UK government to protect Syrian rebels from chemical arms
LONDON / DAMASCUS
Mortar fire from inside war-torn Syria hit the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights without causing any damage or casualties, according to officials. AFP photoBritain is to supply Syrian rebels with equipment to protect them against chemical weapons attacks “as a matter of special urgency,” Foreign Secretary William Hague said yesterday.
The British government will supply “moderate” opposition fighters with 5,000 protective hoods, as well as pre-treatment tablets and chemical weapons detector paper to be used in the event of a sarin gas attack.
Hague said the equipment costing $991,000 needed to be sent urgently as there was evidence that forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad were using chemical weapons against the rebels.
“We believe that the use of chemical weapons is sanctioned and ordered by the al-Assad regime,” he said in a written statement to Parliament. “We plan to equip the moderate armed opposition with 5,000 escape hoods, nerve-agent pre-treatment tablets (NAPs) and chemical weapons detector paper.”
The United States and France have also accused the al-Assad government of using banned arms including sarin, but Damascus has repeatedly denied the accusations.
The hoods protect wearers against the effects of sarin for up to 20 minutes, Hague said.
Someone wearing a hood would be able to move away from the area hit by the nerve agent, but they could not continue to fight.
The tablets, meanwhile, could give those hit by a sarin attack time to get to a medical center to receive further treatment.
The equipment will be given to the Supreme Military Council of the Syrian National Coalition, which Britain recognizes as the sole legitimate representatives of the Syrian people.