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TERROR WARS
Syria chemical weapons attacks since 2011
by Staff Writers
Beirut (AFP) Oct 24, 2017


US-led coalition denies deadly Syria strikes
Beirut (AFP) Oct 24, 2017 - The US-led coalition battling the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq denied on Tuesday that it had carried out deadly air strikes around the Syrian city of Deir Ezzor.

The strikes on Deir Ezzor, where Syrian regime forces backed by Russia have seized most of the city from IS, were reported late on Monday by a monitoring group, a local official and Syrian state television.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 22 civilians were killed in strikes by unidentified aircraft in the Al-Qusur neighbourhood, in the west of the city.

A local official said 14 people were killed and blamed coalition strikes.

"The allegation that a coalition strike may have killed 14 civilians and wounded 32 others in Deir Ezzor is false," coalition spokesman Ryan Dillon told AFP.

"Russian-backed pro-regime forces are conducting operations in Deir Ezzor and the coalition does not support pro-regime operations," he said.

Dillon said the coalition had carried out only one strike in the area in the last two months, on September 16 in support of US-backed forces fighting IS east of the city.

Syrian regime forces backed by ally Russia have seized most of Deir Ezzor city after breaking an IS siege of nearly three years on government-held districts in September.

The regime offensive against IS, backed by Russian airpower, is being waged largely on the western side of the Euphrates river that cuts diagonally across Deir Ezzor province.

A second, separate offensive against the jihadists is being fought on the eastern side by the Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces, backed by the coalition.

A "deconfliction" mechanism is meant to keep the two campaigns separate.

IS controls less than half of Deir Ezzor province, its last remaining stronghold in the country after the SDF ousted it from its bastion Raqa last week.

More than 330,000 people have been killed in Syria since the war began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.

Russia on Tuesday vetoed a US-drafted resolution that would have extended the mandate of a panel investigating who is behind chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

Here is a recap of chemical strikes and related events since the conflict began in March 2011.

- Damascus threatens -

The Syrian government acknowledges in July 2012 for the first time that it has chemical weapons and threatens to use them in the event of military operations by Western countries, but not against its own population.

The following month, US president Barack Obama says the use or even movement of such weapons would be a "red line" for his administration.

- Sarin attack -

In August 2013 hundreds of people are killed in the east and southwest of Damascus in chemical weapons strikes after Syrian troops launch an offensive in the area.

The opposition blames the regime, which denies involvement.

In late August a US intelligence report says with "high confidence" that Syria's government carried out the attacks. It says 1,429 people were killed, including 426 children.

A UN report says later there is clear evidence sarin gas was used.

The following month, the United States and regime-backer Russia reach a deal to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons by 2014, averting punitive US strikes against the regime.

- Chlorine -

In September 2014 the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) says chlorine was used as a weapon "systematically and repeatedly" on villages in northwestern Syria's rebel-held Idlib province earlier.

Human Rights Watch accuses Syrian government forces.

The UN Security Council agrees in August 2015 to form a panel to investigate chlorine attacks in Syria.

Washington, London and Paris blame the Damascus regime for such attacks, but Moscow says there is no irrefutable evidence.

A UN commission finds in 2016 that helicopters from regime-controlled air bases dropped chlorine barrel-bombs on villages in Idlib in 2014 and 2015.

In late August the commission accuses Syrian authorities of using chemical weapons, probably chlorine, eight times in the west of the country.

- IS accused of mustard gas attacks -

Syrian rebels and activists report a chemical weapons attack in August 2015 in the rebel stronghold of Marea in northern Aleppo, affecting dozens of people.

Locals and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights accuse the Islamic State group.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) says it treated four civilians for "symptoms of exposure to chemical agents" and witnesses talk of a "yellow gas".

A 2016 UN investigation blames IS, saying it is "the only entity with the ability, capability, motive and the means to use sulphur mustard".

In October the UN-led Joint Investigative Mechanism says that of nine alleged chemical attacks it is examining, three can be attributed to the Syrian government and one to IS jihadists.

- Russian-Chinese veto -

In February 2017 Russia and China block a Western-backed UN resolution that would have imposed fresh sanctions on the Syrian regime over chemical weapons use.

The following month the OPCW says it is examining allegations of eight toxic gas attacks in Syria since the beginning of the year.

- New sarin attack -

Warplanes strike the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun in Idlib in April 2017 with a chemical agent, killing at least 83 people. The OPCW later says sarin gas was used but does not assign blame.

United Nations war crimes investigators say later they have evidence that Syrian government forces were responsible, allegations that are denied by the regime.

TERROR WARS
Despite Raqa victory, US says IS fight not over
Washington (AFP) Oct 20, 2017
The United States praised local Syrian forces Friday for a "milestone" victory in driving the Islamic State group from Raqa, but warned the war against the jihadists is far from over. IS had controlled the northern Syrian city since early 2014 and considered it to be the inner sanctum of its claimed "caliphate." US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, a combination of Kurdish and Syrian Arab ... read more

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