UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

[ rfe/rl banner ]

UN Security Council Meeting Called Over Reported Chemical Attack In Syria

RFE/RL April 08, 2018

A reported chemical attack in Syria's rebel-held city of Douma has sparked international outrage, with the United States, Britain, France, and six other UN Security Council members calling for an emergency meeting that is expected to take place on April 9.

U.S. President Donald Trump condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russian, and Iran after what he described as a "mindless CHEMICAL attack" in Syria on April 7 that left "many dead, including women and children."

But Russia, Syria, and Iran rejected as a "fabrication" the reports that more than 100 people have died from a chlorine gas attack on Douma, a rebel-held town in Eastern Ghouta that is besieged by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's Russian and Iranian-backed forces.

As condemnation poured in from around the world, the Reuters news agency reported that a deal was reached on April 8 between Russia's Defense Ministry and Syria's opposition for the evacuation of rebel fighters from Douma.

Under the deal, opposition fighters would be allowed to go to opposition-held territory while Russian military police would be the first allowed to enter Douma. It was not immediately clear when the deal was meant to be implemented.

There was no word from Moscow about if or when Russia would allow independent chemical weapons inspectors a chance to investigate Moscow's claim that there was no chemical attack on Douma.

Trump has demanded that international inspectors and emergency medical workers be given immediate access to the besieged city, saying Assad's forces were preventing access to Douma by emergency workers and international investigators.

"President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price to pay," Trump wrote on Twitter post on April 8. "Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. Open area immediately for medical help and verification. Another humanitarian disaster for no reason whatsoever. SICK!"

The European Union, meanwhile, said on April 8 that evidence points to "yet another chemical attack by the regime" in Syria.

The EU also called for an international response and urged Russia and Iran, as "supporters of the regime," to use their influence with Assad to prevent any further chemical attacks.

'Red Line'

France has repeatedly warned that evidence of further use of chemical weapons in Syria was a "red line" that would prompt French military strikes.

"The use of chemical weapons is a war crime," French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in an April 8 statement, adding that France will "do its duty" if the reported attack on Douma is verified.

In March, French President Emmanuel Macron and Trump said there would be "no impunity" in the event of a future chemical weapons attack in Syria.

Opposition-linked first responders, so-called Syria Civil Defense emergency workers known as White Helmets, and other activist groups said a helicopter dropped toxic gas inside barrel bombs late on April 7 over Douma, causing people to suffocate and choke.

The White Helmets also have posted video footage online of what they say are chemical attack survivors, including children, being treated at a makeshift medical clinic in Douma.

The group said victims showed signs of gas poisoning that included pupil dilation and foaming at the mouth.

It said medical centers in besieged Douma received more than 500 cases of people suffering breathing difficulties, and that patients gave off a chlorine-like smell.

'Invented And Fabricated Excuses'

The Russian Foreign Ministry on April 8 described the reports about a chemical attack on Douma as "disinformation" aimed at trying to "justify possible strikes from outside."

The Russian government warned against any military action on the basis of what it called “invented and fabricated excuses.” saying military intervention "is absolutely unacceptable and may lead to most severe consequences."

Iran on April 8 also rejected the allegations of a chemical attack as a "conspiracy" against Assad's government and a pretext for Western military action.

"Such allegations and accusations by the Americans and certain Western countries signal a new conspiracy against the Syrian government and people, and a pretext for military action," Iran's Foreign Ministry said.

Earlier on April 8, the U.S. State Department said Washington was closely monitoring "very disturbing" reports of the possible "horrifying" new use of chemical weapons by Syrian forces.

Russia, with its "unwavering support" for Syria's government, "ultimately bears responsibility" for the alleged attacks, it said in a statement.

"The [Syrian] regime's history of using chemical weapons against its own people is not in dispute," it said.

'Nothing Of The Table'

Meanwhile, White House Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Adviser Thomas Bossert said the United States would not rule out launching another missile attack in Syria.

“I wouldn’t take anything off the table,” Bossert told ABC-TV's This Week program.

Turkey's Foreign Ministry in a statement “strongly” condemned the attack.

"There is strong suspicion [it] was carried out by the regime, whose record on use of chemical weapons is known by the international community," Ankara said.

Russia and Iran have given crucial military and diplomatic backing to Assad's government throughout Syria’s war, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions.

Trump authorized a U.S. cruise missile strike on a Syrian air base in 2017 in response to a sarin gas attack in northwestern Syria blamed on Assad's forces.

A joint inquiry by the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has found that Syrian government forces have used chlorine as a weapon at least three times during the seven-year conflict.

In April 2017, more than 80 people died in a sarin attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun, and a joint inquiry by the UN and the UN-OPCW mission held the Syrian government responsible. Damascus denies using chemical weapons.

Syria's state news agency SANA said the latest reports of a chemical attack were invented by the Jaish al-Islam rebels who remain in control in Douma, which has been under siege from Russian-backed Syrian government forces.

Before the reported chemical attack, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government air strikes had killed 70 civilians in Douma since an intense aerial and ground assault was launched on April 6.

The offensive by Syrian government forces and their allies, which involved weeks of intense bombardment, has left more than 1,600 civilians dead and thousands more wounded in eastern Ghouta since February 18, according to the monitor group.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa, BBC, CNN, ABC-TV, and Interfax

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/syria-chemical-attack- syria-dozens-killed-russia/29152580.html

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list