Syrian government forces allegedly committed yet another chemical attack, local opposition affiliated media reported last Sunday.
Despite the seriousness of the accusations the reports did not provide any details. Nothing was certain except for the location of the incident – the village of Kabani that is perched on a commanding height on the border between Lattakia and Hama, two northwestern Syrian province. After a while the media claimed there were casualties – four people, including an information activist – who exhibited symptoms of exposure to a chemical agent and were delivered to a field hospital in the opposition-controlled Idlib province.
The accusations against the Syrian army were not backed by documentary evidence. No pictures or videos depicting the incident or the victims could be found online. The reports also did not clarify what the victims were doing in Kabani, that had been long abandoned by the residents due to heavy clashes between the Syrian troops and the opposition factions.
Despite the evident lack of details only a couple of days later the Western states blamed the Syrian government for the use of chemical weapons. The US State Department claimed it “detected signs” that Damascus may be renewing its use of chemical weapons. This stance was shared by Britain’s Theresa May who promised to respond “appropriately” if the allegations were confirmed. In turn, the French Foreign Ministry published a statement calling for “punishment” for those who carry out chemical attacks.
On a side note, US Special Envoy for Syria James F. Jeffrey acknowledged that the US has no evidence of the Syrian army using chemical weapons. The Pentagon has also distanced itself from the State Department’s strong statement, cautiously stating that the military were “reviewing the situation.”
Pentagon’s cautiousness, as it turned out, was justified. Two days after the alleged attack, the Syrian Observatory For Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, declared the reports about the use of chemical weapons fake.
According to the monitor that gathers information from a large net of ground sources in Syria, the reports of chemical weapons being used were originally spread by members of the Turkistan Islamic Party, a radical armed group allied with Al Qaeda’s affiliates in Syria of Hayat Tahrir Al Sham (HTS).