; 12 in Idlib; 8 in Daraa; 7 in Deir Ezzor; 5 in Aleppo; and 1 in Lattakia

The Local Coordination Committees (LCC) is an activist network operating both inside and outside of Syria. They claim to use stringent verification processes to ensure that a member of the LCC can vouch for any information posted either on their Facebook page or their website. The LCC also cooperates with an independent organization to populate database of those killed in the Syrian conflict, which can be seen at the website for the Center for Documentation of Violations in Syria.

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Syria Today: The Debate Over Chemical Weapons (Continued)

Dead animals in Khan Assal in Aleppo Province after an alleged chemical weapons attack last month (Photo: George Ourfalian/Reuters)

See also Syria Feature: The Lesson of the Destruction of the Ummayad Mosque
Middle East Today: Killing Off an "Independent" Egyptian News Site
Saturday's Syria Today: A Chemical Weapons "Game-Changer"?

1515 GMT: Insurgent Leader on Chemical Weapons, Jabhat al-Nusra, and Prospect of Victory

In an interview, General Salem Idriss, the head of the insurgent Joiot Military Command, has claimed that regime forces used "the kind of chemical weapons" that are "not so very well known" in the cities of Aleppo, Raqqa, and Homs --- thus indicating that the insurgents have not been able to identify the nature of the chemicals allegedly used.

In the town of Khan al-Assal, allegedly attacked last month, Idriss said that the Syrian military had employed "some kinds of gases" and "phosphorus bombs" against civilians.

Idriss said the importance of the Islamist faction Jabhat al-Nusra --- which has been elevated by much of the media because of the exaggerated claim that it is linked to Al Qa'eada --- has been exaggerated: "The fighters in Jabhat al-Nusra are not more than 5,000 in all the country. Compare 5,000 to that, they [have] very few fighters in Syria."

The commander added, "We don't coordinate with them, we don't have any plans to work with them in the future. They are a special group, and this group is not working under our command."

Idriss claimed, "I]f we have enough weapons and ammunition we can put an end to the fight in Syria, we can fall the regime of Bashar al-Assad. In not more than two months. We can do that."

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Syria Live: "The Regime Used Chemical Weapons" Campaign

Claimed footage of the destruction of the Ummayad Mosque in Aleppo

See also Syria Analysis: Could Hezbollah Involvement Spark Sectarian Violence
Wednesday's Syria Live: The Fight Near the Lebanese Border

1740 GMT: Chemical Weapons. Two significant updates about our previous story that the US now says Assad has used chemical weapons in Syria....

Danger Room reports that there is clear and unambiguous evidence, based on blood samples of the victims, that sarin gas was used by the Assad regime, according to an unnamed American intelligence official:

“This is more than one organization representing that they have more than one sample from more than one attack,” the source tells Danger Room. “But we can’t confirm anything because no is really sure what’s going on in country.”

What’s clear is that the samples are authentic, and that the weapons were almost certainly employed by the Assad regime, which began months ago mixing up quantities of sarin’s chemical precursors for an potential attack, as Danger Room first reported.

“It would be very, very difficult for the opposition to fake this. Not only would they need the wherewithal to steal it or brew it up themselves. Then they’d need volunteers who would notionally agree to a possibly lethal exposure,” the source adds.

This assessment sounds definitive, as if the US is certain sarin was used. It is also a lot stronger rhetoric than the official statement originally leaked through Secretary of Defense Hagel.

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Syria Analysis: Chemical Weapons, the US, and the Insurgency

The use of chemical weapons or their possession by the "wrong" forces, while genuinely considered a threat by US and European governments, has been used to date to justify the build-up of a multi-national base in Jordan, with training and the supply of weapons to insurgents.

The US Secretary of State, though indirectly and carefully, opens up the prospect: will the chemical weapons argument now be used to escalate that support, possibly moving it into the open?

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Syria Live: A Car Bomb in Damascus

State TV footage of the aftermath of Monday's car bomb in central Damascus

See also UAE (and Beyond) Live: 10 Months in Prison for Tweeting About a Trial
Monday's Syria Live: The Back-and-Forth Battle in Aleppo

2142 GMT: Cyber-Attacks. The website of State news agency SANA has apparently been hacked tonight, with the entire service replaced by a generic "Site Under Construction" page.

1616 GMT: Massacre in Homs. In the last week of March we posted evidence of a massacre in Abil, outside of Homs (map). Between 13 and 18 burnt bodies were found in the town, and eyewitnesses said that "shabiha," pro-regime militia, were the culprits.

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Syria Snap Analysis: Latest on the "Chemical Weapon" Attacks

Two competing stories have featured in the last 48 hours over Tuesday's "chemical attacks" near Aleppo and Damascus. The first is a statement posted yesterday from the Syrian opposition in which they claim that Echothiophate, a chemical often found in insecticides, was used in both incidents, having been delivered by a Scud missile.

The second narrative, from US officials, is that there was no chemical weapons attack.

Echothiophate is an organophosphate. According to a physician contacted by EA, its effects match some of the symptoms reported from a doctor in Damascus, including bradycardia, vasodilation, nausea and vomiting, and bronchoconstriction. It is a slower-acting compound than some other nerve agents, like Sarin. It is unclear if there are additional symptoms, like involuntary muscle movements, that have been seen in these videos.

Some have suggested that the chemical smells like "rotten cabbage." That is important because people in the Damascus atttack reported a strong odour, albeit one like chlorine.

Here's the video, with English subtitles, where the doctor in Damascus reports that an organophosphate has been used:

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Syria Special: Assessing Tuesday's "Chemical Weapons Attacks"...and Who is Responsible

Damage in the town of Khan al Asal, west of Aleppo

UPDATED at 1611 GMT.

In the end, what evidence suggests that the insurgents did this? There is none, beyond the late-emerging claims of the regime and its supporters. On the other hand, there is evidence that the regime was firing missiles and dropping bombs on these locations. Only one side, the regime, is known to possess the weapons needed to do this --- both the chemicals, and the delivery systems.

We have documented insurgent crimes before. As recently as last Monday, we published information that might embarrass those in the West who support the rebels. On this occasion, however, the evidence does not support the theory that an insurgent group has conducted this attack.

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Syria Live Coverage: Trading Blame Over "Chemical Attacks"

1940 GMT: Rebels Capture Mosque in Center of Daraa. The Omari Mosque has been captured by the Syrian rebels who continue to push deeper and deeper into the center of Damascus (map).

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