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Probe into Syria chemical attack to continue, despite airstrikes Open in fullscreen

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Probe into Syria chemical attack to continue, despite airstrikes

Both Syria and Russia have denied responsibility of the chemical attacks [Getty]

Date of publication: 14 April, 2018

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A chemical watchdog has vowed that the probe into a suspected chemical attack in Douma which left dozens dead will continue, despite Western airstrikes.
Experts from the world's global chemical arms watchdog will continue their probe into the alleged gas attack in Douma which left dozens dead, despite the Western air strikes in Syria.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said on Saturday that they have been "working in close collaboration" with UN security experts "to assess the situation and ensure the safety of the team".

In a statement, the chemical watchdog said that it will "continue its deployment to the Syrian Arab Republic to establish facts around the allegations of chemical weapons use in Douma".

The US, UK and France led a wave of punitive strikes against Bashar al-Assad's Syrian regime on Saturday in response to a suspected chemical weapons attacks that President Donald Trump branded the "crimes of a monster".

At least 49 people died in the suspected chemical attack in Eastern Ghouta according to medical groups and rescuers, with other estimates reaching over a hundred.

Graphic images and videos emerged on social media following Douma's alleged gas attack, showing children struggling to breathe and entire families who had succumbed to the attack on the floors of underground shelters.

Both Syria and Russia have denied using chemical weapons and have blamed the rebels on using it on themselves to whip up international condemnation.

The strikes are the biggest foreign military action so far against the Syrian regime. Western officials said a barrage of cruise and air-to-land missiles hit targets near Damascus and in Homs province.

Three targets were struck according to the US:

  • A scientific research facility in Damascus allegedly connected to the production of chemical and biological weapons

  • A chemical weapons storage facility west of Homs

  • A chemical weapons equipment storage site and an important command post near Homs

Both Syria and its ally Russia said they would guarantee the safety and security of the OPCW mission - the first outside Damascus since 2014.

Critics fear that the duration of the investigation will give time to allow the Assad regime to dispose of evidence and intimidate locals.

Earlier in the year, a report linked Syria's largest sarin nerve agent attack in August 2013 - which left hundreds dead - to the Syrian regime chemical stockpile.

Damascus joined the OPCW and agreed to destroy its 1,300-tonne stockpile of industrial munition, under Russia’s supervision, following a US-Russian deal.

Despite agreeing to the deal, inspectors have found evidence of an ongoing chemical weapons programme in the country, including systematic use of chlorine barrel bombs and sarin.

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