The Bashar al-Assad regime used chemical weapons against the jihadists of the self-styled Islamic State. This is the accusation of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, which claims that the attack took place last week in Damascus and that the chemical substance they employed is likely to have been sarin.
Still according to the above mentioned newspaper, Syrian military forces decided to use chemicals in response to an Isis attack on the base in Dumair – about 50 kilometers northeast of the Syrian capital -, which Damascus considers to be “vital for their survival”. Faced with the surprise attack, Assad’s military forces would have found themselves in great difficulty and, not to lose the two bases, they would have used bullets or missiles with sarin gas.
Sarin is an odorless and colorless gas, classified as a chemical weapon of mass destruction. If used in high vapor concentrations, it is able to pass through the skin. In this case, using a gas mask does not suffice.
In August 2013, sarin gas was used during the Syrian civil war in some areas controlled by the rebels, in the Eastern and Southern suburbs of Damascus. Rebels and government accuse one other of having perpetrated the attack. UN investigations did not indicate who was responsible for the attack, but they identified obvious traces of sarin in the soil and on the dead bodies in the affected areas.
The attack was extensively covered by international media. After the strafe in Ghouta, Damascus had agreed to dismantle its arsenal of chemical weapons under UN supervision. Yet, small amounts of chemical weapons might have remained in the hands of Assad’s forces. The jihadists would put their hands on chemicals too. Attacks with mustard gas were recorded against Kurdish forces both in Syria and Iraq.