France’s Ayrault (pictured): What I heard is 100% lies and propaganda. It’s 100% cruelty and cynicism.”


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UPDATE 1245 GMT: Six more victims of last week’s chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun have died in Turkish hospitals.

Health Minister Recep Akdağ said 34 people were hospitalized, and three are still being treated.

Akdağ said there was concrete evidence of the use of sarin nerve agent in the victims’ blood and urine samples.


ORIGINAL ENTRY: French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has denounced the “lies and propaganda” of President Assad over his regime’s chemical attack on a town in northwest Syria last week.

A regime warplane fired a missile with chemical munitions — likely a hybrid of nerve agent and chlorine — on Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib Province on April 4. At least 87 people were killed and almost 600 wounded.

Radar tracking of the warplane, satellite imagery, physiological evidence from the victims, witness testimony, videos, and photographs all point to regime responsibility. US, British, and Turkish agencies all say that sarin was used in the attack.

Russia and the Assad regime have put out a series of contradictory, unsupported claims to try and cover up the findings. On Friday, an interview was published in which President Assad — undermining Russian contentions that the deadly cloud was caused by a regime warplane hitting a rebel warehouse with chemical stocks or that it was a rebel “false flag” attack — said the incident was “100 percent fabrication”.

Ayrault, speaking at a joint press briefing in Beijing with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, said he learned of Assad’s remarks with “deep sadness”.

“What I heard is 100% lies and propaganda. It’s 100% cruelty and cynicism. And so we have to end it. We need a real ceasefire,” Ayrault said.

The Foreign Minister effectively thanked China for abstaining on the UN resolution — vetoed by Russia — calling on the Assad regime to co-operate with an independent investigation, as he praised Beijing’s “independent and wise position”.

China had joined Russia on six of Moscow’s seven previous vetoes of Syria resolutions in the Security Council since 2012.

Russia’s veto is at odds with its public position — alongside Assad’s other key ally, Iran — that an inquiry should be held. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem undermined the line further on Friday when, at a joint meeting with Russian and Iranian counterparts in Moscow, he objected to any investigation by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Ayrault and British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson press their case in an editorial in The Guardian:

We have been through this already – this shameless production of lies. We can’t anymore. When children are gassed, we can take no more abject lies. Let us put the facts straight. British scientists have analysed samples from the victims of the attack. These have tested positive for sarin or a sarin-like substance. Our analysis indicates that two Syrian fast jets were in the vicinity of Khan Sheikhun, and within range of likely impact sites. We believe that it is only the regime that has the capability to make such an attack. So it is highly likely that attack was carried out by the Assad regime. Russian claims that opposition stockpiles were struck do not fit the facts.

The two Foreign Ministers emphasize that the UN-OPCW investigation must proceed, despite the Assad regime’s obstruction and Russia’s hypocrisy, and conclude:

The place to start is the ceasefire. It should be strengthened, internationally monitored and enforced. This will ensure no such attacks occur again. In parallel, we need to put renewed energy into the political process.


100+ Killed from Explosion Near Convoy with Removals from Regime Enclaves

[UPDATE 1800 GMT: Both the convoys from the regime enclaves and the opposition towns of Madaya and Zabadani have resumed. Fifteen buses from the enclaves have moved into Aleppo city, while eight from Madaya and Zabadani have reached Rashideen, outside the city.]

An explosion has struck a bus convoy with removals from the regime enclaves of al-Fu’ah and Kafraya, killing or wounding scores of people

The convoy was in the Rashideen district, waiting to enter Aleppo city, when the blast occurred. The White Helmets civil defense organization, who joined the Red Crescent in retrieving bodies and rescuing victims, say more than 100 people died and 55 were wounded

A Hezbollah media unit said a suicide attacker had detonated a car bomb, while the spokesman for the rebel faction Ahrar al-Sham, Labib al-Nahhas, said 1/3 of the casualties were rebels escorting the convoy.

REGIME ENCLAVE BUS BOMBING 15-04-17 2

Buses have been held up in the implementation of the “Four Towns” agreement covering the regime enclaves, north of Idlib city, and the besieged opposition towns of Madaya and Zabadani in Damascus Province.

Stalled buses with people from al-Fu’ah and Kafraya (Ammar Abduallah/Reuters):

A rebel fighter stands near buses carrying people that were evacuated from the two villages of Kefraya and al-Foua, after a stall in an agreement between rebels and Syria's army, at insurgent-held al-Rashideen


Report: Regime-Russia Carry Out 86 Attacks on Civilian Facilities in March

The Assad regime and Russia carried out 86 attacks on civilian facilities and structures in March, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights.

The SNHR said the regime carried out 47 attacks and Russian forces 39. There were 20 attacks by the US-led anti-ISIS coalition, three by ISIS, and two by the Kurdish YPG militia. Three more attacks were untraceable.

Among the civilian structures attacked were 24 educational facilities, 17 houses of worship, 16 medical centers, 8 residential blocks, and 2 camps for displaced persons.


Video: Pro-Assad Bombing of Daraa as Rebels Advance

Footage of the intense bombardment of Daraa city, in southern Syria near the Jordanian border, trying to halt a rebel advance on a key area.

Despite the bombardment, rebels now hold about 85% of the Manshiyah district, where many government and security buildings are located.


Canada Sanctions 27 Top Officials in Assad Regime

Canada has announced sanctions against 27 high-ranking officials in the Assad regime.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said that the officials are now subject to an asset freeze and dealings prohibition. She said the measure is part of international pressure to end indiscriminate violence against Syrians and to get the Assad regime to engage in meaningful negotiations:

Last week’s chemical weapons attack in southern Idlib is a war crime and is unacceptable. Canada is working with its allies to end the war in Syria and hold those responsible to account.

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