Published: Fri, April 20, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

United Nations says more security needed at Douma site

United Nations says more security needed at Douma site

She also said that "due to the volatility" of the situation on the ground, the United Nations doesn't want "to telegraph" when a security team will return to the town.

THE HAGUE/BEIRUT-A United Nations security team came under fire in Syria while doing reconnaissance for inspectors to visit sites of the April 7 suspected chemical weapons attack, and officials said it was no longer clear when the inspectors would be able to go in.

The United States has credible information that Russian Federation and Syria are trying to "sanitise" the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria while denying access to the area by global inspectors, the State Department said yesterday.

Speaking at an emergency session of the OPCW at its headquarters in The Hague, Ahmet Uzumcu said the team had deployed to Douma to carry out a security assessment of the area ahead of the inspectors' visit.

On Monday, I advised the Council on the work being undertaken by the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) team that has been deployed to Damascus to establish the facts on the allegations of chemical weapons use in Douma on 7 April. But their deterrent effect is likely, again, to be fleeting, not least because the United States - wary of provoking a wider conflict - has twice demonstrated that it will not use regime-threatening force to punish Syria's use of chemical weapons.

He went on to say that the attacks were "intended to degrade the Syrian regime's chemical weapons capability" and deter further chemical attacks on civilians such as the one in Douma.

Syria and Russian Federation deny unleashing poison gas on April 7 during their offensive on Douma, which ended with the recapture of the town that had been the last rebel stronghold near the capital, Damascus. But, more than a week after the suspected attack, hard evidence might be hard to trace.

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The OPCW fact-finding team will play a crucial role in determining whether sarin gas was used at Douma, even if it makes no finding on who was to blame. Barzeh was said to have been hit by 76 U.S. cruise missiles, one of the sites at Him Shinshar was hit by 22 U.S., French and British cruise missiles, and the second site at Him Shinshar by seven French missiles. "As we have stated previously, the United States agrees with the UK's assessment that Russian Federation is responsible for the chemical weapons in Salisbury".

"We certainly know that Syria is responsible for those attacks", Nauret said.

Syrian state media says government forces have started bombing an Islamic State-held zone in Damascus.

Earlier on Thursday, the Damascus-based Palestinian official Khaled Abdelmajid said the government was giving hard-liners two days to leave Yarmouk and Hajr al-Aswad, leaving the government with control of the two neighborhoods.

"They will have the ability to conduct limited attacks in the future, I would not rule that out", McKenzie added.

The U.S., which has drawn its own conclusions about the attack on Douma, has accused the Syrian government and Russian Federation of trying to cover up evidence of their culpability.

The team was in Douma, site of a suspected gas attack that triggered US-led strikes, ahead of an OPCW visit.

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