OPCW 'enters Syria's Douma' to probe gas attack allegation

The U.S. and France say they have evidence that poison gas was used in the April 7 attack in Douma, killing at least 40 people, and that Syrian President Bashar Assad's military was behind it.

National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow told reporters earlier Tuesday that Haley "got ahead of the curve" when she said Sunday that the USA would be slapping new sanctions on Russian Federation.

The sources said the UN-affiliated investigators were in the area but had not yet been able to access the sites they meant to inspect. Back in 2014, Syria surrendered its stockpiles of chemical weapons to a joint mission led by the U.S. and the OPCW, which oversaw the destruction of the weaponry.

The team has been in the country since Saturday but has been denied access to the site in the town of Douma, the BBC reports.

Witnesses and Western governments said helicopters dropped sarin and chlorine bombs that killed many children and women who were sheltering from the fighting between rebels and government troops.

The two officials said the administration had no plans to announce Syria-related sanctions on Russia this week, although they noted that two entities were hit with such penalties last month in a largely overlooked portion of a sanctions package that dealt mainly with Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and hacking.

But "strangers entered as we were in a state of chaos and spread a rumour among people there had been a chemical attack, and people became alarmed".

At least 70 people were killed, but Syria denies the attack.

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Russian Federation has denied trying to obstruct the investigation and said the inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), who arrived in Damascus on Saturday, are due to visit Douma on Wednesday.

"We are very much aware of the delay that the regime imposed on that delegation but we are also very much aware of how they have operated in the past and seal what they have done using chemical weapons", Mattis said before the start of a meeting with his counterpart from Qatar.

Syrian state media early April 17 said air defenses had shot down several missiles over the central province of Homs. It also reported a separate air strike on the Dumayr air base near Damascus.

The Syrian government and Russian sympathizers have denied allegations that a chemical attack took place, with the latter even accusing Britain of staging the gas attack.

The team was widely expected to visit Douma on Wednesday, but a United Nations security team carrying out reconnaissance in the city came under fire Tuesday, further delaying experts from going in, a UN source told CNN.

The accounts contradict what the Syrian government and Russian Federation have reported: that there was no gas attack in Douma. He denied that Russian Federation was hampering the mission and suggested the approval was held up because of the Western airstrikes.

Jerry Smith, a former chemical weapons inspector in Syria and founder of the RameHead Consulting International security firm, warned that a substance like chlorine could "disappear in a couple of hours".

  • Ronnie Bowen