Tag Archives: Douma

Russia slammed for 'stunt' bringing Douma residents to OPCW

Russia slammed for 'stunt' bringing Douma residents to OPCWRussia came under fire Thursday accused of organising an “obscene masquerade” by bringing a group of Syrians to the OPCW to back claims that there was no chemical attack on Douma. The group, including a young boy named Hassan Diab, testified to members of the global chemical arms watchdog in The Hague that the April 7 incident in the town had been staged. Experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) are currently in Syria to probe the alleged chlorine or sarin gas attack on Douma.



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As chemical weapons inspectors reach Douma, Syria claims suspected attack was fake

As chemical weapons inspectors reach Douma, Syria claims suspected attack was fakeThe chemical weapons inspectors reached the city of Douma, now under Russian and Syrian control, two weeks after the suspected attack took place.



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Chemical weapons inspectors enter Douma two weeks after attack

Chemical weapons inspectors enter Douma two weeks after attackChemical weapons inspectors collected samples from Syria's Douma on Saturday, two weeks after a suspected gas attack there followed by retaliatory strikes by Western powers on the Syrian government's chemical facilities. The site visit, confirmed by the Organization of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, would allow the agency to proceed with an independent investigation to determine what chemicals, if any, were used in the April 7 attack that medical workers said killed more than 40 people. Douma was the final target of the government's sweeping campaign to seize back control of the eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus from rebels after seven years of revolt. Militants gave up the town days after the alleged attack. The US, France, and Britain blamed the President Bashar al-Assad's government for the attack, and struck suspected Syrian chemical weapons facilities one week later. The Syrian government and its ally Russia denied responsibility for the attack. OPCW inspectors arrived in Damascus just hours before the April 15 strikes but were delayed from visiting the site until Saturday, leading Western officials and Syrian activists to accuse Russia and the Syrian government of staging a cover-up. Members of the Russian military police walking amid destruction in the Eastern Ghouta town of Douma  Credit: OUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images "I won't find any hope in my heart until the Assad regime is held accountable and eradicated from government in Syria," said Bilal Abou Salah, a Douma media activist who left the town after the government takeover. He said he feared Russian and Syrian government personnel destroyed potential evidence in the two weeks since the alleged attack. The OPCW said in a statement that it visited "one of the sites" in Douma to collect samples for analysis at agency-designated laboratories, adding it would "consider future steps including another possible visit to Douma." It said the mission will draft a report based on the findings, "as well other information and materials collected by the team." The OPCW mission is not mandated to apportion to blame for the attack. Chemical sensors including a flame photometric detector and an ion mobility spectrometer are in the OPCW's toolkit Credit: JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images A UN security team had scouted Douma on Tuesday to see if it was safe for weapons inspectors to visit. The team came under small arms and explosives fire, leading the agency to delay its mission. Journalists visiting Douma the previous day, escorted by government minders, experienced no security issues. Russian ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the delays to the OPCW team were "unacceptable," in a statement Saturday. Douma is just minutes away from Damascus, where the OPCW team is based. Images emerging from Douma in the hours after the attack showed lifeless bodies collapsed in crowded rooms, some with foam around their noses and mouths.



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Chemical arms experts due in Douma Wednesday, Russians say

Chemical arms experts due in Douma Wednesday, Russians sayChemical weapons experts are due to arrive in Douma on Wednesday to probe an alleged poison gas attack, Russian officials said, as the US voiced fears Moscow may already have “tampered with” evidence at the site. Following weekend missile strikes on Syria by the US, France and Britain, Russia traded accusations with Western nations on Monday, dismissing as “a blatant lie” accusations that Moscow was hindering the investigation in Douma.



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Russia to allow chemical weapons inspectors into Douma amid concerns attack site has been 'tampered with'

Russia to allow chemical weapons inspectors into Douma amid concerns attack site has been 'tampered with'Chemical weapons experts are due to arrive in Douma on Wednesday to probe the alleged poison gas attack, Russian officials said, as the US voiced fears Moscow may already have "tampered with" evidence at the site. Following weekend missile strikes on Syria by the US, France and Britain, Russia traded accusations with Western nations on Monday, dismissing as "a blatant lie" accusations that Moscow was hindering the investigation in Douma. The four nations confronted each other in tense emergency talks at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague as inspectors prepare for a difficult and dangerous mission. Syrian state media early Tuesday said air defence had shot down missiles over the central province of Homs, with the strikes reportedly targeting regime air bases. It was not known who carried out the attack, with Pentagon spokeswoman Heather Babb saying: "There are no US or coalition operations in that area." Israel's military declined to comment, as is its custom. Initial reports indicated that the incident may have been a false alarm and that Syrian forces may have opened fire by mistake. Syrian authorities distribute bread, vegetables and pasta to Douma residents more than a week after the attack Credit:  Hassan Ammar/ AP The developments came as UK parliament geared up for its second debate on the West's missile strikes on chemical weapons facilities at the weekend. Ahead of an emergency debate called by Jeremy Corbyn has insisted on parliamentary approval for intervention, Lord Hague told BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Monday morning that the Government had “quite possibly made a mistake” by recalling MPs to vote on action in Syria after the chemical attack in 2013. He said: “I don’t subscribe to the idea that any military action makes things worse. There have been many military actions and wars that have made it worse. "But I do strongly believe that if in 2013 Parliament had given us the permission to launch limited strikes … I do strongly believe that there would have been less Russian adventurism, less foreign intervention and fewer attacks by chemical weapons in the years since then.” The weekend missile strikes by the US, Britain and France were in response to an alleged chlorine and sarin gas attack in Douma on April 7 in which 40 people were said to have been killed. OPCW director general Ahmet Uzumcu said his nine-strong, all-volunteer team had reached Damascus, but so far "the team has not yet deployed to Douma". Syrian and Russian officials had warned of "pending security issues to be worked out before any deployment could take place," Uzumcu said. Igor Kirillov, head of Russia's radiological, biological and chemical protection unit, told reporters the roads still had to be de-mined and cleared and would be tested by UN security services on Tuesday. "On Wednesday is when we plan the arrival of the OPCW experts," he added at a press conference in the Russian embassy in The Hague. Pro Assad supporters were among an anti-war demonstration outside parliament in London on Monday Credit: TOLGA AKMEN/ AFP The US ambassador to the OPCW, Ken Ward, claimed however the Russians had already visited the site and "may have tampered with it with the intent of thwarting the efforts of the OPCW fact-finding mission". The Kremlin dismissed the claims. "I can guarantee that Russia has not tampered with the site," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the BBC. And the Russian ambassador to the Netherlands, Alexander Shulgin, said it was a "blatant lie" that Moscow was hampering the investigation. Instead he said it was the United States, France and Britain who were "standing in the way" of the investigation by ordering air strikes "in the blink of an eye" before the OPCW team had had a chance to do their work. The missiles that US, French and British warships fired on suspected chemical facilities Saturday constituted the biggest Western attack against the regime in the seven-year war to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The targeted sites were largely empty, and were all said to be facilities for chemical weapons storage or production. British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron faced anger Monday from their lawmakers for conducting the air strikes with the United States. Despite polls showing scant support for the move, May said it had been her "responsibility as prime minister to make these decisions," while Macron also defended his move as part of his constitutional powers. France urged OPCW nations to boost the organisation's work so it can completely dismantle Syria's "secret" toxic weapons programme. And the United States called for a clear condemnation by the OPCW of "the Syrian government for its reign of chemical terror". A boy sits on a chair along a damaged street in Douma, which was allegedly hit with a chlorine attack Credit: ALI HASHISHO/REUTERS The trio of Western powers that carried out the strikes warned they would repeat the operation if Damascus used chemical weapons again. Regime forces have now entered Douma and declared the entire Eastern Ghouta region around it fully retaken, ending a five-year siege and reclaiming an opposition bastion on the edge of the capital. Even though the OPCW team was not allowed in, the Syrian authorities organised a tour of the town for some foreign press. It included a visit to the main hospital to which the victims of the alleged chemical attack where taken. Medical student Marwan Jaber said no chemical weapons were used on April 7. "Suffocation cases arrived as a result of the debris, dust, fire and smoke. They were given routine treatment", he said. But "strangers entered as we were in a state of chaos and spread a rumour among people there had been a chemical attack, and people became alarmed". Damascus and Moscow have vehemently denied that any chemical weapons were used in Douma and alleged instead that grim videos showing civilians foaming at the mouth after the attack were staged. Russian ambassador Shulgin repeated the accusations telling reporters in The Hague that Douma residents had not been able to produce "a single body".



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U.S. suggests Russia, Syria may tamper with Douma evidence, Moscow denies it

U.S. suggests Russia, Syria may tamper with Douma evidence, Moscow denies itBy Laila Bassam and Anthony Deutsch DAMASCUS/THE HAGUE (Reuters) – The United States accused Russia on Monday of blocking international inspectors from reaching the site of a suspected poison gas attack in Syria and said Russians or Syrians may have tampered with evidence on the ground. Moscow denied the charge and blamed delays on retaliatory U.S.-led missile strikes on Syria on Saturday. British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron faced criticism from political opponents over their decisions to take part in the air strikes.



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The Latest: Syrian envoy says only UN security team at Douma

The Latest: Syrian envoy says only UN security team at DoumaBEIRUT (AP) — The latest on developments in Syria (all times local):



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Russian forces move into Douma, site of suspected chemical attack

Russian forces move into Douma, site of suspected chemical attackRussian troops moved into the Syrian town of Douma, where the suspected chemical attack took place. Now the new concern – what happens if a US strike on Syria accidentally hits Russian forces?



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Hostages and rebels leave Douma under evacuation deal: state media

Hostages and rebels leave Douma under evacuation deal: state mediaThe first batch of freed hostages from rebel-held Syrian city of Douma arrived on Sunday at an army-controlled crossing in the first phase of a far-reaching deal to evacuate thousands of rebels to northern Syria, state media’s live footage showed. In parallel with the first batch of hostages, a bus carrying dozens of fighters and their families left the besieged enclave enroute to opposition-held areas in northern Syria in an arrangement expected to be completed within several days.



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