It is unclear if rockets fired into the Syrian city of Aleppo last weekend contained chemical toxins, a senior humanitarian adviser to the UN said today (29 Nov), adding that if they did, it would constitute a war crime.
Jan Egeland, Co-Chair of the International Syria Support Group’s Humanitarian Access Task Force and Senior Advisor of the UN Special Envoy for Syria, said, “we as the UN do not know who sent in the mortars in western Aleppo that may have included chemical agents.”
Egeland said, “therefore, the OPCW, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, will investigate; the World Health Organization (WHO) has rushed medical supplies to the hospitals treating these people. If it is use of a chemical weapon, it is a war crime.”
Egeland’s comments coincide with an escalation of fighting in Idlib in northern Syria, which is home to opposition militants and around three million civilians.
The escalation was a “giant powder keg” in a heavily populated area, he warned, adding that airstrikes had resumed after two months of relative calm.
Egeland said, “what is true is that a number of groups have sent a number of grenades out of the zone,” adding that “Government and other forces have sent – as I see it, equal numbers of grenades – into the zone.”
A fragile ceasefire between Government forces and opposition fighters has held in Idlib for 10 weeks, guaranteed by Russia, Turkey and Iran, who re-committed to the deal at talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, on Thursday.
Egeland, who welcomed the original deal, warned at the time that the alternative – clashes between opposition and Government forces – would cause massive bloodshed and destruction similar to that inflicted on other major cities, including Homs, Aleppo, Raqqa and rural Damascus.
In his last press encounter as Co-Chair of the humanitarian task force before stepping down, Egeland offered insight into the difficulties of achieving the mechanism’s two main aims since it was established in early 2016: securing aid access and protecting civilians. UNTV CH