UN Confirms Syrian Regime’s Responsibility for Khan Sheikhoun Chemical Attack

Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, Professor Paulo Pinheiro gestures during a press conference ahead of his mission on at the United Nations office in Geneva, September 30, 2011.
Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, Professor Paulo Pinheiro gestures during a press conference ahead of his mission on at the United Nations office in Geneva, September 30, 2011.
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UN Confirms Syrian Regime’s Responsibility for Khan Sheikhoun Chemical Attack

Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, Professor Paulo Pinheiro gestures during a press conference ahead of his mission on at the United Nations office in Geneva, September 30, 2011.
Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, Professor Paulo Pinheiro gestures during a press conference ahead of his mission on at the United Nations office in Geneva, September 30, 2011.

UN investigators said on Friday they had evidence that the Syrian regime was responsible for a Sarin gas attack on Khan Sheikhoun that killed 87 people on April 4.

In the first UN report to formally refer to the regime’s responsibility, the UN commission of inquiry on the human rights situation in Syria announced on Wednesday that it had collected “a large amount of information” indicating that a Syrian aircraft was behind the horrific chemical attack on April 4.

“On April 4, as part of an airstrike... the Syrian air force used Sarin gas, killing more than 80 people, most of them women and children,” the report said.

“All the evidence can prove that there are enough objective reasons to believe that the air force dropped a Sarin gas bomb,” it added.

Wednesday’s report described the Khan Sheikhoun attack as a war crime and blamed the Syrian regime for at least 23 other chemical attacks, AFP reported. AP, for its part, quoted officials as saying that the regime was responsible for 20 of the 25 attacks since 2011.

“The lack of access to information did not prevent us from reaching facts or reasonable conclusions about what happened during the attack and who was behind it,” the committee’s chairman, Paulo Pinheiro, told a news conference.

UN investigators said they had documented a total of 33 chemical attacks to date, in their 14th report since 2011. They added that Syrian government forces carried out 27 attacks, including 7 between March 1 and July 7.

The investigators, who were prohibited by the Syrian authorities to access the territory to conduct their investigations, said they based their conclusions on photographs of rocket fragments, satellite images and eyewitness accounts.

They concluded that a Sukhoi 22 launcher, only owned by Syrian warplanes, carried out four strikes on Khan Sheikhoun at around 6:45 am on April 4.

While Damascus and its ally Moscow confirmed that chemicals had spread in the air after an air strike hit an arms depot producing chemical munitions and belonging to opposition factions, investigators rejected the suggestion, asserting that they had found no evidence to support the allegations.



UN Human Rights Chief: Unconscionable Death and Suffering Happening in Gaza

A child looks on as Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike, at al-Nuseirat refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 18 June 2024. (EPA)
A child looks on as Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike, at al-Nuseirat refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 18 June 2024. (EPA)
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UN Human Rights Chief: Unconscionable Death and Suffering Happening in Gaza

A child looks on as Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike, at al-Nuseirat refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 18 June 2024. (EPA)
A child looks on as Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike, at al-Nuseirat refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 18 June 2024. (EPA)

Palestinians in the Israeli occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem are suffering a drastically worsening human rights environment, alongside "unconscionable death and suffering" in the Gaza Strip, the UN human rights chief said on Tuesday.

"The situation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is dramatically deteriorating," Volker Turk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the opening session of the UN Human Rights Council.

The West Bank, where the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority exercises limited self-rule under Israeli occupation, has seen the worst unrest for decades, in parallel with the war in the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Hamas.

Turk said that from the start of the Gaza war in October through mid-June, 528 Palestinians, 133 of them children, had been killed by Israeli security forces or settlers in the West Bank, in some cases raising "serious concerns of unlawful killings".

Twenty-three Israelis have been killed in the West Bank and Israel in clashes with or attacks by Palestinians, he said.

In Gaza, Turk said he was "appalled by the disregard for international human rights and humanitarian law" by parties to the war.

"Israel's relentless strikes in Gaza are causing immense suffering and widespread destruction, and the arbitrary denial and obstruction of humanitarian aid have continued," Turk said.

"Israel continues to detain arbitrarily thousands of Palestinians. This must not continue."

He added that Palestinian armed groups were continuing to hold hostages, including in populated areas, which put both the hostages and civilians at risk.

Israel's permanent mission to the UN in Geneva accused Turk of "completely omitting the cruelty and barbarity of terrorism" in his address to the UN Human Rights Council.

"Hostilities in Gaza are the direct result of Hamas terrorism, decades of rocket-fire and incitement against the Jewish people and the State of Israel, culminating in its brutal attacks against Israel on October 7," the diplomatic mission said in a statement.

Israel's ground and air campaign was triggered when Hamas-led fighters stormed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel's offensive has killed more than 37,400 people in Gaza, according to its health authorities, and left much of the enclave's population homeless.