Syria | Several Countries Accuse Assad of Using Chemical Weapons
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- Several Countries Accuse Assad of Using Chemical Weapons
- Gains by Government and Splintering of Opposition Signal Staying Power of Assad
- Assad Accused of Launching a Chemical Attack
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Several Countries Accuse Assad of Using Chemical Weapons
In April 2013, Israel's highest ranking intelligence analyst, Brig. Gen. Itai Brun, said he had evidence that Assad had used chemical weapons, specifically sarin, a deadly nerve agent, on rebels. That followed the assertion by France and England that Assad unleashed chemical weapons on rebel-held areas in Damascus, Aleppo, and Homs in March. The U.S. initially distanced itself from Israel's conclusion, but on April 25, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said the intelligence community thinks—with varying degrees of confidence—that Assad had used chemical weapons. He said the U.S. would need confirmation before considering action against Assad. Given the lesson learned from Iraq, the U.S. is wary of rushing to intervene without incontrovertible evidence that the weapons had been unleashed. In June, the U.S. determined that Assad had used chemical agents b on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last yearb and said it would begin supplying arms and ammunition to the rebels. The Obama administration, however, said it would not give them anti-aircraft weapons, which the rebels have requested.
In early May 2013, Israel ordered two airstrikes on Damascus. Israeli officials maintained that the airstrikes were not meant as a way for Israel to become involved in Syria's ongoing civil war. Instead, the strikes focused on military warehouses in an effort to prevent Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shiite militia group with strong ties to Iran, from getting more weapons. Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, declared at the end of May that the militant group was throwing its full support behind Assad and would send troops into Syria to fight alongside Syrian troops.
In May, the EU failed to renew the organization's arms embargo on Syria. The move suggested that some European countries may begin to arm the rebels.