OPCW inspectors enter Douma: Syrian state media
The special investigators of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) have arrived in Douma, the largest town of Eastern Ghouta, to probe a suspected chemical attack which was used as a pretext for a barrage of Western missile strikes against the Arab country, Syrian state media reports.
“Experts from the chemical weapons committee enter the town of Douma,” Syria’s official SANA news agency said on Tuesday, three days after the armed forces of the US, Britain and France launched over a 100 cruise missiles against three sites, one in Damascus, and two in the city of Homs, which US President Donald Trump claimed were “associated with the chemical weapon capabilities” of the Syrian government.
The tripartite Western countries announced that strikes were carried out as a punitive measure against Damascus for a suspected poison gas attack they claimed was purportedly conducted on April 7 by the Syrian government on Douma, the largest town in Eastern Ghouta near the Syrian capital, which reportedly killed 60 people and injured hundreds more.
The Western countries rushed to blame the Douma incident on the Syrian government, but Damascus strongly rejected the accusation as fabrications meant to halt advances made by pro-government forces against terrorists.
According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, Syrian air defense units were scrambled to thwart the aerial invasion, intercepting 71 out of 105 cruise missiles. However, the Pentagon said all the missiles successfully hit their designated targets.
Meanwhile, the French Foreign Ministry, in a statement, accused the Syrian government and Russia of deliberately barring the OPCW from entering Douma in the past few days so that the evidence of the suspected gas attack disappeared without a trace.
“It is very likely that proof and essential elements are disappearing from this site,” it added.
The statement came a day after Kenneth Ward, US Ambassador to the OPCW, accused Russian experts of having the “intent of thwarting the efforts of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission to conduct an effective investigation” in Douma. He further suggested that Russians or Syrians may have tampered with evidence on the ground.
The accusation drew condemnation from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, saying he “can guarantee” that Moscow did not tamper with the site. He reiterated that “all the evidence” with which the tripartite countries justified their strikes “was based on the media reports and on social networks.”
The White house, which is apparently looking for a pretext to justify the missile attack, claims that Moscow has failed to abide by a 2013 promise to ensure that Syria gets rid of its chemical weapons stockpiles.
However, Damascus says it has already discarded all of its chemical munitions. Back in 2014, Syria surrendered its stockpiles of chemical weapons to a joint mission led by the US and the OPCW, which oversaw the destruction of the weaponry. Furthermore, Damascus has consistently denied using chemical weapons over the past years of conflict in the country.
The Pentagon has so far failed to provide any immediate evidence that the bombarded sites were producing substances covered by the 2013 agreement between Moscow and Washington to eliminate Syria’s chemical arms.
The illegal air raids also sparked a wave of condemnations from a number of countries, including Iran, Russia and Iraq.
The US-led military coalition which has been conducting airstrikes against what are said to be terrorists’ targets inside the Arab country since September 2014 has no authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate.