United Nations human rights investigators said Sunday they have gathered testimony from outside Syria suggesting rebels, not Bashar Assad’s regime, may have used chemical weapons.
“Our investigators have been in neighboring countries interviewing victims, doctors and field hospitals and, according to their report of last week which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated,” Carla Del Ponte, a member of the independent commission of inquiry on Syria, told Swiss-Italian television. “This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities.”
The allegations will likely make it harder for the Obama administration to justify taking a more active role in the two-year-old civil war on the side of the opposition. The administration has said in recent days that chemical weapons appeared to have been used in Syria, which would violate the “red line” Obama set for Assad’s forces.
The Syrian government has denied using chemical weapons and initially invited UN inspectors to probe a March attack in the village of Khan al-Asal near Aleppo, saying rebels used chemical weapons in that incident. The regime has refused to allow the inspectors to enter the country, however, after France and Britain demanded that they be allowed to investigate other reported sites of chemical weapons use, notably in the village of Ataybah near Damascus on March 19 and in Homs last December.
By AL ARABIYA WITH AFP
Syrian warplanes bombed residential districts of Aleppo on Sunday, killing and wounding dozens of people, opposition activists in Syria’s largest city said.
They said the air raid destroyed a residential building in the Hananu neighbourhood, one of several in eastern Aleppo under insurgent control. The death toll was not immediately clear but bodies and wounded people were being dug out from the rubble.
Syrian troops have stormed the last rebel stronghold in the capital Damascus, activists say, as the country’s largest city, Aleppo, was pounded by artillery and helicopters.
Activists said most of the capital’s Tadamon district was under the control of government forces by early Friday evening, after “thousands of soldiers” entered the neighbourhood with tanks and armoured vehicles.
“Thousands of soldiers have entered the neighbourhood, they are conducting house-to-house raids,” a resident, who did not want to be identified for security reasons, said by telephone.
By Al Arabiya with Agencies
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad late on Sunday that the assault on his own population in Aleppo would be a nail in his coffin.
Syrian troops said they had recaptured a district of Syria’s largest city Aleppo, after heavy fighting against rebels who remain in control of swathes of the commercial hub despite being pushed out of the capital Damascus.
The past two weeks have seen forces of President Bashar al-Assad struggle as never before to maintain their grip on the country after a major rebel advance into the two main cities and a July 18 explosion that killed four top security officials.
By Erika Solomon
Reuters / Aleppo
The route to Aleppo from the Turkish border is a long web of dirt back roads with miles of exposed ground. But undaunted and in total darkness, dozens of young men jump onto white trucks with their AK-47 rifles, keen to join the fight there.
Syria’s 16-month revolt has finally erupted in the country’s commercial hub, but the momentum was not generated inside the city – it was brought into the historic city’s ancient stone alleyways from the scorched fields of the surrounding countryside.
“We liberated the rural parts of this province. We waited and waited for Aleppo to rise, and it didn’t. We couldn’t rely on them to do it for themselves so we had to bring the revolution to them,” said a rebel commander in a nearby village, who calls himself Abu Hashish.