By Debora MacKenzie
Nerve gas is back. Images of the victims and reports from doctors on the scene of yesterday’s Syrian government air strike on the rebel-held northern town of Khan Sheikhoun suggest the weapon used was the nerve agent, sarin. At least 70 men, women and children died and hundreds were injured.
The timing of the attack seems startling, just a day ahead of today’s meeting in Brussels at which 70 countries are meant to discuss funding the reconstruction of Syria, and a week after senior US officials disavowed previous US calls to remove Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. It may have been aimed at sowing discord among Western allies, or demonstrating the regime’s defiance.
But it could also just be a continuation of war as usual for the Assad regime, which has been increasingly using chemical attacks to terrorise civilians for the past several months, even though in 2013 it signed the international treaty banning chemical weapons and agreed to let its chemical stockpile be destroyed.
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