U.N. inspectors have found that the banned nerve agent sarin, loaded in rockets, was used “on a relatively large scale” in an attack on the outskirts of the Syrian capital, Damascus, last month that the Obama administration says killed more than 1,400 people.
“On the basis of the evidence obtained during our investigation of the Ghouta incident, the conclusion is that, on 21 August 2013, chemical weapons have been used in the ongoing conflict between the parties in the Syrian Arab Republic; also against civilians, including children, on a relatively large scale,” the U.N. inspectors, who investigated the scene of the attack, said in a report made public Monday.
“In particular, the environmental, chemical and medical samples, we have collected, provide clear and convincing evidence that surface-to-surface rockets containing the nerve agent sarin were used in Ein Tarma, Moadamiyah and Zamalka in the Ghouta area of Damascus,” the report says.
The U.N. report does not ascribe blame for the attack in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta.
Western officials say it is unlikely that the multiple rebel groups fighting against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime would have the rockets to deliver chemical weapons.
The U.N. inspectors found that remnants of rockets at the scene of the attack contained sarin, and areas close to where these rockets struck were contaminated with the nerve agent.
The report cites more than 50 interviews with survivors and healthcare workers, and an analysis of blood and urine samples of the patients that tested positive for sarin.
“This result leaves us with the deepest concern,” the inspectors said.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon presented the report Monday to the U.N. Security Council at a closed-door session.