Tuesday, 24 April, 2018

Chemical weapons inspectors reach Syrian town

French and British jets fired 17 missiles alongside a US air and naval bombardment French and British jets fired 17 missiles alongside a US air and naval bombardment
Sammy Stanley | 17 April, 2018, 19:51

Western sources have reported that Syrian regime and Russian authorities have not yet allowed investigators from the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) watchdog to access the site of the alleged attack, despite the delegation arriving in Syria on Saturday.

"The team has not yet deployed to Douma", Uzumcu told an executive council meeting of the OPCW in The Hague on Monday.

However, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the United Nations had provided all the necessary clearances for the team to visit Douma.

The Associated Press, during a government-organized visit Monday to Douma, spoke to survivors and witnesses who described being hit by gas. That opened their conclusions to criticism from Russian Federation and Syria, which contended that Damascus had disposed of all its chemical weapons. Israel did not confirm or deny mounting the raid. Several said a odd smell started spreading and people screamed, "It's chlorine!" Until Saturday, the city was the last rebel-held town near the capital and the target of a government offensive in February and March that killed hundreds and displaced tens of thousands.

Photo Residents of Khan Sheikhoun, Syria, protested last April after a suspected chemical weapons attack on their town. A odd smell lingered, nine days after the attack. After he was revived, he returned to the shelter and found his wife and daughters dead, with foam coming from their mouths.

The main hospital, courthouse and municipal buildings were largely reduced to rubble, while the nearby Grand Mosque, famed for its towering arches, white dome and majestic palm trees was riddled with bullet and shell holes - testimony to the intense government assault the town was subjected to since being seized by the rebels six years ago. Nuseir said a gas cylinder was found leaking the poison gas, adding that he didn't think it was dropped from the air because it still looked intact. Ahmed Abed al-Nafaa said helicopters were flying before the attack and when he reached the site, people were screaming "chlorine".

But Russia has blocked countless resolutions against its Syrian ally and the regime has appeared determined to continue its military reconquest of the country.

Government forces and Russian troops have been deployed in Douma, which is now controlled by the Syrian government.

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Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Fayssal Mikdad said Monday his country was ready to facilitate the OPCW team in any way to carry out its mission, the state-run SANA news agency reported, while Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov did not respond directly to CNN's question on whether Russian Federation had blocked the experts.

The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin has told German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the United States, Great Britain and France have violated worldwide law and hurt peace process in Syria by launching airstrikes at targets in Damascus.

Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied the claims, saying the OPCW needed United Nations permission before anyone could travel to the area.

"It's dealing with things it wasn't really meant to deal with", said Richard Guthrie, a chemical weapons expert and editor of CBW Events, a website that tries to document uses of chemical and biological weapons. "I can guarantee that Russian Federation has not tampered with the site", he told the BBC. Syria and its ally Russian Federation denied any chemical attack took place, and Moscow has accused rebels of feigning a chemical attack with British assistance, a claim Britain has rejected. "Therefore, allegations of this towards Russian Federation are groundless", Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Turkish officials say Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for a scaling down of tensions over the chemical weapons issue in Syria during a call with Iran's President Hassan Rouhani.

Putin, the Kremlin added, stressed that if "such actions, carried out in violation of the UN Charter, continue, it will inevitably lead to chaos in global relations".

No. The organization's job is to establish whether chemical weapons were used, not who used them.

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