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Chlorine likely used in February attack in Syria (updated)

A child cries as they have their face wiped following the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma

Banned chlorine munitions were likely dropped on a Syrian neighbourhood in February, an international body on chemical weapons said on Wednesday, after laboratory tests confirmed the presence of the toxic chemical.

In its latest report on the systematic use of banned munitions in Syria’s civil war, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) did not say which party was behind the attack on Saraqib, which lies in rebel-held territory in the province of Idlib.

An OPCW fact finding mission for Syria “determined that chlorine was released from cylinders by mechanical impact in the Al Talil neighbourhood of Saraqib”, the organisation said in a statement.

Several people were treated at local medical facilities for breathing difficulties after the attack on Feb. 4.

The conclusions are based on the presence of two cylinders, which were determined as previously containing chlorine, witness testimony and environmental samples confirming “the unusual presence of chlorine”, it said.

A joint OPCW-United Nations mechanism for Syria has previously concluded that the Syrian government has used both sarin nerve agent and chlorine, killing and injuring hundreds of civilians. Rebels were found to have used sulphur mustard once on a small scale.

The government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has denied using chemical weapons and instead has blamed rebels for staging attacks to falsely implicate his forces in the atrocities.

The mechanism was disbanded in November following a Russian veto at the U.N. Security Council, a move which ratcheted up tension between Moscow and Western powers over chemical weapons use in Syria.

A suspected chemical attack on April 7 in the Douma enclave near Damascus prompted missile strikes by the United States, France and Britain against alleged chemical weapons facilities in Syria.

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