The Cable

U.N. Commission Calls Out Syrian Government for Sarin Attack

The long-awaited report says the Syrian air force carried out the bombing.

Investigators at the United Nations said Wednesday that the Syrian government was responsible for the April 4 sarin gas attack that killed at least 83 civilians.

The report, published by the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria, also called on the U.S.-led coalition to take additional precautions to protect civilians.

“The parties to this horrific conflict must fundamentally realign their tactics with basic notions of humanity, and the international community must reinvigorate its commitment to meaningful justice,” Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, the chair of the commission, said in a statement.

Released Wednesday, the report provides a detailed explanation of the commission’s investigation into the April strike near the town of Khan Sheikhoun in rebel-held Idlib province.

Investigators conducted 43 interviews with eyewitnesses, victims, first responders, and medical workers and also utilized a combination of satellite imagery, photographs of bomb remnants, early warning reports, and videos of the area. Based on that information, as well as an additional investigation by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the commission found that “there are reasonable grounds to believe that Syrian forces attacked Khan Shaykhun with a sarin bomb.”

The report’s authors also noted that the attack constituted a war crime.

At a news conference in Geneva to announce the release of the report, Pinheiro stood by the commission’s conclusions. “We have analyzed all the other interpretations,” he said, according to the Christian Science Monitor. “It is our task to verify these allegations, and we concluded … that this attack was perpetrated by the Syrian air force.”

The report also pushed back against theories that pointed away from the Syrian government’s role. In the days after the bombing, various sources claimed that a chemical depot might have been struck by a conventional weapon or that the attack was instead launched by rebel groups.

“Interviewees denied the presence of a weapons depot near the impact point of the chemical bomb,” the report noted. It also stated that “it is extremely unlikely that an air strike would release sarin potentially stored inside such a structure in amounts sufficient to explain the number of casualties.”

Photo credit: OMAR HAJ KADOUR/AFP/Getty Images

Rhys Dubin is an editorial fellow at Foreign Policy. @Rhys_Dubin

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