Senior Israeli defense officials said Monday that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime used chemical weapons in two attacks in Damascus 10 days ago, according to a report in The Times of Israel.
Officials said that the chemical agents used in these attacks were nonlethal, but were used to incapacitate opposition fighters. The two chemical attacks were carried out on March 27 in the Harasta neighborhood of Damascus, and the effects of the chemicals lasted for several hours.
According to officials, the chemical compound used in the attacks was not among those listed that Syria committed to dispose of when it signed an agreement in September 2013 to give up its chemical weapons.
The report is consistent with accusations from Syrian opposition groups, which last month claimed that Assad loyalists had used chemical agents in attacks.
Following international outrage over an Assad chemical attack which killed hundreds in August of last year, Syria agreed to have its ample supply of chemical weapons removed from the country. However, the process is taking longer than planned. According to Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, 60 percent of Syria’s chemical weapons have been removed from the country in recent months in accordance with the agreement. Some 1,300 metric tons of chemicals remain to be removed and destroyed by the June 30, 2014 agreement deadline
According to Ya’alon, Israel is keeping a close eye on the removal process, specifically in order to ensure that none of the chemical agents are transferred to the Hezbollah terror group.
Though there had been rumors for many months of their use, Israeli intelligence exposed the Assad regime’s chemical weapons attacks last year. In April 2013, Israeli army military intelligence analyst Itai Brun declared publicly that Assad was using nerve gas against rebel forces: “To the best of our professional understanding, the regime has used lethal chemical weapons,” he said at the time, and specified that the IDF believed the toxic element was sarin. He noted then that it had been used on more than one occasion, including in an attack on March 19, 2013.
His assertion was subsequently accepted by US and other officials.