The world's chemical weapons watchdog is to launch an investigation into the alleged use of chlorine gas in a recent attack on a rebel bastion in Syria, the organisation said Tuesday.
The head of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Ahmet Uzumcu, announced "the creation of an OPCW mission to establish facts surrounding allegations of use of chlorine in Syria", a statement said.
He told a meeting of the body's executive council at its headquarters in The Hague that the mission would leave soon.
"The Syrian government, which has agreed to accept this mission, has undertaken to provide security in areas under its control," the statement said.
"The mission will carry out its work in the most challenging circumstances."
The new probe comes after France and the United States alleged that President Bashar al-Assad's forces may have unleashed industrial chemicals on the rebel-held village of Kafr Zita in central Hama province this month.
France made the first claim last week with President François Hollande saying his country had "information" that Assad's regime was still using chemical weapons, despite a disarmament deal agreed last August in the wake of deadly sarin nerve agent attacks outside Damascus.
The United States has said it is investigating the allegations.
"We have indications of the use of a toxic industrial chemical, probably chlorine, in Syria this month, in the opposition-dominated village of Kafr Zita," White House spokesman Jay Carney said on April 21.
There have been conflicting accounts of the alleged chlorine attack on Kafr Zita, with the government and the opposition trading blame.
Activists have also reported other chlorine gas attacks, most recently in Idlib province, in the northwest, last week.
Syria has handed over or destroyed all but around eight percent of its chemical material under the terms of the US- and Russian-brokered disarmament deal, which averted the threat of US military action last year.
It was supposed to have handed over all of its stockpile by Sunday, but the remainder is still being held at one site in the war-torn nation.
Syria was not required to declare its stockpile of chlorine - a toxic but weak agent - as part of the disarmament deal as it is widely used for commercial and domestic purposes.
Meanwhile, the death toll in Syria’s bloody conflict continues to rise, with reports Tuesday of separate attacks in the cities of Damascus and Homs in which dozens were killed.
A mortar attack on a mainly Shiite district of central Damascus killed at least 14, the state news agency SANA reported.
A religious school was one of the buildings hit in the attack, said SANA.
Shortly after, at least 37 people were killed when two car bombs exploded in a government-held district of the central city of Homs, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2014-04-29