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False alarm set off Syrian air defenses: pro-Assad commander

19 April 2018

Inspectors from the Office for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) were still seeking access to the site of a chemical attack in Douma, a suburb of Damascus, on Wednesday after reports emerged that a United Nations security team conducting reconnaissance came under gunfire a day earlier.

Only hours later, Syrian TV carried a military statement saying that air defenses fired a number of missiles because of a "false alarm", without providing more information.

United Nations Security Council-mandated inspectors have probed previous attacks and decided President Assad's regime was responsible four times, MPs were told.

The United States, France and Britain have said the missile strikes were limited to Syria's chemical weapons capabilities and not aimed at toppling Assad or intervening in the civil war.

Russian Federation has rejected France's proposal at a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting that called for the launch of an independent investigation over an alleged chemical attack that struck the former rebel-held town of Douma in Syria's Eastern Ghouta.

Before dawn on Saturday, a coalition of USA, United Kingdom and French forces launched more than 100 missiles targeting three chemical facilities in Syria in retaliation for an apparent chemical attack that killed dozens of civilians on April 7.

Russian Federation and Syria cited "pending security issues" as their reason for turning the inspectors away, said Ahmet Üzümcü, the director general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

Syria and its ally Russian Federation had invited inspectors with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to visit the town, but then were accused of blocking them from accessing it for several days.

The Associated Press spoke to survivors, who said they encountered a powerful smell like chlorine.

Chemical weapons inspectors will only deploy to the Syrian town of Douma if they are given unhindered access, the OPCW chief said Wednesday, adding it was unknown when the team would go.

Airstrike to cripple Syria's chemical weapons: Pentagon Agencies
Haley, in her Fox News interview, also defended its use as a military term, rather than as a broader political statement. President Donald Trump hailed the attacks on Twitter as "perfectly executed", adding: " Mission Accomplished! ".

Worldwide investigators on Tuesday (Apr 17) entered a Syrian town hit by an alleged chemical attack, after days of delay and warnings by Western powers that crucial evidence had likely been removed.

However, Russia has repeatedly denied all allegations.

Ahmet Uzumcu, Director-General of the group, hoped "all necessary arrangements will be made.to allow the team to deploy to Douma as soon as possible", he told an executive council meeting Monday.

However, medical organizations and rescue workers say more than 40 people were killed when aircraft dropped barrel bombs filled with toxic chemicals on the town while it was still held by rebel forces.

Nuseir, 25, said he ran from the shelter to a nearby clinic and fainted. They found themselves turned away by Russian troops. The Army of Islam surrendered Douma two days later.

Former Douma residents now in northern Syria told The National anyone still in Douma was likely unable to speak freely for fear of retribution from the government. Ahmed Abed al-Nafaa said helicopters were flying before the attack and when he reached the site, people were screaming "chlorine".

Russia, the Syrian regime's principle backer, has insisted there is no proof that chemical weapons had even been used in Douma. The team's arrival in Damascus was postponed on Saturday after the US, France and Britain launched more than 100 cruise missiles at targets inside Syria.

Nebenzia said the Western allies should also end "hateful rhetoric" against Syria and Russian Federation, separate military groups "from terrorists once and for all", and provide humanitarian assistance to Syria.

Dumayr is near the eastern Ghouta region, which came under full government control last week after a weekslong offensive and an alleged chemical weapons attack.

False alarm set off Syrian air defenses: pro-Assad commander