A team of investigators on Sunday began their probe of chemical weapons use by the Syrian government and the anti-Assad rebels, according to Jonathan Newsom, a U.S. law enforcement expert in weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
The investigators were dispatched by the United Nations Security Council and they entered the Syrian capital of Damascus to start there investigation without incident.
The UN team claimed they would be probing the alleged use of chemical weapons, such as sarin gas, in areas where both the Syrian military and the radical Islamist-faction of the rebel forces, according to Newsom.
The UN team, which is believed to comprise at least 10 weapons experts arrived at the Four Seasons hotel in five UN SUVs and checked in without making any statement to the international media.
The investigative group which originated in The Hague, in the Netherlands, was assembled in this month, according to chemical weapons expert Ake Sellstrom of Sweden, who once served as part of the UN weapons inspection unit in Iraq, prior to the U.S.-led invasion that led to the overthrow of Iraq's ruthless leader, Saddam Hussein.
According to a UN statement, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon requested Sellstrom to set up the group back in March. The decision was the result of accusations made by the Syrian government that the rebel forces were using chemical weapons against civilians.
The investigation will be unfettered and unimpeded according to a UN-Syrian agreement signed in July. The agreement stipulates that investigators will be given access to at least three alleged sites where witnesses claimed there was WMD use.
At least 25 people were killed and 130 others wounded on March 19 when armed men allegedly fired a projectile filled with some type of chemical in the Khan al-Asal district of Syria.
The Syrian government and the rebels have accused one another of using chemical weapons, but the rebels and the Assad-regime have denied they used any chemical weapons during the civil war.
Syria's ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Ja’afari, told correspondents at a press conference: “You may have heard trumped up charges and fraudulent allegations against the Syrian Government, including false charges by France, the United Kingdom and other nations that the [Assad government] had used chemical weapons against its own people. Such information must be shared with Syria as the main party concerned. But no such information had been shared with anyone, including Security Council members."
"The allegations were part of an overarching media, political and diplomatic campaign of incitement against the Government," he said. "While many fraudulent allegations had been made about the so-called chemical weapons of the Syrian Government, it was important to note that Syria had been endorsing resolutions on the establishment of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East for some 40 years."