Man lying back with oxygen mask on his face (© Mohammad Al Shami/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A man is treated after a chemical weapons attack in Syria. (© Mohammad Al Shami/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Chemical weapons inspectors believe chlorine was likely used in Saraqib, Syria, in February in an incident that injured 11 people in a rebel-held area that Bashar al-Assad’s government was fighting to take back.

The inspectors identified the presence of chlorine in two cylinders found in the Saraqib neighborhood.

“The suffering that has been inflicted on the Syrian people by the Assad regime and its Iranian and Russian backers is abhorrent,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a May 17 statement. “Russia, which promised the world in 2013 that it would guarantee the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stocks, is ultimately responsible for their continued use there.”

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons conducted a comprehensive investigation of the incident. The group based its conclusion on the testimony of interviewees, samples made available by the interviewees, and hospital records.

The inspection agency, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013 for its work to eliminate chemical weapons, is still analyzing evidence gathered from an April 7 suspected chemical attack on Douma, Syria, that left scores of civilians dead. Its inspectors were held up in reaching that site after the government and Russian forces retook the city from rebels.