Amnesty International said Thursday that a suspected chlorine gas attack in Aleppo could amount to a war crime [press release]. The BBC reported [BBC report] Thursday that the Syrian government is suspected of using a chlorine gas attack in Aleppo, killing several and injuring many more. It is believed that the chlorine was dropped in a barrel bomb and global body’s experts have been confirmed to be investigating the matter. According to the UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura, if the reports of the chlorine bomb are true, “it is a war crime,” and she emphasized the need to “address [the problem] immediately.” In response, Russia announced they would cease fire for several hours on Thursday in order to allow aid. However, witnesses in Aleppo claim there was no ceasefire. Chlorine gas results in severe respiratory issues, including asphyxiation, and is also very harmful to the eyes and skin.
The conflict in Syria [JURIST backgrounder] has continued for five years in a civil war based around the legitimacy of President Bashar al-Assad [BBC reports]. Last month Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] reported [JURIST report] cluster bombs have been targeted at civilians and rebels in Northern Syria. Last month UN human rights experts called for the immediate protection [JURIST report] of thousands of Syrian civilians. In May Amnesty International [advocacy website] reported that armed opposition groups in Syria are committing war crimes around the Sheikh Maqsoud district of Aleppo city. Earlier that month top UN official Stephen O’Brien called for the immediate investigation of recent airstrikes in Syria, which may amount to war crimes for intentionally targeting civilians [JURIST report].