BEIRUT — The trajectory of the rockets that delivered the nerve agent sarin in last month’s deadly attack is among the key evidence linking elite Syrian troops based in the mountains overlooking Damascus to the strike that killed hundreds of people, diplomats and human rights officials said Wednesday.
The Aug. 21 attack precipitated the crisis over Syria’s chemical weapons. The U.S. threatened a military strike against Syria, which led to a plan negotiated by Moscow and Washington under which the regime of President Bashar Assad is to abandon its chemical weapons stockpile.
A U.N. report released Monday confirmed chemical weapons were used in the attack but did not ascribe blame.
The United States, Britain and France cited evidence in the report to declare Assad’s government responsible. Russia called the report “one-sided” and says it has “serious reason to suggest that this was a provocation” by the rebels fighting the Assad regime in Syria’s civil war.
The report, however, provided data that suggested the chemical-loaded rockets that hit two Damascus suburbs were fired from the northwest, indicating they came from nearby mountains where the Syrian military is known to have major bases.
Mount Qassioun, which overlooks Damascus, is home to one of Assad’s three residences and is widely used by elite forces to shell suburbs of the capital. The powerful Republican Guard and army’s Fourth Division, headed by Assad’s younger brother, Maher, has bases there.
A senior U.N. diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because some of this material was from private meetings, said: “It was 100 percent clear that the regime used chemical weapons.”
The diplomat cited five key details, including the scale of the attack, the quality of the sarin, the type of rockets, the warheads used and the rockets’ trajectory.
A Human Rights Watch report also said the presumed flight path of the rockets cited by the U.N. inspectors’ report led back to a Republican Guard base in Mount Qassioun.