OPCW-UN Investigating Team Visits Syria

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) visited Syria in late August as part of its ongoing investigation to determine the group responsible for the April 4 chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhoun. A Syrian man prays July 12 at a cemetery in Khan Sheikhoun, a rebel-held town in Idlib province, 100 days after the alleged sarin nerve-gas attack by Syrian government forces that was reported to have killed more than 90 people, including women and children. (Photo credit: Omar Haj Kadour/AFP/Getty Images)U.S. intelligence agencies allege that Syrian government forces carried out the attack, while Syrian President Bashar al-Assad called the incident a “fabrication” shortly after it occurred and has since denied responsibility. “We will offer [the JIM] all facilitations needed for the investigation and to help it arrive to the place where the alleged chemical attack took place,” Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad was quoted as saying in an Aug. 12 report in The Washington Post.

An OPCW fact-finding mission confirmed the Khan Sheikhoun attack and identified the weapon used as sarin gas in a June 29 report, but it did not assign blame, which is the JIM’s task. German media reported an increase in chemical weapons attacks in Syria in July after a brief respite in May and June. Local groups documented at least seven chemical weapons attacks in and around Damascus in July.—ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE