In UN report on chemical weapons attack, evidence points to the Syrian government
Much has been written about a United Nations report on the chemical weapons attack on the Ghouta area outside of Damascus on August 21, but there is one key piece of evidence in the report that stands out.
While the UN team did not have a mandate to assign blame for the attack, they appear to have supplied enough signposts in their evidence for others to do just that. The most significant of those signposts was determining the trajectory of the rockets that landed on the sites visited by the team. Several maps have been produced, including this one by Human Rights Watch, which plot the trajectory of the rockets as determined by the UN team.
The Independent has produced a more detailed map of its own. As you can see in the image below, the trajectory of the rocket that landed on the area of Ein Tarma leads almost directly to a Syrian military base said to house the elite Republican Guard, in northern Damascus.
The relevant passage from the UN report reads:
“The projectile, in the last stage of its trajectory, hit the surface in an area of earthy, relatively soft, ground where the shaft/engine of the projectile remained dug in, undisturbed until investigated.
The said shaft/engine, presenting to form of lateral bending, pointed precisely in a bearing of 285 degrees that, again, represent a reverse azimuth to the trajectory followed by the rocket during its flight. It can be, thus, concluded, that the original azimuth of the rocket trajectory had an azimuth of 105 degrees, in an East/Southeast trajectory.”
In Moadamiyah, the second site visited by the UN team, a similar story emerges. If you plot the trajectories given by the UN team on a map they lead to the same hill that houses the Republican Guard base. In fact, the rockets would have passed directly above the grounds of Assad’s presidential palace.
Again, the relevant passage reads:
“In the final stage of this trajectory, the projectile hit and pierced through a vegetal screen existing over one of the adjacent walls, before impacting on the ground producing a shallow crater. The line linking the crater and the piercing of the vegetal screen can be conclusively established and has a bearing of 35 degrees. This line represents an inverse azimuth to the original trajectory or the rocket, that is to say, the original trajectory of the projectile, as it hit the ground, had an azimuth of 215 degrees.”
The map below shows the trajectory of the rocket, according to the UN.
Some journalists who have spent time studying the munitions used in the attack, such as the New York Times’ C.J. Chivers, have written about how the type of rockets and the delivery systems to fire them are beyond the current capabilities of the rebels. But to me, the maps above provide the most compelling evidence to implicate government forces in the attack.
As The Independent’s Kim Sengupta wrote on the day of the UN report, it would “be hard to explain how [the rebels] managed to carry out the operation from several points inside regime territory.”
The UN did not draw a big red arrow pointing to the Syrian army, but they gave all the information for someone else to do so.
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