09/07/2016, 09.30
SYRIA
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Rebels claim chlorine barrel bombs used against civilians in Aleppo. No confirmation

They claim the  gas was used during the raid in the Sukari area. At least 80 people injured, with severe breathing problems. However there is no independent confirmation of the news. Opposition leaders are meeting in London to seek a new transition plan. Even the Saudis are pushing for a truce.

 

Aleppo (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Syrian government forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad would have dropped barrel bombs - containing chlorine - during raids carried out in recent days with helicopters and fighter jets, in an Aleppo suburb in rebel hands.

According to activists and volunteers active in the Sukari area, there are at least 80 people "mostly civilians" wounded due to the gas with choking symptoms and severe breathing difficulties, necessitating medical treatment in hospital.

The Aleppo Media Center, close to the opposition and armed rebels, reported the barrel bomb attack. However, so far there is no independent confirmation of the use of chemical components. Chlorine is a chemical compound used in the industrial production. But its use is banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention (CAC, Paris 1993).

It is not the first time that  chemical weapons have been used in the context of the Syrian conflict,. In 2013 the government and rebels exchanged accusations and  responsibility for attacks with chemical agents. The United Nations has opened several investigations following complaints of gas use, both by the regular army and rebel militias. The last of these dates back to August, when the UN experts denounced the use of chlorine gas on  "at least two occasions" by the government army. These accusations were rejected  by the Damascus government.

Earlier, in May, the Director General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPAC) had said, not without concern, that the Islamic state (IS) may be able to "make [their own] chemical weapons" in Iraq and Syria.

In previous years, the apostolic nuncio in Syria, Msgr. Mario Zenari, had lashed out against the use of chemical weapons.  The bishop had also shown great appreciation for the US-Russia agreement for delivery and destruction of chemical weapons held by Damascus. Recently he had also denounced deaths and injuries among civilians, especially children, victims of the conflict and exploited by propaganda for war purposes.

Meanwhile, Syrian opposition leaders are preparing to meet  today in London hoping it will culminate in a new political transition plan that can end the armed conflict. A war that, in five years, has caused 290 thousand deaths and an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe, with millions of refugees.

To High Negotiations Committee (Hnc), the main opposition group, supported by the Saudis, will be hosted by the British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson. This meeting will also include some foreign ministers of the Friends of Syria group. In these hours Riyadh has been moving diplomatically to try to reach a truce. A decision, perhaps the result of recent defeats suffered by the rebels on the battlefield, particularly in the Aleppo area.

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