By Becky Bratu, Staff Writer, NBC News
Khaled Al-Hariri / Reuters
U.N. vehicles transporting a team of experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) return to their hotel in Damascus on Oct. 6.
A team of international experts began the process of destroying Syria’s chemical weapons on Sunday, according to the United Nations.
The group consists of international inspectors from the Netherlands-based watchdog Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons along with a U.N. team.
Under their supervision, “Syrian personnel used cutting torches and angle grinders to destroy or disable a range of items,” said Eri Kaneko, associate spokeswoman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon‘s office.
“This included missile warheads, aerial bombs and mixing and filling equipment. The process will continue in the coming days,” she added.
The disarmament team arrived in Damascus on Tuesday.
Their mission follows a deadly chemical attack on Aug. 21 aimed at Damascus suburbs under the control of rebel fighters.
While the United States, its allies and the opposition blame the regime of the embattled President Bashar Assad for the attack that killed hundreds, the Syrian government has blamed the rebels.
The attack also prompted the Obama administration to threaten the Syrian regime with military strikes, which set off weeks of diplomatic negotiations that ended with a U.N. resolution on Sept. 27.
More than 100,000 have died since the conflict in Syria began in 2011 with demonstrations that have since degenerated into a bloody civil war.
“Waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
BEIRUT The Syrian opposition said Wednesday that state security forces had launched intense artillery and rocket barrages on the eastern suburbs of the capital Damascus, claiming that hundreds of people died in what was being called a “poisonous gas” attack.
The attack coincided with the visit by a 20-member U.N. chemical weapons team to Syria to investigate three sites where chemical weapons attacks allegedly occurred during the past year. Their presence raises questions about why the regime – which called the claims of the attack Wednesday “absolutely baseless” – would use chemical agents at this time.
In a statement, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said the U.S. is deeply concerned by reports chemical weapons use in Syria, and that the Obama administration is “working urgently to gather additional information.
“If the Syrian government has nothing to hide and is truly committed to an impartial and credible investigation of chemical weapons use in Syria, it will facilitate the U.N. team’s immediate and unfettered access to this site,” Earnest said.
The Egypt-based Arab League condemned the “horrific attack” against civilians and called for an investigation.
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