Yet, it was just a month ago that Syrian forces found a large cache of chemical weapons in a Damascus warehouse belonging to the rebels.
From July 14, 2013:
Syrian rebels’ Damascus chemical cache found by Assad army. The Syrian army has discovered a storehouse belonging to rebels in the Damascus area of Jobar, where toxic chemical substances – including chlorine – have been produced and kept, State TV reported.
RT Military sources reported that the militants “were preparing to fire mortars in the suburbs of the capital and were going to pack missiles with chemical warheads.”
A video shot by RT’s sister channel Russia Al Youm shows an old, partly ruined building which was set up as a laboratory. After entering the building, Syrian Army officers found scores of canisters and bags laid on the floor and tables. According to a warning sign on the bags, the “corrosive” substance was made in Saudi Arabia.
On July 7, the Syrian army confiscated “281 barrels filled with dangerous, hazardous chemical materials”that they found at a cache belonging to rebels in the city of Banias. The chemicals included monoethylene glycol and polyethylene glycol.
Syrian UN Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari said that the chemicals were “capable of destroying a whole city, if not the whole country.”
Chief UN chemical weapons investigator Ake Sellstrom and UN disarmament chief Angela Kane are expected in Damascus for talks on Monday, following an invitation from the Syrian government.
From August 21, 2013:
Syria’s opposition accused President Bashar al-Assad’s forces of gassing many hundreds of people – by one report as many as 1,300 – on Wednesday in what would, if confirmed, be the world’s worst chemical weapons attack in decades.
REUTERS Western and regional countries called for U.N. chemical weapons investigators – who arrived in Damascus just three days ago – to be urgently dispatched to the scene of one of the deadliest incidents of the two-year-old civil war.
Russia, too, urged an “objective” investigation but Assad’s biggest foreign ally also heaped skepticism on his enemies’ claims. A foreign ministry spokesman in Moscow said the release of gas after U.N. inspectors arrived suggested that it was a rebel “provocation” to discredit Syria’s government.
Images, including some by freelance photographers supplied to Reuters, showed scores of bodies including of small children, laid on the floor of a clinic with no visible signs of injuries. Reuters was not able to verify the cause of their deaths. The Syrian government denied that it had used chemical arms.
Noting the “criminal act” took place as the U.N. team got to work, the Russian spokesman said: “This cannot but suggest that once again we are dealing with a pre-planned provocation … We call on all those who can influence the armed extremists make every effort to end provocations with chemical agents.”
George Sabra, one of the leading opponents of Assad, said the death toll was 1,300 killed by poison gas released over suburbs east of Damascus.
“Today’s crimes are … not the first time the regime has used chemical weapons. But they constitute a turning point in the regime’s operations,” he told a news conference in Istanbul. “This time it was for annihilation rather than terror.”
An opposition monitoring group, citing figures compiled from medical clinics in the Damascus suburbs, put the death toll at 494 – 90 percent of them killed by gas, the rest by bombing and conventional arms. The rebel Syrian National Coalition said 650 people had been killed.
If the cause of death and the scale of the killing were confirmed, it would be the worst known use of chemical weapons since Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein gassed thousands of Kurds in the town of Halabja in 1988.
Activists said rockets with chemical agents hit the Damascus suburbs of Ain Tarma, Zamalka and Jobar during fierce pre-dawn bombardment by government forces.
The Damascus Media Office monitoring center said 150 bodies were counted in Hammouriya, 100 in Kfar Batna, 67 in Saqba, 61 in Douma, 76 in Mouadamiya and 40 in Irbib.
Residents of the capital said mortars later hit government-held areas in Faris Khoury Street and the Malki district, where Assad has a residence. There were no reports of injuries. Heavy air strikes continued throughout the day against the rebel suburbs of Mouadamiya and Jobar.