Smoke rises from Russian-regime airstrikes on Kafrzita in Hama Province in northwest Syria, October 2016


The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has concluded that chlorine was used in an attack on Kafrzita in Hama Province in northwest Syria on October 1, 2016.

While the OPCW’s Fact Finding Mission was not empowered to attribute responsibility formally, the report’s content points to an Assad regime military helicopter dropping a cylinder with the chlorine. It documents a “barrel bomb”, an improvised device used thousands of times by the regime during the Syrian conflict.

The OPCW documents the Russian-regime aerial attacks on northern Hama Province throughout 2016, with more than 100,000 civilians displaced. The area was finally reoccupied during an 11-month Russian-regime offensive from April 2019 to March 2020.

Read the Report

The same type of chlorine munition was used in November 2016 in an attack on Khan al-Assal in Aleppo Province, amid the Russian-regime siege and intense bombing to recapture eastern Aleppo city. Further attacks were carried out in 2017 and 2018 in Idlib and Hama Province in the northwest. On April 7, 2018, in the deadliest chlorine attack of the conflict, 43 people were killed in Douma near Damascus.

In the Kafrzita chlorine attack, two industrial chlorine cylinder “barrels” were dropped near a field hospital. About 20 individuals were injured, with suffocation and breathing difficulties.

The report is based on examination of one of the cylinders, ruptrured and releasing a toxic substance; interviews with witnesses; and digital evidence.

The inspectors also detail years of Russian-regime destruction of hospitals in northwest Syria. They include Russia’s demolition of a facility where victims were being treated, with a link to a Russian video of the attack.

See also The Russia-Regime Attacks on Hospitals

ORIGINAL ENTRY, JAN 27: The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons formally reports there are “reasonable grounds” to conclude that chemical weapons were used in shelling near Aleppo city on September 1, 2015.

The international watchdog did not formally assign responsibility; however, the attack on Marea, north of Aleppo, occurred as the Islamic State fought anti-Assad factions. Local sources said the shells were fired from an ISIS-held village to the east.

The OPCW said at the time that mustard gas — technically sulphur mustard, a liquid at ambient temperature — was used in an assault on August 21. A baby was reportedly killed, as the local hospital treated more than 50 patients with symptoms of chemical exposure, such as coughing, vomiting, severe itching, and blisters.

The UN subsequently found that ISIS had deployed the chemical agent on at least six occasions in northern Syria.

Wednesday’s formal report by the OPCW cited “corrosive substances”, a black substance, and yellow powder pointing to the use of chemical agents. Victims developed blisters on their skin within hours.

The Pattern of Chemical Attacks

The UN has also cited about 35 cases in which the Assad regime used chemical weapons, and the OPCW has formally concluded that the regime was responsible for attacks in northwest Syria in 2017-2018, including a sarin assault on Khan Sheikhoun in April 2017 — killing about 90 people and wounding hundreds — and the use of sarin and chlorine on Latamineh weeks earlier.

See OPCW: Assad Regime Likely or Definitely Used Chemical Weapons 17 Times

The Global Public Policy Institute’s comprehensive review has documented more than 300 instances where the regime used chemical weapons.

Anti-Assad factions took control of much of northwest Syria in 2015, and the east of Aleppo — the largest city in Syria — was in opposition hands.

However, in July 2015 Iran and Russia agreed on a massive escalation of ground and air forces to prevent the fall of the regime. Moscow’s entry at the end of September, with intense bombing across much of northern Syria changed the military balances, as pro-Assad forces began to advance.

The Russians, alongside the regime, imposed crippling sieges across the country. After several months of siege and bombing, destroying almost the infrastructure, eastern Aleppo fell to the pro-Assad forces in December 2016.

See also Attacking Civilians in Aleppo — “Humanity Has Lost Its Sympathy”

Russia and the regime, using supporters in Western countries, have waged a disinformation campaign for years to deny the attacks or to claim that they are “false flag” incidents carried out by anti-Assad groups.

The OPCW has not given into the pressure, and continues to investigate high-profile cases. It found in March 2019 that chlorine was used in Douma near Damascus, killing 43 civilians. Moscow tried to undercut the findings, but the international watchdog is carrying out a further investigation over formal responsibility for the attack.

See also UK Academics Collaborated with Russian Officials to Cover Up Assad’s War Crimes
Denying Syria’s Chemical Attacks, Attacking the Inspectors — The Douma Case

Last year, the OPCW suspended the Assad regime’s voting rights, following repeated failure by the regime to declare fully its chemical stocks and sites and Damascus’s block on inspectors.