Following the suggestion of an Italian UN arms inspector that rebels may have used chemical weapons (see update 0530 GMT) the commission tasked with investigating these claims has released a statement distancing itself from this suggestion.
The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic wishes to clarify that it has not reached conclusive findingsas to the use of chemical weapons in Syria by any parties to the conflict. As a result,the Commission is not in a position to further comment on the allegations at this time.
The Chair of the Commission of Inquiry, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, reminds all parties tothe conflict that the use of chemical weapons is prohibited in all circumstances undercustomary international humanitarian law.
Meanwhile, Turkish doctors who have treated victims of a suspected chemical attack in Saraqib last week say that they have not found evidence that sarin was used at all. This matches our own assessment that a potent-but-unidentified weapon may have been used. We are continuing to follow those leads, and may be closer to a breakthrough, which we will publish when we have new confirmed information.
James Miller takes over today’s live coverage. Thanks to Scott Lucas for getting us started this morning.
An advisor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Tzachi Hanegbi,has declared that Israeli airstrikes inside Syria should not bring “an increase in tension with Syria” — “If there is activity, it is only against Hezbollah, not against the Syrian regime”.
Hanegbi said Israel had not formally acknowledged carrying out the raids in an effort to allow President Assad to save face, adding that Netanyahu began a scheduled visit to China on Sunday to signal the sense of business as usual.
The statement, however, is not at odds with our analysis
“The Israelis are trying to degrade Assad’s military capabilities, which just happens to help the insurgents if they decide to make a push on Damascus.”
An investigation by London’s Independent on Sunday — of $1.5 billion pledged by 42 states in January — indicates that Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain, and organisations have failed to deliver $650 million:
Saudi Arabia pledged $78m. As of 1 May, the kingdom was recorded as contributing $21.6m. The United Arab Emirates pledged $300m. It has given $18.4m. Qatar, which will spend tens of billions hosting the 2022 football World Cup, pledged $100m to the UN effort. It is recorded as delivering $2.7m. Bahrain, which last month hosted a Formula One grand prix at a recently built $2bn circuit, pledged $20m. There has been no recorded aid given since. Iraq pledged $10m in Kuwait; nothing has yet been recorded in aid delivered.
0540 GMT: Casualties
The Local Coordination Committees claims 116 people were killed on Sunday, including 16 women and 21 children.
Of the deaths, 29 were in Damascus and its suburbs, 21 in Banyas Province, and 19 in Homs Province.
The Violations Documentation Center puts the confirmed death toll at 59,554 since the conflict begin in March 2011, an increase of 171 from Sunday.
Of those killed, 46,766 were civilians, a rise of 139 from yesterday.
A United Nations human rights investigator, Carla Del Ponte, says testimony from the injured indicates that opposition fighters have used the nerve agent sarin.
Del Pontes said the UN independent commission of inquiry on Syria has not yet seen evidence of regime forces having 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,” Del Ponte said in an interview with Swiss-Italian television.
She said, “This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities.”
Minister of Information Omran al-Zoubi has warned that Israeli airstrikes on weapons shipments and military facilities inside Syria leave “open the door to all possibilities”.
On Sunday, the Syrian Cabinet met for three hours in emergency session.
Al-Zoubi did not indicate a specific course of action, but said it was Syria’s duty to protect the state from any “domestic or foreign attack through all available means”.
Repeating the words of the Deputy Foreign Minister earlier in the day, al-Zoubi claimed the Israeli attacks showed the country’s links with “Islamic extremist groups” trying to the Syrian government.
Late Thursday Israeli warplanes struck a weapons shipment inside Syria while on Sunday it struck several targets, which likely included military installations, near Damascus.