US and UK point to Russia, Assad forces for Aleppo attack
The US and UK dismissed Russian and Syrian claims that opposition forces launched a gas attack on Aleppo in late November, saying that pro-Assad forces were responsible.
“On November 24, 2018, the Assad regime and Russia falsely accused the opposition and extremist groups of conducting a chlorine attack in northwestern Aleppo,” Syria, State Department Deputy Spokesman Robert Palladino said in a statement. “The United States strongly refutes this narrative and has credible information that pro-regime forces likely used teargas against civilians in Aleppo on November 24.”
A spokesman for the UK foreign office echoed the US denunciation. “We have seen nothing to support the claims made by Russia and Syria,” the unnamed spokesperson said in a statement. “It is highly unlikely that the opposition was responsible.”
Around 100 people were injured in the gas attack on Aleppo, according to Syrian state media and a British-based human rights group. It is not believed that chlorine was used in the attack, according to the foreign office.
According to Palladino’s statement, “the United States has information indicating Russian and Syrian personnel were involved in the teargas incident, and believes that both countries are using it as an opportunity to undermine confidence in the ceasefire in Idlib.”
The UK posits that the attack was done as a means to frame the opposition “or an operation which went wrong and from which Russia and the regime sought to take advantage.”
In the wake of the attack, Russian state media reported that Russian warplanes had struck rebel targets in Syria’s Idlib province, where a de-escalation zone had been established. Following the attack and purported Russian strikes, the Pentagon warned that it was critical that the ceasefire not be undermined.
“We continue to engage the Russian government and military at senior levels to make clear that an offensive in Idlib would represent a reckless escalation of the conflict and would put millions of civilians in grave danger,” Pentagon Spokesman Cdr. Sean Robertson said last week.
Both the US and UK urged cooperation with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which responds to the use or alleged use of chemical weapons.
“The United States is deeply concerned that pro-regime officials have maintained control of the attack site in its immediate aftermath, allowing them to potentially fabricate samples and contaminate the site before a proper investigation of it by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons,” Palladino said.
“It is important for Syrians and the international community that the truth comes out,” the foreign office concluded.