It’s Official: Mustard Gas Has Been Used in Syria

It’s Official: Mustard Gas Has Been Used in Syria

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Sulfur mustard has supposedly been disposed of in Syria over a year ago, when President Bashar al-Assad’s regime agreed to clear out its chemical weapons stash after joining the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons under US pressure. Sulfur mustard, also known as mustard gas, is now back in Syria, according to a new OPCW report. The watchdog found evidence of mustard gas use in fighting between insurgents groups in Marea, Syria this last August.

First used in battle in World War I, the effects of the gas range from blistering of the skin, irritation to the eyes and swelling of the eyelids, causing temporary blindness in victims. In cases with high concentration of the gas exposure can be fatal, due to the severity of the burns. Syria first began stockpiling chemical weapons in 1972. Egypt likely supplied the weapons before the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

The Syrian chemical weapons stockpile came to international attention in August 2013, after a deadly sarin gas attack in Damascus killed more than 1,400 people. 1,300 tons of chemical weapons, including sulfur mustard, were destroyed after President Assad was cajoled into joining the OPCW the same year.

Now the weapons are back in use. At least two people were exposed to mustard gas in the attack in Marea, where ISIL insurgents were fighting another rebel group. One of them, an infant, died. The OPCW report stated that “it is very likely that the effects of sulfur mustard resulted in the death of a baby.”

This is not the first case of an alleged chemical weapons use in fighting in the war-torn region. In March, Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq reported that ISIL fighter have used chlorine gas against them. Human Rights Watch previously accused President Assad of dropping barrels filled with chlorine in fighting over a rebel-held area during six attacks in March. The OPCW report confirms that chlorine was used as a weapon “systematically and repeatedly” across northern Syria earlier this year.

The OPCW has now set up a special mission to investigate who is behind the attacks. Activist groups have accused militants from the Islamic State of using the gas as part of their efforts to capture Marea.

The Obama Administration has yet to comment on how it plans to respond to the latest use of mustard gas in Syria.