As­sad still has chem­i­cal weapons

Cebu Daily News - - WORLD - AP

JERUSALEM — Syria still has up to three tons of chem­i­cal weapons, Is­raeli de­fense of­fi­cials said Wed­nes­day in the first spe­cific in­tel­li­gence as­sess­ment of Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad’s weapons ca­pa­bil­i­ties since a deadly chem­i­cal at­tack ear­lier this month.

The es­ti­mate came as the head of the in­ter­na­tional chem­i­cal weapons watch­dog said lab­o­ra­tory tests had pro­vided “in­con­tro­vert­ible” ev­i­dence that vic­tims and sur­vivors of the April 4 at­tack in northern Syria were ex­posed to sarin nerve gas or a sim­i­lar banned toxin.

Is­rael, along with the United States and much of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity, has ac­cused As­sad’s forces of car­ry­ing out the at­tack, which killed at least 90 peo­ple, in­clud­ing dozens of chil­dren.

A se­nior Is­raeli mil­i­tary of­fi­cial said Is­raeli in­tel­li­gence be­lieves Syr­ian mil­i­tary com­man­ders or­dered the at­tack, with As­sad’s knowl­edge. Brief­ing re­porters, he said Is­rael es­ti­mates As­sad still has “be­tween one and three tons” of chem­i­cal weapons.

The as­sess­ment was con­firmed by two other Is­raeli de­fense of­fi­cials. All the of­fi­cials spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity un­der mil­i­tary brief­ing rules.

As­sad has strongly de­nied he was be­hind the at­tack in the op­po­si­tion-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in Syria’s northern Idlib prov­ince, and has ac­cused the op­po­si­tion of try­ing to frame his gov­ern­ment. Top As­sad ally, Rus­sia, has as­serted a Syr­ian gov­ern­ment air strike hit a rebel chem­i­cal weapons fac­tory, caus­ing the dis­as­ter.

In re­sponse to the April 4 at­tack, the United States fired 59 mis­siles at a Syr­ian air base it said was the launch­ing pad for the at­tack. Is­rael wel­comed the strike on its northern neigh­bor.

The Syr­ian gov­ern­ment has been locked in a sixyear civil war against an ar­ray of op­po­si­tion forces. The fight­ing has killed an es­ti­mated 400,000 peo­ple and dis­placed half of Syria’s pop­u­la­tion.

Is­rael has largely stayed out of the fight­ing, though it has car­ried out a num­ber of air strikes on sus­pected Ira­nian weapons ship­ments it be­lieved were bound for the Le­banese mil­i­tant group Hezbol­lah. Iran and Hezbol­lah, both bit­ter en­e­mies of Is­rael, along with Rus­sia have sent forces to sup­port As­sad./

AS­SAD

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