by Xinhua writer Gu Zhenqiu
UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 26 (Xinhua) -- Unknown snipers shot at United Nations inspectors on Monday as they were heading for the eastern suburbs of Damascus, the Syrian capital, to investigate the latest alleged use of chemical weapons.
The incident highlighted the great importance to ensure a safe environment for the UN experts to do their job in the war-torn Syria.
"The first vehicle of the chemical weapons investigation team was deliberately shot at multiple times by unidentified snipers in the buffer zone area," UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said.
The attacks, which came on the first day of the UN investigation, prompted the UN fact-finding group to pull back from its attempt to probe the latest allegation on the possible use of chemical weapons near Damascus.
The UN inspectors later returned to their original destination to carry on the investigation after replacing their vehicle, which, Nesirky said, is no longer serviceable after the shooting incident.
Although no injuries were reported in the shooting, and the UN fact-finding mission, created by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in March at the request of the Syrian government, managed to go ahead with their investigation despite such very dangerous circumstances, it is very obvious that the UN experts are under threat when conducting their investigations in Syria.
The UN probe will try to establish only whether chemical weapons were used, not who used them. Damascus agreed on Sunday to allow the UN inspectors to visit the site.
Reports said that the chemical weapons attack occurred on Aug. 21 in the eastern suburbs of Damascus, killing at least hundreds of people.
The Syrian government and opposition have pointed fingers at each other for using the chemical weapons, and they both strongly denied doing so in the Syrian conflict, which followed a political crisis in the nation beginning in March 2011.
If confirmed, the reported strike may be the world's worst chemical weapons attack over the past 25 years.
Any use of chemical weapons under any conditions should not be acceptable to the international community, and the United Nations has made it clear that any use of such weapons should be held accountable.
At present, all eyes are on the UN inspectors in Syria and the international community hopes that the UN experts can conduct a thorough, objective and prompt investigation. But to carry out their important job like this, they, without any doubt, need a safe environment.
"I have instructed Angela Kane (UN disarmament chief) to register a strong complaint to the Syrian government and authorities of opposition forces so that this will never happen and the safety and security of the investigation teams will be secured from tomorrow," Ban said after he spoke with Kane, who is in Damascus to oversee the investigation.
Damascus has already welcomed the arrival of the UN inspectors and it granted them access to the site.
At present, the UN team has completed its first day of work, but in order to ensure a successful UN inquiry, all parties concerned need to cooperate with the UN experts to guarantee their safety and security in pursuing the chemical weapons allegations in Syria.