JERUSALEM (JWN and agencies)—Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces employed nerve gas in his latest assault on Homs, according to a chemical warfare officer who defected from the Syrian Army.
The defector, Capt. Abdul Salam Ahmed Abdul Razek, told the Al-Arabiya network that the government used nerve gas under the supervision of Russian and Iranian scientists, and said Assad intends to do so again in other parts of the country.
Abdul Razek, who worked in the Syrian army’s Chemical Warfare Division, said the army has in its possession large quantities of “a poisonous asphyxiating substance that is banned internationally.” According to Israeli defense sources, the nerve gas is probably sarin, developed in 1938 by Nazi Germany.
Sarin has been classified as a weapon of mass destruction in UN Resolution 687. The production and stockpiling of sarin was outlawed by the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993. Sarin is estimated to be 500 times more toxic than cyanide.
“A little amount of this is enough to carry out a mass extermination,” Abdul Razek said.
The gases, Abdul Razek added, are used under the supervision of both Russia and Iran. “Russia is the source of those gases and Iran provides advice on how, when, and where they are to be used,” he said.
Abdul Razek told Al-Arabiya that the prohibited gases were made available only to the Fourth Battalion of the Syrian Army and the Presidential Guard.
The use of those gases and other brutal measures taken against civilians, Abdul Razek said, demonstrate that the Syrian Army has one purpose in mind: killing the Syrian people. “For example, what happened in Rif Dimashq was genocide.”
This, he added, is what drives many officers to defect. “Now security forces are very alert and they watch closely anyone suspected of not being loyal to the regime,” Abdul Razek said.
“Some officers have not been given one day off for the past few months for fear they would defect.” Other officers, he said, were interrogated just for watching satellite channels that cover the ongoing protests in Syria, such as Al-Arabiya.
Last week Russia and China vetoed a Security Council resolution that would have condemned the escalating violence in Syria, a move that has apparently encouraged Assad to feel immune to criticism of his atrocities by the international community.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, told the UN General Assembly on Monday that the failure of the Security Council to act against the violence in Syria has emboldened Assad to escalate his deadly crackdown on dissidents.
Pillay singled out Assad’s assault on Homs, where she said the Syria Army had targeted civilians using “tanks, mortars, rockets, and artillery.” She spoke before news of Assad’s reported use of nerve gas against the city became known.
She told the assembly that the situation in Homs is “deplorable” and that “food remains scarce,” with the city of more than 800,000 often without electricity. Residents have been “effectively trapped in areas under attack” by indiscriminate shelling by the army.
Pillay noted that more than 300 civilians have been killed in Homs in the past 10 days. “The majority of them were victims of the shelling of densely populated neighborhoods,” she said.
“The failure of the Security Council to agree on firm collective action appears to have emboldened the Syrian government to launch an all-out assault in an effort to crush dissent with overwhelming force,” Pillay told the General Assembly.
In Israel, President Shimon Peres reacted to the escalating violence in Syria by calling Assad a “murderer” who is killing men, women, and children. “It is forbidden for the citizens for the world to stand to the side,” Peres said before a meeting in Jerusalem with visiting Croatian President Ivo Josipovic.
“I must say that the fact that the Arab League turned to the UN for the first time with a request to send military forces to save the citizens and children of Syria is very important in the struggle for freedom, democracy and preserving the dignity of man and the Syrian people,” he said. Peres praised the dissidents for continuing to take to the streets against Assad and showing “courage under fire.”