Chemical weapons experts enter site of attack in Syrian town

Casey Dawson
April 20, 2018

In a Sunday Telegraph opinion piece, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson reinforced U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May's statement that the strikes were not about meant to drive regime change or interference in Syria's civil war.

Saturday's air strikes were the first coordinated Western strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government in a seven-year war that has killed more than 500,000 people and drawn in global powers and neighbouring states.

Rival U.S. and Russian proposals to set up new inquiries into chemical weapons attacks in Syria were not adopted by the Security Council last week.

The United Nations says further steps are needed to secure the suspected site of a chemical attack in Douma and a security team will need to make another visit before a fact-finding mission can go there.

Western states have blamed the Syrian government forces for the incident, but Damascus has denied using chemical weapons.

He and Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, were said to have been pushing for a more robust strike.

It has been 11 days since the alleged attack on Douma, a town outside Damascus that at the time was controlled by the Army of Islam, a rebel group that surrendered in the days after the attack.

Chemical experts will be given access to the alleged attack site in Douma on Wednesday, but U.S. officials have raised concerns that Russian Federation may have "tampered" with evidence.

Syrian activists said more than 40 people were killed in the alleged attack.

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But the assessment also indicated that a large quantity of the chemical weapons was stored elsewhere and that Syria's chemical weapons programme, while crude, "is about as good as it needs to be for Assad's purposes", another official said.

The United States has raised concerns that Russian Federation might have tampered with evidence on the scene - a charge Russian Federation vehemently denies - and it remains to be seen what investigators will find and what they'll have access to.

The Associated Press, during a government-organised visit Monday to Douma, spoke to survivors and witnesses who described being hit by gas.

Britain's delegation to the OPCW accused Russian Federation and the Assad government of stopping inspectors from reaching Douma.

The strikes were conducted just hours before OPCW inspectors arrived in the country with a mandate to determine the circumstances of the alleged chemical attack, but not to say who is responsible.

The assault on eastern Ghouta began in February and ended in government victory on Saturday when rebels withdrew from the town. He said any use of chemical weapons is in complete disregard of humanity, and is reprehensible and contrary to the provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention as well as accepted worldwide norms. "We're going to continue to keep a number of options on the table if Syria and Russian Federation and Iran don't show to be better actors in this process".

According to some people said to be eyewitnesses, unknown people then entered the bombed building where victims were being treated and shouted "gas, gas".

The attack was used as a pretext for last weekend's air strikes against the Russia-backed Assad regime.

Tensions between the US and Russian Federation have escalated in recent days over the conflict in Syria.

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