A new study of images apparently from the Syrian massacre in August concludes that the rockets delivering toxic sarin gas to neighborhoods around Damascus, Syria, held up to 50 times more nerve agent than previously estimated, a conclusion that could solve the mystery of why there were so many more victims than in previous alleged chemical attacks.
The study, by leading weapons experts, also strongly suggests that the mass of toxic material could have come only from a large stockpile. U.S., British and French officials have charged that only the Syrian regime, and not the rebels, was in position to make such large quantities of deadly toxins.
Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress, in hearings Tuesday and Wednesday, that the United States believes the Syrian military was responsible for the attack, which killed 1,429.
The new study was conducted by Richard M. Lloyd, an expert in warhead design, and Theodore A. Postol, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They based their investigation on scores of online videos and photographs posted since the Aug. 21 attack.
In interviews and reports, the two weapons specialists said their analysis of rocket parts and wreckage posted online suggested that the warheads carried toxic payloads of about 50 liters, or 13 gallons, not the 1 or 2 liters (up to a half gallon) of nerve agent that some weapons experts had previously estimated.
"It accounts for the large number of causalities," Postol said.