A rocket blast in Syrian city Aleppo went off on Monday, leaving at least 26 people dead, including 16 soldiers, and 86 injured according to Syrian news agency SANA. Both the Assad regime and the Syrian rebels are condemning each other for the strike. Both sides agree, however, that chemical weapons were used, but these declarations are unconfirmed.
A Reuters photographer was present during the attack and visited hospital wards that many people were relocated to after the blast. Many of the victims experienced breathing problems and reported an odor of chlorine after the rocket hit.
SANA claims that there were two letters sent by the Foreign and Expatriates Ministry after the attack, one to the President of the UN Security Council and the UN Secretary General, stating “the missile fell in a region populated by civilians [in the village of Khan al-Assal of the northern province] on a 300- m distance from the post of the Syrian Arab army soldiers.”
United States government officials have previously claimed that they would pursue military involvement in Syria if they were to use chemical weapons. There have been reports that Syria was developing WMD capabilities. In December of last year, President Obama said, “The use of chemical weapons is and would be totally unacceptable. And if [Assad and those under his command] make the tragic mistake of using these weapons, there will be consequences and you will be held accountable.”
President Obama has stated that he wants to use non-military options with Syria before pursuing intervention: “I think it is very important for us to try to resolve this without recourse to outside military intervention.”
White House held a press conference press conference with reporters and administrators after this news broke out where their spokesman Jay Carney stated, “We are looking carefully at allegations of … chemical weapons use, we are evaluating them. We have no evidence to substantiate the charge that the opposition has used chemical weapons.”
The Department of State also commented on the issue claiming that there is “no reason to believe the allegation” of chemical weapons usage. Two members of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Representative Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) informed CNN that they strongly feel that chemical weapons were used.
Rogers brought up future United States involvement if this was proven true. “If in fact we prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that they have used these chemical weapons … I think we are morally obligated to do something about their ability to deliver these weapons,” he said.
While it is inconclusive now whether chemical weapons were used, it is clear that the U.S. government is prioritizing its future involvement in Syria.