On December 3, 2012, President Barack Obama warned Syria that the use of chemical weapons would be “totally unacceptable.” It was a red line not to be crossed.
But that was two weeks ago.
This past Sunday Syrian medics reported that poisonous gas was sprayed in a rebel-held neighbourhood in Homs. Yesterday, the former head of Syria’s military police who just defected confirmed that the regime had used chemical weapons in an attack on Homs.
The Independent reported:
The head of Syria’s military police defected to the opposition, accusing the Assad regime of systematic “murder” and claiming that reports of chemical weapons being used against rebels in the restive city of Homs were true.
Maj-Gen Abdul-Aziz Jassim al-Shallal became one of the highest ranking Syrian military officers to throw their support behind the rebels, accusing forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad of turning their weapons on innocent civilians in the now 22-month-long civil war.
“I declare my defection from the army because of its deviation from its fundamental mission to protect the nation and [its] transformation into gangs of murder and destruction,” he said in a video message posted online, reportedly from the Turkish border.
He accused the military of “destroying cities and villages and committing massacres against our innocent people who came out to demand freedom.” General Shallal suggested in his message that he had been working with the opposition for some time before he formally defected to the rebel cause.
He becomes the latest in a string of leading military advisers to abandon the government and join the disparate rebels. But it is his claim that chemical weapons were used in Homs during a deadly attack on Christmas Eve that is likely to be of greater interest to the Syrian opposition and their foreign backers.