World News: Syria chemical attack investigators FINALLY get permission from Russia to visit site amid fears Putin’s officials spent five days clearing evidence

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RUSSIA says it will allow chemical inspectors to visit the site of a suspected chemical gas attack which killed at least 70 in Douma, Syria.

It sparked retaliatory strikes from Britain, France and the US, who accused Russia of tampering with evidence on the ground.

Russia says it will allow chemical inspectors to visit the site of a suspected gas attack in Douma, Syria
AP:Associated Press

America and France claim to have evidence the Syrian regime was behind the gas attack on April 7 but both Moscow and Syria have denied involvement.
The Kremlin has gone as far as to accuse Britain of staging a “fake” chemical attack and said US-led strikes on a chemical research facility delayed inspectors’ visit to Douma.

OPCW Director General Ahmet Uzumcu said Syrian and Russian officials cited “pending security issues” in keeping its inspectors from reaching Douma.

“The team has not yet deployed to Douma,” Uzumcu told an executive council meeting of the OPCW in The Hague on Monday.

More than 70 were killed in the alleged April 7 attack, with witnesses reporting victims choking and foaming at the mouth
More than 70 were killed in the alleged April 7 attack, with witnesses reporting victims choking and foaming at the mouth
Getty – Contributor

Uzumcu said he hopes “all necessary arrangements will be made… to allow the team to deploy to Douma as soon as possible”, where they will take soil samples to determine if chemical weapons were used.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the inspectors could not go to the site because they needed approval from the UN Department for Safety and Security.

But UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the United Nations has “provided the necessary clearances for the OPCW team to go about its work in Douma”.

Meanwhile, he said Syrian authorities instead offered them 22 people to interview as witnesses.

The Kremlin has gone as far as to accuse Britain of staging a fake chemical attack in Douma
The Kremlin has gone as far as to accuse Britain of staging a fake chemical attack in Douma
Getty – Contributor

Until Saturday, Douma was the last rebel-held town near Damascus, and the target of a government offensive in February and March that killed hundreds and displaced tens of thousands.

Hours after the alleged chemical attack, the rebel faction that controlled the town, the Army of Islam, relented and was evacuated along with thousands of residents.

During a government-organized visit Monday to Douma, AP spoke to survivors and witnesses who described being hit by gas.

Several reported a strange smell began to spread before screams rang out: “It’s chlorine! It’s chlorine!”

Witness Khaled Mahmoud Nuseir showed the AP to an underground bunker where he said 47 people, including his pregnant wife and two daughters, were killed.

Nuseir, 25, ran to a nearby clinic where he fainted. He later awoke and returned to the shelter where he found his wife and daughters dead, with foam coming from their mouths.

Witness reported a strange smell began to spread before people began screaming uncontrollably in Douma on April 7
Witness reported a strange smell began to spread before people began screaming uncontrollably in Douma on April 7
EPA

Separately, the AP spoke to medic Ahmed Abed al-Nafaa, who was among those who later were evacuated to northern Syria.

Al-Nafaa said helicopters were flying before the attack and when he reached the site, people were screaming “chlorine”.

He said he tried to enter the shelter but was overcome by a strong smell of chlorine and his comrades pulled him out.

The suspected gas attack triggered a brutal, joint response from France, the UK and US who launched 105 missiles at three alleged chemical weapons facilities in Syria on Friday.

Syrian state-run media reported another rocket attack on Tuesday, claiming its air defences shot down missiles over the central region of Homs and a Damascus suburb.

The reports did not say who carried out the pre-dawn strikes, which were reported by Syrian state TV and the government-run Syrian Central Media.

America and France claim to have evidence the Syrian regime was behind the gas attack
America and France claim to have evidence the Syrian regime was behind the gas attack
AFP or licensors

The Pentagon denied any American military activity in the area Tuesday and there was no comment from Israel, which frequently carries out airstrikes in Syria.

The Syrian Central Media said six missiles targeted the Shayrat air base in Homs, adding that Syrian air defences shot down most of them.

The same air base was hit by US Tomahawk missiles in April last year, in retaliation for a suspected chemical weapons attack in the country’s north that killed around 90 people.

The Syrian outlet also reported another, separate airstrike on the Dumayr air base, in a suburb of the capital, Damascus.

Earlier this month, four Iranian military personnel were killed in an airstrike on Syria’s T4 air base, also in Homs.

Syria and its main allies Iran and Russia blamed Israel for that attack. Israel did not confirmed or deny mounting the raid.

 

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