How Britain’s former Syria envoy went on BBC to defend Assad… after quietly taking a job with dictator’s father-in-law

The Telegraph reports: A former British ambassador to Syria who appeared on the BBC to defend the Assad regime had already become a director of a lobby group run by the dictator’s father in law.

Peter Ford, 59, courted controversy this month by claiming that President Bashar al-Assad would not have carried out the chemical gas attack on his own people.

Now the Telegraph can reveal that just weeks before the April 4 attack Mr Ford had become a director of the controversial British Syrian Society.

This was founded by Fawaz Akhras, a London-based cardiologist whose daughter Asma is married to President Assad, and is closely linked to the regime, frequently accused of acting as its mouthpiece in the west.

According to documents filed at Companies House, Mr Ford – who has been accused of supporting the Syrian regime in the past – was appointed a director of the society on February 28 this year. [Continue reading…]

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Sarin or similar used in Idlib attack says global chemical weapons watchdog

Reuters reports: Sarin or a similar banned toxin was used in an attack in Syria’s Idlib province on April 4 that killed nearly 90 people, the head of the global chemical weapons watchdog was quoted as saying by its British delegation.

The finding supported earlier testing by Turkish and British laboratories.

The British delegation said on Wednesday that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ Director General Ahmet Uzumcu said results of the analysis “indicate that sarin or a sarin like substance was used.”

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U.S. intelligence intercepted communications between Syrian military and chemical experts

CNN reports: The US military and intelligence community has intercepted communications featuring Syrian military and chemical experts talking about preparations for the sarin attack in Idlib last week, a senior US official tells CNN.

The intercepts were part of an immediate review of all intelligence in the hours after the attack to confirm responsibility for the use of chemical weapons in an attack in northwestern Syria, which killed at least 70 people. US officials have said that there is “no doubt” that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is responsible for the attack.

The US did not know prior to the attack it was going to happen, the official emphasized. The US scoops up such a large volume of communications intercepts in areas like Syria and Iraq, the material often is not processed unless there is a particular event that requires analysts to go back and look for supporting intelligence material.

So far there are no intelligence intercepts that have been found directly confirming that Russian military or intelligence officials communicated about the attack. The official said the likelihood is the Russians are more careful in their communications to avoid being intercepted. [Continue reading…]

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Russia vetoes United Nations probe of the Syria gas attack

Bloomberg reports: Russia vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution demanding that Bashar al-Assad’s government cooperate with an investigation into the deadly toxic gas attack in northern Syria that the U.S. and allies blame on the regime.

Ten nations on the 15-member Security Council voted Wednesday in favor of the resolution condemning the attack. Bolivia joined Russia in voting against the resolution. China, Kazakhstan and Ethiopia abstained.

France, the U.K. and the U.S. introduced the resolution in response to the suspected sarin attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun on April 4, which killed more than 80 people, including women and children. U.S. President Donald Trump ordered missile strikes on a Syrian airbase in response, and administration officials have said evidence clearly shows that Assad’s forces were behind the attack. But Russia contends the chemicals belonged to terrorists.

A man collects samples from the site of a suspected toxic gas attack in Syria.Photographer: Omar Haj Kadour/AFP via Getty Images
The UN vote came shortly after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Secretary Sergei Lavrov on Syria and other issues dividing their countries. Russia wants an international investigation of the chemical attack, Lavrov told reporters in Moscow, but the resolution offered by the U.S. and its allies was aimed “more at legitimizing the arguments against Damascus.”

The abstention by China, which usually sides with Russia in the Security Council, was praised by Trump at a White House news conference. “I think it is wonderful they abstained,” he said.

Russia objected to a paragraph that would have required Syria to provide investigators with flight plans and information about air operations on the day the attack was launched, as well as the names of helicopter squadron commander and immediate access to airbases where it may have been launched.

While Russia says sarin was released when Syrian government forces accidentally struck a building where terrorists were hiding a cache of deadly chemicals, the U.S. says it has images proving the bomb left a crater in a road rather than hitting a building.

It was the eighth time Russia had used its veto power to block a resolution against Assad’s regime since 2011. Most recently, Russia blocked a council resolution in February condemning Syria for chemical attacks using chlorine gas. [Continue reading…]

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Syria chemical attack pilot, General Mohammed Hasouri, said to have been killed by car bomb

The Times reports: The pilot who is believed to have dropped sarin gas on the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun, killing at least 87 people, was General Mohammed Hasouri, an experienced commander who had carried out a previous chemical attack, The Times can reveal.

General Hasouri, a squadron commander from President Assad’s Alawite sect, was congratulated by General Ali Abdullah Ayoub, chief of general staff of the Syrian army, for “destroying al-Qaeda’s weapons facilities in Khan Sheikhoun” in the attack last Tuesday. A picture of the two was tweeted by Fares Shehabi, the MP for Aleppo and a high-profile member of Assad’s regime.

Syria and Russia insist that the deaths in Khan Sheikhoun from sarin gas exposure were caused by a conventional bomb hitting a rebel warehouse containing chemical weapons. That has been debunked by experts who say that any sarin stocks would be destroyed rather than released if such a strike took place. Witnesses at the site have noted that the crater from the missile is in the middle of a road, and that a warehouse shows no signs of having been used to store chemical weapons.

In his tweet Mr Shehabi names the pilot as General Haytham Hasouri, but Ahmad Rahal, a former Syrian air force brigadier, told The Times it was likely that he had been given a false first name in an attempt to conceal his identity.

He confirmed that the man in the picture was Mohammed Hasouri, the chief of staff of air force brigade 50. He is an Alawite, part of the Shia Muslim sect whose members hold most of the highest ranks in Assad’s regime.

His hometown, Talkalakh, is close to the Lebanese border where there was fierce fighting between rebels and the regime at the start of the conflict.

Observers who monitor the communications of the regime’s air force to warn people about bombings, confirmed to The Times that the Khan Sheikhoun attack was carried out by a pilot called Mohammed Hasouri. [Continue reading…]

The Washington Post reports: Although officials acknowledged that they have seen no evidence directly linking Russia to the attacks, national security adviser H.R. McMaster said that Russia should be pressed to answer what it knew ahead of the chemical attack since it has positioned warplanes and air defense systems with associated troops in Syria since 2015.

“I think what we should do is ask Russia, how could it be, if you have advisers at that airfield, that you didn’t know that the Syrian air force was preparing and executing a mass murder attack with chemical weapons?” McMaster said on Fox News. [Continue reading…]

As a high-ranking Syrian air force officer, Hasouri would surely be in close communication with the Russians present at his airfield. It would appear that the risk he might reveal the content of those communications has now been eliminated.

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Chemical attacks underline the failure of U.S. policy on Syria under Obama

The New York Times reports: When it came time to make his case for the judgment of history, President Barack Obama had a ready rebuttal to one of the most cutting critiques of his time in office.

Although friends and foes alike faulted him for not following through on his threat to retaliate when Syria gassed its own people in 2013, Mr. Obama would counter that he had actually achieved a better result through an agreement with President Bashar al-Assad to surrender all of his chemical weapons.

After last week, even former Obama aides assume that he will have to rethink that passage in his memoir. More than 80 civilians were killed in what Western analysts called a sarin attack by Syrian forces — a chilling demonstration that the agreement did not succeed. In recent days, former aides have lamented what they considered one of the worst moments of the Obama presidency and privately conceded that his legacy would suffer.

“If the Syrian government carried out the attack and the agent was sarin, then clearly the 2013 agreement didn’t succeed in its objective of eliminating Bashar’s C.W.,” or chemical weapons, said Robert Einhorn, who was the State Department special adviser for nonproliferation and arms control under Mr. Obama before the agreement. “Either he didn’t declare all his C.W. and kept some hidden in reserve, or he illegally produced some sarin after his stock was eliminated — most likely the former.”

Other former advisers to Mr. Obama questioned the wisdom of negotiating with Mr. Assad and said last week’s attack illustrated the flaws in the agreement, which was brokered by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia as a way to prevent the United States from using force.

“For me, this tragedy underscores the dangers of trying to do deals with dictators without a comprehensive, invasive and permanent inspection regime,” said Michael McFaul, who was Mr. Obama’s ambassador to Russia. “It also shows the limits of doing deals with Putin. Surely, the Russians must have known about these C.W.”

Putting the best face on it, former Obama advisers argued that it was still better to have removed 1,300 tons of chemical weapons from Syria even if Mr. Assad cheated and kept some, or later developed more. “Imagine what Syria would look like without that deal,” said Antony J. Blinken, a former deputy secretary of state. “It would be awash in chemical weapons which would fall into the hands of ISIS, Al Nusra or other groups.”

Still, the administration knew all along that it had probably not gotten all of the chemical weapons, and tried to get Russia to help press Syria, without success. “We always knew we had not gotten everything, that the Syrians had not been fully forthcoming in their declaration,” Mr. Blinken said.

Even before last week’s chemical attack, many veterans of Mr. Obama’s team considered his handling of Syria his biggest failing and expressed regret that their administration could not stop a civil war that has left more than 400,000 dead and millions displaced. [Continue reading…]

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U.S. investigating possible Russian involvement in Syrian gas attack

The Hill reports: The Pentagon is looking into whether Russia participated or assisted in the April 4 chemical attack in Syria, as well as well as an attack on a local hospital, senior U.S. military officials said Friday.

“We have no knowledge of Russian involvement in this attack, but we will investigate any information that might lead us in that direction,” a senior official told reporters during a background briefing at the Pentagon. “We’re not done.”

Officials said a Russian-made drone hovered over the hospital where victims of the chemical attack, which left at least 70 civilians dead and hundreds injured, were being treated. Syrian forces own Russian-made aircraft and drones, making it difficult to determine who controlled the craft.
Five hours later, the drone returned and the hospital was struck by munitions dropped from a separate fixed-wing aircraft.

“We don’t know why somebody or who struck that. We don’t have positive accountability yet, but the fact that somebody would strike the hospital potentially to hide the evidence of a chemical attack, about five hours after, is a question that we’re very interested in,” the official said. [Continue reading…]

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‘The dead were wherever you looked’: Inside Syrian town after gas attack

The Guardian reports: Khan Sheikhun is a ghost town, its streets deserted and silent as though mourning the victims of the atrocity that occurred here two days earlier.

The only reminder of what happened is a small, blackened, crater near the northern part of town, where a rocket laced with a nerve agent fell, killing more than 70 people in one of the worst mass casualty chemical attacks in the six-year war in Syria.

All that remains of the attack on the town in rebel-held Idlib province is a faint stench that tingles the nostrils and a small green fragment from the rocket. The houses nearby are emptied of the living.

The victims’ symptoms are consistent with sarin, the nerve agent that was dropped on an opposition-held area near Damascus in 2013, killing more than 1,000 people. After that attack the regime supposedly gave up its chemical weapons arsenal.

Moscow, Bashar al-Assad’s principal backer in the war, said the Syrian government had bombed a rebel-run toxic gas manufacturing plant in Khan Sheikhun, and that the gas had subsequently leaked out.

The Guardian, the first western media organisation to visit the site of the attack, examined a warehouse and silos directly next to where the missile had landed, and found nothing but an abandoned space covered in dust and half-destroyed silos reeking of leftover grain and animal manure.

Residents said the silos had been damaged in air raids six months ago, and had stood unused since then.

“You can look at it ; there’s nothing there except maybe some grain and animal dung, and there’s even a dead goat there that suffocated in the attack,” one person said. Residents responded in disbelief to the Russian allegation.

There was no evidence of any building being hit in recent days or weeks near where so many people were killed and wounded by a nerve agent. The homes across the street appeared undamaged from the outside. There was no contamination zone near any building. Instead, the contamination area radiated from a hole in a road. [Continue reading…]

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Banned nerve agent sarin used in Syria chemical attack

The New York Times reports: The poison used in the deadly chemical bomb attack in a rebel-held part of northern Syria this week was the banned nerve agent sarin, the Turkish Health Ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

The statement from Turkey, where many of the stricken Syrians were taken after the assault on Tuesday, was the most specific about the cause.

“According to the results of preliminary tests,” the statement said, “patients were exposed to chemical material (Sarin).”

Western countries have accused the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad of carrying out the chemical attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib Province, which left scores dead and hundreds sickened in one of the worst atrocities so far in the six-year-old Syria war.

The Syrian government has denied responsibility. Russia, its main ally, has accused Mr. Assad’s enemies of rushing to judgment and has threatened to veto a United Nations Security Council measure condemning the assault.

The Turkish statement said the sarin conclusion had been based on autopsies on three victims performed at Turkey’s Adana Forensic Medicine Institution with the participation of representatives from the World Health Organization and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, a group based in The Hague that monitors compliance with the global treaty that bans such munitions. [Continue reading…]

In line with official statements from Moscow, a motley crew of conspiracy theorists and pundits from the alt right and anti-interventionist left are once again going to claim that the sarin released in Khan Shaykhun was produced by al Qaeda, or some other group opposed to Assad — just as was claimed after the Ghouta massacre in 2013. Aside from the absence of any credible evidence to support such claims and aside from the fact that the Assad regime’s ability to manufacture sarin is already well-documented, the technical challenges involved in such production makes sarin a chemical weapon unfeasible to be produced and effectively deployed by any non-state actor, least of all one operating in the conditions faced in Syria. What I wrote in 2013 also applies now.

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Trump’s response to Syria chemical attack exposes administration’s volatility

The Guardian reports: Any punitive strike would have to be backed up by consideration on what to do the day after, if Assad and Putin ignore the message. Increasing military aid to rebels would carry the same risk of falling into the hands of extremists.

Nor has any policymaker on the left or right ever credibly articulated a plan for Syria should the US succeed in toppling Assad, a strategic vacuum reminiscent of the disastrous Iraq occupation.

Moreover, any action against the Syrian regime would now also be against Russia.

Colin Kahl, a former member of the Obama White House, noted in a tweet that it was “worth remembering there are Russian advisers at nearly every relevant Assad base. Any strike means dead Russians.”

The Idlib attack appears to have driven the first meaningful wedge between Trump and Putin. He told the New York Times: “I think it’s a very sad day for Russia because they’re aligned, and in this case, all information points to Syria that they did this.”

Meanwhile, Haley – presumably with White House approval – delivered a scathing indictment of Russia at the UN Security Council.

The shift in mood is clearly another consequence of the Idlib atrocity, but it is too early to say how lasting that shift will be and whether it could lead to the US and Russia clashing in the Syrian battlefield.

The depth and duration of the change is particularly hard to predict, as it appears to have been driven by Trump’s immediate emotional response to the event.

In his remarks in the Rose Garden, he referred repeatedly to the children and babies who had been killed.

Yet the victims of the Idlib attack are far from the first Syrian children to have suffered at the hands of the Assad regime, with Russian and Iranian backing.

And there has been substantial evidence of previous regime use of chemical weapons. What seems to have made the difference this time is that Trump spent some time looking at pictures of the aftermath. [Continue reading…]

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Trump admits: White House looked the other way during Assad’s gas attacks

The Daily Beast reports: The Trump administration knew that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad was repeatedly attacking his own citizens with toxic chemicals. But the White House tacitly endorsed his continuing rule anyway.

That was the subtext to President Donald Trump’s message Wednesday, when he revealed that the U.S. was aware of a series of chlorine gas attacks leading up to this week’s deadly suspected sarin strike that killed dozens of civilians in an opposition-held town.

And yet, while the toxic bombs were falling, Trump’s administration repeatedly signaled that it would do nothing to remove Assad—a policy shift the Syrian dictator may have taken as a green light that led to Tuesday’s chemical massacre.

“If you look back over the last few weeks, there have been other attacks using gas,” Trump said during a Rose Garden press conference. “You’re now talking about a whole different level,” he said, condemning Tuesday’s attack together with Jordan’s King Abdullah II, but revealing he’d just possibly been willing to let the others slide.

The White House, U.S. intelligence agencies, and the military’s Central Command all declined to elaborate on Trump’s comments, but he seemed to confirm reports from rebel groups and aid organizations of multiple suspected gas attacks in the past two weeks. [Continue reading…]

The Washington Post reports: Autopsies conducted by Turkish doctors on Thursday have confirmed that chemical weapons were used in an attack which killed scores of people in Syria two days earlier, providing the most concrete evidence to date of why so many people were killed.

Dozens of victims from Tuesday’s daybreak assault on the northwestern town of Khan Sheikhoun have been evacuated to Turkey for medical treatment. Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said the World Health Organisation had supervised autopsies for three people, and that chemical agents had been detected.

His comments came after Doctors Without Borders said that patients had shown symptoms consistent with exposure to a nerve agent, the use of which has previously caused the United States to threaten military intervention. [Continue reading…]

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World Health Organization: Syria chemical attack likely involved nerve agent

The Washington Post reports: A chemical attack that killed scores of civilians in Syria likely involved a banned nerve agent, top medical groups concluded Wednesday, as the United States and European allies at the U.N. Security Council demanded a full investigation.

But denunciations at the United Nations faced strong obstacles from Russia, a critical ally of Syria’s government.

Before the Security Council’s emergency session, Russia broke with global consensus that blamed Tuesday’s attack on the Syrian regime and instead claimed it was carried out by Syrian rebel groups. A rebel commander called Russia’s assertion “a lie.”

The Russian stance underscored the difficulties of seeking greater international pressure on the government of Bashar al-Assad as it escalates an air campaign against the remaining anti-government strongholds in northern Syria. [Continue reading…]

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Russia denies Assad to blame for chemical attack, on course for collision with Trump

Reuters reports: Russia suggested on Wednesday it would publicly stand by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad despite outrage over a chemical weapons attack, setting Donald Trump’s new U.S. administration on course for a head-on diplomatic collision with Moscow.

Western countries including the United States blamed Assad’s armed forces for the chemical attack, which choked scores of people to death in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in a rebel-held area of northern Syria hit by government air strikes.

Washington said it believed the deaths were caused by sarin nerve gas dropped by Syrian aircraft. But Moscow offered an alternative explanation that could shield Assad: it said it believed poison gas had leaked from a rebel chemical weapons depot struck by Syrian bombs.

Hasan Haj Ali, commander of the Free Idlib Army rebel group, called the Russian statement a “lie”.

“Everyone saw the plane while it was bombing with gas,” he told Reuters from northwestern Syria.

“Likewise, all the civilians in the area know that there are no military positions there, or places for the manufacture (of weapons). The various factions of the opposition are not capable of producing these substances.” [Continue reading…]

In 2013, after Seymour Hersh ignorantly claimed, “It’s not hard to make sarin. You could mix it in the backyard. Two chemicals melded together,” I wrote a post on how in fact it’s not easy to make sarin.

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U.S., France, Britain propose UN resolution on Syria gas attack

Reuters reports: The United States, Britain and France on Tuesday proposed a United Nations Security Council resolution to condemn a suspected deadly chemical weapons attack in Syria, which diplomats said would likely be put to a vote on Wednesday.

The three countries blamed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces for the attack, which killed dozens of people. The Syrian military denied responsibility and said it would never use chemical weapons.

U.N. Syria mediator Staffan de Mistura said the “horrific” chemical attack had come from the air.

The draft text, seen by Reuters, says Syria’s government must provide an international investigation with flight plans and logs for Tuesday, the names of all helicopter squadron commanders and provide access to air bases where investigators believe attacks using chemicals may have been launched.

It asks U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to report monthly on whether the Syrian government is cooperating with an international investigation and a fact-finding mission into chemical weapons use in Syria.

The draft resolution “expresses its outrage that individuals continue to be killed and injured by chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic, and expresses its determination that those responsible must be held accountable.” [Continue reading…]

The Guardian notes: Tuesday’s strike came days after the US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, said the Trump administration was no longer prioritising the removal of Assad, and that the Syrian people would ultimately decide his fate.

The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, made similar comments on Monday, affirming a shift in US policy that began under the Obama administration.

Critics of the stance have said that the absence of a credible threat has given the regime licence to commit war crimes with impunity as its backers, Iran and Russia, steadily claw back years of battlefield losses. [Continue reading…]

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Syria’s chemical weapons horror

Ahmad Tarakji writes: Doctors in my group on the ground in Syria [Syrian American Medical Society] have been reviewing the symptoms of the affected patients and medical personnel from the recent attacks. We are worried that a new phosphorus chemical agent is being used in chemical weapons, in addition to the identifiable chlorine. Some of the patients have exhibited symptoms similar to the effects of a nerve gas: pinpoint pupils, foaming at the mouth and the loss of consciousness, slow heart rate, slow breathing, vomiting and muscles spasms.

In these unimaginable situations, doctors often face a terrible decision: Should I run for my life or stay with my patients? As doctors, we have one duty: saving lives, even under the worst and most dangerous conditions.

Dr. Darwish [a victim of a chlorine attack in Hama on March 25] and many medical personnel and emergency workers have been killed in line of duty. They are heroes, and their stories are a testament to the courage and dedication of Syrian health workers. How many more stories must we hear before decisive, meaningful action is taken to end these crimes?

The world has done little to protect civilians and health workers crying out for action and attention. We, as civilized communities, must rethink how to match our values, principles and stated goals with our actions.

Over the past six years, humanitarian organizations have relentlessly pursued comprehensive documentation of war crimes. They have trained our staff to collect and catalog samples of fabric, water, skin and dirt. They have taken countless photographs and collected testimonies of many victims. Despite countless resolutions, international meetings and documentation, attacks on the people of Syria continue with impunity.

Humanitarian groups may offer to send antidotes and personal protective equipment to health workers in Syria. These are needed items — but they are not enough. The constant violation of humanitarian law in Syria, the undermining of the United Nations as a diplomatic platform, and the starving and gassing of people in order to negotiate a political outcome are not acceptable. It is time that the international community stands up and says enough. We want protection. We want accountability. We want action. [Continue reading…]

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Assad apparently ‘gasses’ civilians days after Tillerson hints he can stay in power

The Daily Beast reports: Days ago, in Ankara, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signaled that the U.S. had no quarrel with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, a man Tillerson’s predecessor compared to Adolf Hitler after he slaughtered more than 1,000 people with poison gas in 2013.

The “longer-term status of President Assad,” Tillerson said, “will be decided by the Syrian people,” a euphemism used by Damascus, Moscow, and Tehran to indicate that he isn’t going anywhere.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer used almost identical language the next day, saying, “Well, I think with respect to Assad, there is a political reality that we have to accept in terms of where we are right now.”

But the gas, it appears, is raining down once again on civilians.

In a video made Tuesday, Dr. Shajul Islam showed the camera a young man lying on a gurney with a catatonic expression on his face. His pupils were shrunk to the size of pinheads. “This is not chlorine,” he said. “We do not smell chlorine on this patient.” The industrial chemical has often been used as crude weapon on the Syrian battlefield.

Perhaps this time it was organic phosphate, another easily acquired chemical. [Continue reading…]

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Syria: Suspected chemical attack kills dozens in Idlib province

The Guardian reports: Dozens of people have been killed in a suspected chemical attack in northern Syria, aid workers and local activists have said, in one of the largest mass casualty incidents using a toxic gas in the six-year conflict.

The attack on Tuesday morning on Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province was followed by a series of air raids in the early afternoon on the same town, according to medical workers.

More than 50 people were killed when planes carrying weaponry laced with unidentified chemicals raided Khan Sheikhoun. Victims exhibited symptoms resembling those caused by exposure to sarin gas.

“Everyone is horrified and the children are in total shock,” said Mohammad Hassoun, a spokesman for civil defence rescue workers in the nearby town of Sarmin, which received 14 of the wounded.

Hassoun said the victims were bleeding from the nose and mouth, had constricted irises and suffered from convulsions.

The casualties have been distributed across a wide range of hospitals in Idlib, with some sent north towards Turkey. There were reports that casualties driven to the Bab al-Hawa crossing on the Turkish border were experiencing difficulties in entering the country for emergency relief.[Continue reading…]

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British police look at allegations of Saudi war crimes in Yemen

The Guardian reports: Scotland Yard is examining allegations of war crimes by Saudi Arabia in Yemen, the Guardian can reveal, triggering a possible diplomatic row with Britain on the eve of Theresa May’s visit to the Arab state.

The Metropolitan police confirmed that their war crimes unit was assessing whether criminal prosecutions could be brought over Saudi Arabia’s devastating aerial campaign in Yemen.

The force’s SO15 counter-terrorism unit revealed to a London human rights lawyer that it had launched a “scoping exercise” into the claims before Maj Gen Ahmed al-Asiri’s visit to the capital last week.

The revelation comes as May plans to underline Britain’s close relationship with the Saudi royal family on her visit to the Arab state this week, in which tackling the terror threat from Islamic State will be a key factor. [Continue reading…]

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