Syria Daily: Inspectors Indefinitely Blocked from Chemical Attack Sites After Gunfire

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A man walks with his bicycle in Douma, East Ghouta, Syria, March 30, 2018 (Bassam Khabieh/Reuters)

Inspectors have been indefinitely blocked from entering the Damascus suburb of Douma, the site of the Syria regime’s chemical attacks on April 7, after a UN team came under gunfire on Tuesday.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons confirmed on Wednesday that the inspection, already held up by the Assad regime, will be suspended.

The UN security team had entered Douma to inspect the sites struck by two chemical attacks to force a surrender agreement in the last opposition-held area near the Syrian capital. They came under small arms fire, and had to withdraw from the first site. when confronted by a large crowd. An explosive device was detonated nearby during their stop at the second site.

No attacker was identified, but the incident is likely to give the regime — which had citing “security issues” to keep the OPCW group in Damascus since Saturday — the pretext to continue the delay of any inspections.

“The UNDSS [security team] will continue to work with the Syrian National Authority, the local Councils in Douma, and the Russian Military Police to review the security situation. At present, we do not know when the [Fact-Finding Mission] team can be deployed to Douma,” a statement said.

Russia has already vetoed any inspection which can formally attribute responsibility for the chemical attacks, reportedly carried out by Assad regime helicopters, and Russian personnel have removed or disturbed evidence from the site, according to multiple sources.

Ishak Majali, a former OPCW inspector, said it is unlikely inspectors will now be able to collect evidence from the sites:

It has been a lot of time since the attack took place – we are talking about 11 days.

So, if you are in control of a site with chemicals for such a long time, it’s very easy actually to tamper with the place and to change the facts on the ground.

You can actually do what we call it in the military business as the decontamination process, which is to remove all the evidence on the ground by using other chemicals to neutralise the chemicals on the ground. Also, you can tamper with the munition itself … to prepare some witnesses or to prepare some medical reports.

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13 COMMENTS

  1. That’s a hell of a coincidence. The tyrant apparently had the site secured for more than a week then when the inspectors are finally ready to do their jobs they come under fire. How awfully convenient for the regime. And yet those “journalists” the regime let in apparently had no such issues. As I said, it’s all pretty damn convenient.

    • Its a farce. Like usuall. Guilty 110% no doubts what so ever. No need even to debate about it. Just Fisk and the usuall idiots can belive the regime narrative. Guilty. Fact. Lets move on.

    • The tyrant apparently had the site secured for more than a week then when the inspectors are finally ready to do their jobs they come under fire. How awfully convenient for the regime.

      Trump announced the withdrawal of US troops and Assad was easily winning, when all of a sudden, there is a CW attack, which is the one thing that risked reversing Trump’s descision to withdraw troops and risked an attack on Assad’s forces – both of which benefit the opposition.

  2. Inspectors Indefinitely Blocked from Chemical Attack Sites After Gunfire

    The inspectors have not been “blocked”. The UN has not given them the go-ahead even though Syria and Russia declared that they could and should enter Douma.

    The Syrian government did everything it could to arrange their visit with the proper escort.

    • “The Syrian government did everything it could to arrange their visit”

      I know it’s a serious situation, but I’m still laughing at this.

      • Then laugh at the OPCW press release: https://www.opcw.org/fileadmin/OPCW/EC/M-59/en/ecm59dg02_e_.pdf

        “On 16 April, we received confirmation from the National Authority of the Syrian Arab Republic that, under agreements reached to allow the evacuation of the population in Ghouta, the Syrian military were unable to enter Douma. The security for the sites where the FFM plans to deploy was under the control of the Russian Military Police. The United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS) has made the necessary arrangements with the Syrian authorities to escort the
        team to a certain point and then for the escort to be taken over by the Russian Military Police. However, the UNDSS preferred to first conduct a reconnaissance visit to the sites, which took place yesterday. FFM team members did not participate in this visit.”

        The Syrians agreed to escort the OPCW team to the outskirts of Douma and then let Russian MPs take over. The UN, however, nixed the plan by insisting on a recon tour of the alleged chemical attack sites.

      • “You can actually do what we call it in the military business as the decontamination process, which is to remove all the evidence on the ground by using other chemicals to neutralise the chemicals on the ground.”

        In that case, we should invalidate the findings of the Khan Sheykoon incident since the site was tampered with and the chain of custody could not be verified.

        Who’s keeping OPCW experts out of Douma? http://tass.com/pressreview/1000659

        “Anton Utkin, an expert on chemical weapons, and former UN inspector for Iraq, told Kommersant “If chemical weapons are used in urban conditions, in particular in a bomb strike, then 20-30% of the toxic substances are driven into the ground, while the rest settles on the walls of houses and building structures.” “Traces in building structures can be found several months after the incident, if not years. In the soil, if a high concentration of the toxic agent was used, traces would be found within two to three months if there wasn’t any rainfall. To eliminate the traces, you need to destroy dozens of buildings and remove a meter or two of soil. To do this in a couple of weeks is unrealistic,” the expert stressed. According to him, the most important thing in such situations is to find the victims, examine their bodies and interview the witnesses.”

  3. Militants blocking OPCW inspectors from ‘chem-attack’ site in Douma https://www.rt.com/news/424575-terrorists-block-opcw-douma/

    “There are militants who terrorize citizens and, among other things, impede the normal work of representatives of the international community – the UN and the OPCW [Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons]. Someone does not want an objective professional investigation [to be carried out],”

      • matt2 – Simply because the US/UK are in the right and Assad has used sarin in the past means that there is no room for Assad apologism in a serious journal. Scott is under to obligation to report Assad’s version which does not match the facts on the ground.

        Why spread the narrative on the other side that is one long conspiracy theory? And Scott is not American, and neither you are apparently.

        Assad delayed the OPCW from its investigation for almost 2 weeks and after they cleansed the place. So what narrative do you wish to repeat here? You are not here to argue. You are here to personally attack.

  4. UN, parties discuss chem watchdog work in Syria https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/the-latest-iraq-strikes-islamic-state-targets-in-syria/2018/04/19/2120ba8a-43ce-11e8-b2dc-b0a403e4720a_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.55a898f974d9

    “Stephane Dujarric told reporters at U.N. headquarters Thursday that “due to the volatility” of the situation on the ground in Douma the United Nations doesn’t want “to telegraph” when a U.N. security team will return to Douma to check out whether conditions on the ground are safe for the inspectors to visit.”

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