U.S.: Syria did not use chemical weapons in Homs

The Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad did not use chemical weapons against residents of Homs in December, but did misuse a riot-control gas, according to senior U.S. officials.

Doctors and activists in Homs alleged that Syria used chemical weapons during an attack on the city of Homs on December 23. The U.S. State Department launched a probe after reports surfaced of dozens of victims suffering from respiratory, nervous system and gastrointestinal ailments after inhaling the gas, CNN reports.

Foreign Policy's blog "The Cable" reported on Tuesday that a leaked diplomatic cable made a strong case that al-Assad's military used chemical weapons during the attack.

The inquiry determined that the gas was a riot control agent that was not meant to produce lasting effects. The gas became more dangerous when it was released in dense areas and not dispersed quickly in the air.

"It is meant to be short term," an official said, according to CNN. "But just like with tear gas, if you breathe in an entire canister, that can have a severe effect on your lungs and other organs. That doesn't make it a chemical weapon, however."

Six people were killed during the gas attack and approximately 100 people were affected by the mysterious gas. People further away from the source suffered labored breathing, nervousness, hallucination, disorientation and lack of limb control. Those closest to the gas experienced paralysis, seizures, muscle spasms and, in some cases, blindness.

Advocacy group Human Rights Watch agreed with the State Department that it was unable to confirm that chemical weapons were used during the incident, McClatchy Newspapers reports.

"I shared these with our arms experts at HRW at the time, but based on the information available to us we have not been able to confirm that the government did in fact use chemical weapons," Lama Fakih, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, said, according to McClatchy Newspapers.

U.S. officials said there are no plans for policy changes or specific action in light of the investigation, CNN reports.