Syria chemical weapons visit postponed after gunfire

19 April, 2018, 02:13 | Author: Nina Hammond
  • Activists worry US airstrikes won't deter Assad: 'Mission not accomplished'

According to the director general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the team had been deployed to the location of the alleged chemical attack when they were targeted.

In April, the situation in Syria significantly intensified amid reports about the alleged chemical attack in the city of Douma, after which the European Union and the United States rushed to blame the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, with Damascus refuting the allegations.

A Syrian man holds bread as Syrian authorities distributed basic staples to Douma residents, near Damascus, Syria, April 16, 2018.

The Syrian Central Media said six missiles targeted the Shayrat air base in Homs on Tuesday, adding that Syrian air defenses shot down majority.

The team has been in the country since Saturday but has been denied access to the site in the town of Douma, the BBC reports. Several said a odd smell started spreading and people screamed, "It's chlorine!"

Nebenzia told the council that not even a day after the airstrikes, the U.S., France and Britain circulated a draft United Nations resolution calling for an urgent resumption of negotiations between the Syrian government and opposition as well as an independent body to assess blame for chemical attacks and humanitarian access throughout Syria. "Throwing dust everywhere and trying to make it look natural", OPCW observers can usually be able to tell if a site has been tampered with.

At least 40 people are believed to have died in the attack on Douma, which until Saturday was the last rebel-held town near Damascus.

There were also reports on Wednesday of fighters from the Jaish Al Islam rebel faction, known as the 'Army of Islam, ' continuing to hand over their heavy and intermediate weapons in the Damascus suburb of Dumayr ahead of their departure to the northern town of Jarabulus.

Maj. -Gen. Yuri Yevtushenko said "a Syrian security employee received light wounds during the crossfire".

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In Washington, Pentagon spokeswoman Heather Babb said: "There are no United States or coalition operations in that area". In comparison, Israel is suspected of carrying out a silent but lethal air war against Iranian-aligned militias in Syria, though it seldom ever comments on whether it took part in specific strikes, and always after the fact. It said Syrian air defenses shot down most of the six missiles fired at the base.

Big explosions were heard near Al Shayrat Air base, southeast of the city of Homs, and in eastern Qalamoun near Damascus where two other air bases are located, the Syrian Observatory for Human rights reported.

Eliot Higgins, who runs Bellingcat, a research network that investigates conflicts, told The National that depending on the type of chemical used, the delays could hamper any investigation.

However, Russia has repeatedly denied all allegations.

The lack of access to Douma has left unanswered questions about the attack earlier this month.

Theresa May, who says there is clear evidence chemicals were used by the Syrian regime to drive out rebels, faced more criticism in Parliament yesterday for ordering air strikes in retaliation.

Syrian state media reported Tuesday that OPCW inspectors had entered Douma, but the Syrian government later said that only a United Nations advance security team went in.

The Western countries blame Assad for the Douma attack that killed dozens of people.

"The UNDSS (the UN security team) will continue to work with the Syrian National Authority, the local councils in Douma, and the Russian Military Police to review the security situation". He denied that Russian Federation was hampering the mission and suggested the approval was held up because of the Western airstrikes.


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