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Calls grow for action over Syria chemical attack

Rescuers, medics report 48 dead after alleged poison gas attack on besieged Douma

By AFP - Apr 09,2018 - Last updated at Apr 09,2018

Syrian children affected by an alleged Assad regime chemical weapons attack receive medical treatment in the Douma town of Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria, on Saturday (Anadolu Agency photo)

DAMASCUS, Syria — Calls grew on Monday for an international response to an alleged chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held Syrian town that killed at least 48 people, with the United States warning that it was not excluding military action.

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said on Monday that Washington does not "rule out anything" in terms of a response, despite Assad regime ally Russia arguing against jumping to any "dangerous" conclusions over the “suspected attack”.

With tensions high, the spectre of Western military action was raised by deadly missile strikes on a regime airbase, but Damascus and Moscow said Israel was responsible.

The crisis was due to be discussed later on Monday at an urgent UN Security Council meeting, with the US and France promising a "strong, joint response" to the suspected gas attack on Saturday in Douma, a battered opposition-held town near Damascus.

President Donald Trump — who last year launched a missile strike on a regime base after another chemical attack — warned after the latest accusations that there would be a “big price to pay”.

Damascus and Moscow have denied any use of chemical weapons, but French President Emmanuel Macron’s office said he and Trump had shared information “confirming” the gas attack.

Britain was the latest country to urge action on Monday, with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson calling for a “strong and robust international response”.

 

Investigation launched 

 

Rescuers and medics in Douma say at least 48 people died after a “poisonous chlorine gas attack” late on Saturday in Douma, the last rebel-held pocket of the onetime opposition stronghold of Eastern Ghouta.

Access to the area, which has faced weeks of regime bombardment, is limited and there has been no way to independently verify the accounts.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, a UN watchdog, said it was investigating the allegations but that so far only a “preliminary analysis” had been carried out.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russian experts had visited the site of the alleged attack, and claimed it “did not find any trace of chlorine or any other chemical substance used against civilians”.

Both Damascus and Moscow had warned against using the allegations to justify military action against President Bashar Assad. 

It briefly appeared in the early hours of Monday that action had been taken, as Syrian state media reported missile strikes on an airbase, but blame later fell on Israel, which has carried out repeated strikes on regime targets.

Initially pointing the finger at Washington, state news agency SANA said the missiles had hit the T-4 airbase in central Syria.

Washington and Paris denied having carried out the strikes and SANA and the Russian army said later that Israeli F-15s had fired several missiles at the base from Lebanese airspace.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the country’s conflict, said 14 fighters were killed, including Syrian army officers and Iranian forces.

Israel declined to comment on the latest strike. 

 

Israel targeted ‘Iranian forces’ 

 

Nick Heras, an analyst at the Centre for a New American Security, said Israel appeared to have seized on a moment of international outrage over Douma to strike Syria.

“On the eve of potential US and French strikes against Assad in response to the Douma gas attack, it is likely the Israelis already had the intention to strike at the T-4 base, and timed their attack to maximise the destruction they could inflict on Iranian forces,” he told AFP. 

Israel has repeatedly warned it will not accept its arch-foe Iran entrenching itself militarily in Syria.

In February, it accused Iranian forces at the T-4 base of sending a drone into Israeli territory. After targeting Iranian units in Syria in retaliation, an Israel F-16 was shot down by Syrian anti-aircraft fire in one of the conflict’s most notable escalations. 

Israel then carried out what it called “large-scale” raids on Syrian air defence systems and Iranian targets, which reportedly included T-4. 

Lebanon’s National News Agency on Monday said Israeli warplanes were flying near the country’s border with Syria. 

Backed by Moscow, Assad has waged an assault since February 18 on Ghouta that has killed more than 1,700 civilians and left rebels cornered in their last holdout of Douma, Ghouta’s largest town.

After capturing most of Ghouta, Syria and its ally Russia secured two negotiated withdrawals last month that saw 46,000 rebels and civilians evacuate. 

Following fraught negotiations and a concentrated regime bombing blitz, state media on Sunday announced a deal was reached for Jaish Al Islam to leave Douma within 48 hours and release hostages it was holding.

Several buses of detainees arrived in Damascus overnight after having been freed by Jaish Al Islam, and rebels were being evacuated in a parallel operation on Monday, SANA said.

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Comments

There's no evidence about Bashar regime used chlorine gas against the America's puppet rebels in Ghouta Province,all in all this an USA & Israel propaganda to initiate another war in Syria in order to prevent Presence of Iranians nearby Israel border.

ACTION OVER SYRIA ATTACK WITHOUT ANY CONCRETE EVIDENCE OF THE SAID ATTACK ON SYRIA WHILE THE PALESTINIANS ARE BEING PICKED ONE BY ONE BY SNIPER FIRE CAN BEST BE DISCRIBED AS SELECTIVE BIASE. ATTACK ON SYRIA, WHEN THE SLOTTER CONTINUES ON THE YEMEN, ATTACKS ON SYRIA TO FINISH UP WHAT IS LEFT OF SYRIA WHERE MULTIPLE MARCHANTS OF DEATHS HAS RECRUITED AND TRAINED THE GOOD, THE BETTER AND THE WORST TERRORISTS. WHERE DID ISIS CAME FROM AND WHO SPONSORED AND PAID THEM?. WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CHAOS AND LAWLESSNESS IN LYBIA TODAY AND YOU WANT MORE CHAOS AND LAWLESSNESS IN THE REGION. THE IRONY IS THAT NO ONE LEARNS FROM THE PAST. THE FACT IS THAT THE ECONOMIC STRANGULATIONS TODAY IN JORDAN WAS CAUSED BY THE INSTABILITY IN THAT REGION WORST OF WHICH WAS IRAQ MESS THAT COST OVER A MILLION LIFES. NO ONE SHOULD GET ME WRONG BECAUSE I DO NOT SUPPORT THE ASSAD REGIME AND THE DIS-PROPORTIONATE USE OF FORCE NOR AM I A FAN OF RUSSIA OR THE WEST THAT WE ALL DEPEND ON FOR PEACE ON EARTH BUT RATHER WE ARE GETTING A MORE NEGATIVE FREE ENERGY (delta G). THE WORLD NEED PEACE AND STABILITY SO THAT WE ALL CAN LIVE IN PEACE FROM THE S-HOLE COUNTRIES TO VERY FINE WALLED OFF COUNTRIES AND THE ONE-TRACK MINDED PEOPLE THAT BRANDS THE ARAB WORLD WITH THE MENTALITY OF ISLAMOPHOBIA. IN FACT THE LIKELY-HOOD OF THE PROBABILITY THAT WHAT HAPPENED IN LONDON CAN CLOSELY BE FOLLOWED BY SNIPER FIRES IN GAZA, EVACUTION OF DUMA AND MISSILE ATTACH IN SYRIA AT THE SAME TIME THAT SYRIA IS BEING ACCUSED OF GAS ATTACK IS CLOSE TO ZERO AND YET THE ARAB WORLD IS BUYING INTO THE SAME OLD FANTACY THAT LED TO THE WMD-LED IRAQ WAR, DIVISION OF QARTAR AND UAE, DESTRUCTION OF LYBIA, SYRIA AND THE LIST GOES ON. AS PRESIDENT REGAN SAID, "BELEIVE BUT VERIFY" BEFORE JUMPING INTO ANY BAND WAAGON. WE NEED PEACE AND IT IS THE TIME FOR THE ARAB LEADERS TO ADOPT THE SAME "NIMBY" MENTALITY AS IN THE WEST AND STOP THE DESTRUCTION OF THEIR REGION, THEIR PEOPLE AND THE ENVIRONMENT. AS A REMINDER, ASSAD IS NOT AMONG THE TOP DICTECTORS IN THAT REGION.

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