French authorities have found material samples indicating Bashar al-Assad’s forces’ potential usage of chemical weaponry to suppress the ongoing rebellion in his country, Israel National News reported.
Journalists from the French Le Monde newspaper apparently smuggled the relevant materials out of Syria, the report found.
A French official claimed Paris had concluded from other acquired samples that Damascus was using battlefield gas, according to Reuters.
“Samples were handed to our intelligence services by the Le Monde journalists,” a senior official told Reuters on the condition of anonymity. “Tests will be done on these samples and the results made known in the coming days.”
Assad and the rebels have repeatedly accused one another of using chemical weapons, Reuters further reported.
Le Monde claims one reporter and photographer of the newspaper spent two months in Syria undercover, where they witnessed “battlefield chemical attacks and also talked to doctors and other witnesses about their aftermath,” Reuters reported.
The undercover reporters specifically described the biological effect of these chemicals on their victims. While victims first show signs of coughing and burning pupils, “Soon they experience difficulty breathing, sometimes in the extreme; they begin to vomit or lose consciousness,” Le Monde wrote, according to Reuters. “The fighters worst affected need to be evacuated before they suffocate.”
“In two months spent reporting on the outskirts of the Syrian capital, we encountered similar cases across a much larger region,” the Le Monde reporters continued, Reuters reported. “Their gravity, their increasing frequency and the tactic of using such arms shows that what is being released is not just tear gas, which is used on all fronts, but products of a different class that are far more toxic.”
“If we have enough elements that converge to say that chemical weapons were used, then we will have to take a decision with our partners to examine the possible consequences,” the anonymous official told Reuters.
Syria is believed to have one of the last undeclared chemical stockpiles in the world, Reuters furtherreported.