Syrian opposition to get chemical weapons gear

July 16, 2013 at 12:18 PM
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LONDON, July 16 (UPI) -- The British government said Tuesday it was giving the Syrian opposition equipment to protect itself from chemical weapons attacks by pro-government forces.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Syrian President Bashar Assad ordered chemical weapons attacks against opposition forces in Syria.

"There is evidence of attacks using chemical weapons in Syria, including sarin," he said in a statement. "We believe that the use of chemical weapons is sanctioned and ordered by the Assad regime."

Hague said Tuesday the government was giving opposition forces 5,000 protective hoods, pre-treatment tables and chemical weapons detection equipment. None of the material gifted to the opposition requires special fitting or training.

The U.S. government in June said it believed more than 100 people in Syria were killed by chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, launched by pro-government forces.

U.S. President Obama has said the use of chemical weapons by Syrian government forces was a "red line" that would trigger U.S. reaction. There's been no indication, however, of an imminent intervention by unilateral or international forces.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said Tuesday the crisis has been going on for far longer than "anyone had feared." Refugees are fleeing Syria at a rate of 6,000 people per day.

"We have not seen a refugee outflow escalate at such a frightening rate since the Rwandan genocide almost 20 years ago," he said.

Syria's civil war began in early 2011.

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