UN 'alarmed' by chemwar claim; Russia denies it

UN Secretary-General António Guterres issued a statement April 9 saying he is "deeply concerned" about ongoing air-strikes on Douma in Syria's besieged Eastern Ghouta enclave, noting the "killing of civilians" and "destruction of civilian infrastructure," including hospitals and health facilities. The statement said he is "particularly alarmed by allegations that chemical weapons have been used against civilian populations in Douma." It also noted reports of civilians killed by shelling of Damascus from rebel positions in Douma. Guterres called on all sides to abide by Security Council Resolutions 2401, which last month demanded a 30-day halt to hostilitiess. He reiterated that there is no military solution to the conflict.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meanwhile said no evidence has been found of a chemical weapons attack in Douma. Lavrov said Russian specialists and aid workers had visited the area, which rebel fighters have started leaving under a surrender deal.

These denials were rejected by the Syrian-American Medical Society, which has aid workers on the ground. SAMS said more than 500 people were brought to medical centers in Douma with symptoms "indicative of exposure to a chemical agent," including breathing difficulties, bluish skin, mouth foaming, corneal burns and "emission of chlorine-like odor." (BBC News)

In other news, Israel, which has sporadically bombed targets in Syria over the past two years, has launched new air-strikes, hitting an airbase used by Iranian forces. Russian personnel at the base were reportedly notified in advance of the strikes, so they could evacuate in time. The base was identified as T-4 airfield near Homs. (Reuters, EA Worldview)

Russian missiles wipe out civilians in Idlib

Russian missiles, fired from a warship or submarine in the Mediterranean, hit a residential building in Idlib, killing 17 civilians and injuring more than 150. (EA Worldview)

Russia denies Ghouta gas —again

Russia’s "Center for Reconciliation" (sic!) declared that, after Russian personnnel visited the town and its medical facilities, "all attempts to spin a war on those charges seek to derail peace efforts." (EA Worldview) Yet another one to file under #OrwellWouldShit

Russia vetoes UN investigation of Ghouta chemical attack

Russia vetoed a US-drafted United Nations Security Council resolution that would have set up an investigation into chemical weapons use in Syria following an alleged toxic gas attack in rebel-held Douma. It was the 12th time that Russia has used its veto power at the council to block action targeting its Damascus ally. Twelve of the 15 council members backed the measure, including France, Britain, African countries, Kazakhstan and Kuwait. Bolivia voted against the draft resolution, while China abstained. (AFP)

US and Russia block each others' SC resolutions on Ghouta

The UN Security Council on April 3 voted not to adopt  two proposed resolutions that would implement measures to investigate the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

The US proposal would establish a new investigative mechanism to replace the Organisation for Prevention of Chemical Weapons-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (OPCW), whose mandate expired in November after a Russian veto. This proposal would also have the Secretary-General António Guterres make recommendations about the mechanism. However, this draft was rejected by a vote of 12-2-1, including a veto by Russia, thereby blocking its adoption. In support of its veto, Russia accused the US of attempting to recreate the Joint Investigative Mechanism and implement a mechanism that does not satisfy the standards under the Chemical Weapons Convention (PDF).

The other proposal, submitted by Russia, proposed to establish an independent investigative mechanism for one year, but would have granted authority to the Security Council (where Russia wields a veto) to assign accountability for chemical use in Syria, and to manage the evidence collected in the investigation. Seven no votes resulted in this proposal being rejected, three of which were from permanent members. The UK, opposing of the draft, referred to it as a "distraction" that attempted to assert that "sovereign States were above international law." (Jurist)

UN team dispatched to investigate Douma attack

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said a fact-finding team is "preparing to deploy to Syria shortly" to investigate the Douma chemical attack, AP reports. So inocultae yourself to the oncoming tsunami of bullshit now. OPCW team on its way to the Douma chemical attck site to investigate. The site has been in Assad-Russian hands for several days now, so plenty of time to clean up the evdience. If it was sarin that was used, it would have degraded by now anyway. And.... the OPCW is ONLY empowered to determine if a chemical attack took place, not assign blame for it. But (count on it), we are about to be told by the Assad-suckers in gloating manner that "the OPCW found no proof that Assad used chemical weapons."

And while accounrts are still vague (e.g. NBC), the White House says it has received blood and urine samples from survivors of the attack, and they tested positive both for chlorine and a nerve agent. This too will be readily dismissed... because the White House always lies, while the Kremlin always tells us the truth.

Kremlin spews false-flag conspiracy theory

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he had "irrefutable evidence" that the Douma attack was staged as part of a "Russophobic campaign" led by one country, which he did not name. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for Russia's defense ministry, went further, saying: "We have...evidence that proves Britain was directly involved in organizing this provocation." (BBC News)

UN Commission of Inquiry: 'grave concern' over chemwar

The UN Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic said April 13 they are "gravely concerned" over the use of chemical weapons in Syria. The commission condemned any use of chemical weapons and noted that they have 34 documented incidents of their use in Syria. The commission called for the secretary-general to investigate the use of chemical weapons to determine who is responsible. They also stressed the importance of preserving evidence at sites of suspected uses of chemical weapons. (Jurist)

Investigators blocked from site of Douma attack

Chemical arms inspectors were blocked April 16 from the site the suspected chemical attackat Douma. Inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, arrived in Syria April 14. But 48 hours later the inspectors were prevented from reaching the site, which Syrian and Russian forces have captured from rebels. (NYT)

Investigators still blocked from site of Douma attack

The OPCW team is still being barred from the Douma chemical attack site by Russian and Assad regime troops, ostensibly on security concerns. (A preliminary UN security team was allowed through today.) The French foreign ministry says, rather obviously: "It is very likely that proof and essential elements are disappearing from this site." (The Independent, The Guardian)  But regime shill Robert Fisk has been allowed through, and is dutifully spewing denialism in the The Independent. He found a doctor—who he admits was not a witness to the attack, and is a regime sympathizer—who says he doubts there was a chemical attack. Surprise! (Fisk is called out for this disingenuous bullshit by blogger Louis Proyect.)

Meanwhile, medical personnel on the scene who don't toe the regime line are being threatened. From The Guardian:

The head of the largest medical relief agency in Syria claims that medics who responded to the suspected gas attack in Douma have been subjected to "extreme intimidation" by Syrian officials who seized biological samples, forced them to abandon patients and demanded their silence.

Dr Ghanem Tayara, the director of the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations (UOSSM) said doctors responsible for treating patients in the hours after the 7 April attack have been told that their families will be at risk if they offer public testimonies about what took place.

A number of doctors who spoke to the Guardian this week say the intimidation from the regime has increased in the past five days, a timeframe that coincides with the arrival in Damascus of a team from the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which aims to determine whether chemical weapons were used. All the medics insisted on anonymity, citing the fear for their lives and those of their families.

"There has been a very heavy security presence on the ground ever since the attack and they have been targeting doctors and medics in a very straightforward way," said Tayara, a Birmingham-based physician, now in Turkey where he is supervising the departure from Syria of some of the Douma medics. "Any medic who tried to leave Douma was searched so vigorously, especially for samples. At one medical point, seven casualties were taken away. The Russian military police were heavily involved. They were directing things.

"They were looking through their WhatsApp messages and phones. The doctors were treated abusively and have been threatened ever since. Their families have been threatened that they will pay a price and they themselves have [been] told they will be arrested, and much more if they give any evidence, or interviews about what happened in Douma."

Yet Assad's legions of unpaid Facebook partisans are posting Fisk's denialism all over the place. As are such inevitable outlets as ZeroHedge, a conspiranoid website beloved of too many who think of themselves (with little reason) as being on the "left." 

Beyond disgraceful. 

UN team shot at in Douma

the preliminary team from the UN Department of Safety and Security reached Douma to scout out the site ahead of the OPCW investigators, but have been forced to return to Damascus after coming under fire—from both small arms and an explosive device. (Reuters, Al Jazeera)

Sure seems like someone is playing for time. I wonder why.

Truth about chem attacks blocked by Russia... for years

Note that the OPCW team is only empowered to determine if a chemical attack took place—not assign blame for it. Only the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism was able to do that, but its mandate has not been renewed due to Russia’s opposition at the UN Security Council. (France Diplomatie)

UN investigators still barred from Douma

International inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) who arrived in Damascus nearly a week ago are still waiting to visit the site of the suspected poison gas attack. (MEE)

PHR statement on alleged intimidation of Syrian doctors

Isn't it funny how all those who refuse to believe the obvious without a thorough investigaton are also the last to protest when the investigators are shot at and threatened? From Physicians for Human Rights:

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) expresses grave concern over reports of intimidation of Syrian medics who are carrying out crucial medical treatment and of investigators who are conducting forensic investigations near the site of an April 7 strike on Douma. The attack, which bore the signs of a chemical weapons attack, left at least 70 people dead and scores more injured. Now, teams of Syrian medics, who are working tirelessly to treat survivors, are reportedly being subjected to extreme intimidation, including being forced to abandon patients and being coerced into not speaking about the attack. Reports have also emerged of Syrian officials seizing biological samples from the attack scene and threatening that Syrian doctors and their families will be targeted if they speak out about what they witnessed in the hours after the attack.

Susannah Sirkin, director of international policy and partnerships at PHR, warns that this intimidation poses serious threats to health care and to justice. “Not only do these intimidation tactics prevent survivors from getting the urgent medical care that they need, they also threaten the crucial work of collecting forensic evidence and eye-witness accounts – both of which are critical in being able to ascertain exactly what happened on April 7th and, ultimately, who is to blame. Without these elements, it becomes increasingly difficult to paint an accurate picture of what happened and to ensure accountability for those who committed this atrocity”...