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Assad with troops in eastern Ghouta
Israel: Syria continues developing chemical weapons
In an unusual statement, Foreign Ministry condemns alleged poison gas attack in Douma, saying 'attack shows clearly that Syria continues to possess lethal chemical weapons capabilities and even to manufacture new ones.'
Israel's Foreign Ministry issued a condemnation Monday night to the alleged poison gas attack in Douma, noting that despite the fact Syrian President Bashar Assad has committed to getting rid of his chemical arsenal, he continues using the weapons he has before as well as developing new capabilities.

 

 

"The Syrian regime continues to perpetrate crimes against humanity in using these outlawed weapons," the ministry said in a statement. "The latest attack joins a long series of similar attacks using chemical weapons perpetrated by the regime since Assad undertook to disarm from such weapons. The attack shows clearly that Syria continues to possess lethal chemical weapons capabilities and even to manufacture new ones."

 

"In so doing Syria is grossly violating its obligations and the decisions of the international community in this matter," the ministry charged further.

 

Assad visits Syrian troops in eastern Ghouta  (Photo: AFP)
Assad visits Syrian troops in eastern Ghouta (Photo: AFP)
  

The suspected chemical weapons attack took place late on Saturday in the Syrian city of Douma and killed at least 60 people and injured more than 1,000 others.

 

The United States is weighing a multinational military response to the suspected attack, according to US officials, as experts listed several key facilities that could be viable targets.

 

US President Donald Trump promised forceful action on Monday, saying a decision would be made soon.

 

American officials who spoke to Reuters did not disclose any plans, but acknowledged military options were being developed. The White House, Pentagon and State Department declined to comment on specific options or whether military action was likely.

 

Experts on Syria’s war cited France and perhaps even Britain and Middle East allies as potential partners in any US military operation, which would aim to discourage future chemical weapons use in Syria’s brutal civil war. President Emmanuel Macron warned in February that France would strike Syria if it broke treaties prohibiting chemical weapons. France has more than a dozen warplanes in the Middle East and could look to strike from the sea.

 

Children treated after alleged chemical attack in Douma
Children treated after alleged chemical attack in Douma

 

British UN Ambassador Karen Pierce told reporters that Britain “would prefer to start with a proper investigation” but that all options were on the table and London was in close contact with its US and French allies.

 

US intelligence officials said they believed a chemical attack did take place but that Washington was still gathering information. Trump said he was getting clarity about who precisely was responsible for the attack, but did not elaborate.

 

Experts speculated that the retaliatory strikes, should they happen, would likely focus on facilities linked to past reports of Syrian chemical weapons attacks.

 

They cited potential strikes against bases including Dumayr air base, which is home to Syrian Mi-8 helicopters and has been linked in social media to the strike in Douma.

 

One US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, was unaware of any decision to go ahead with a strike, but said any plans for a possible attack could focus on targets associated with Syria’s chemical weapons program while seeking to avoid anything that could spread poisonous fallout in civilian areas.

 

Children treated after alleged chemical attack in Douma
Children treated after alleged chemical attack in Douma

 

A more provocative strike could target Humaymim Airfield in northwest Syria, which was singled out by the White House in a March 4 statement that identified it as the starting point for bombing missions by Russian military aircraft in Damascus and Eastern Ghouta.

 

“It depends on how serious they are,” said Hassan Hassan, a senior fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.

 

Russian threats

The United States fired missiles at the Shayrat air base a year ago in response to the killing of dozens of civilians in a sarin gas attack in an opposition-held town.

 

The United States warned Russia prior to the strikes themselves, seeking to avoid killing Russian forces. The base quickly resumed flights and the strikes did little long-term damage to Syria’s broader military campaign, thanks largely to robust Iranian and Russian support.

 

In recent weeks, however, Trump, along with his top advisers, have stressed Russia’s complicity in Assad’s actions. Trump on Sunday specifically criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin for backing Assad, whom he called an “animal.”

 

Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said on Monday that Moscow had warned the United States of grave repercussions if it carried out an attack against Syrian government forces.

 

Reuters contributed to this report.

 


First published: 04.10.18, 10:02
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