MESOPOTAMIA NEWS NEW REPORT DOUMA /SYRIA – Syria Daily: Inspectors Finally Reach Second Chemical Attack Site in Douma

By Scott Lucas – April 26, 2018 – Limited in authority, OPCW finally allowed to collect some evidence — But is it too little, too late? After 18 days, inspectors have finally reached the second chemical attack site in Douma, near Syria’s capital Damascus.

Using helicopters, the Assad regime’s air force struck twice on April 7, first with chlorine and then with chlorine and a stronger agent. An estimated 85 people were killed within hours, and hundreds were injured.The assault succeeded in forcing the surrender of Douma, the last town in the East Ghouta area which had been held by the opposition since 2012. Tens of thousands of people were forcibly removed to northern Syria in the following days.

Russia has prevented the inspectors, from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, from attributing responsibility for the attacks. Both Moscow and the Assad regime delayed any visit by the team while Russian personnel reportedly removed and disturbed evidence and a Russian-led campaign spread disinformation about the mass killing. Inspectors finally reached one of the sites earlier this week.Despite the possible destruction of much of the evidence, inspectors will try to use environmental samples and biological testing of victims and survivors to establish the nature of the attacks. The material will initially be taken to the OPCW’s laboratory in the Netherlands and then sent to affiliated laboratories for examination.Continuing its campaign to pre-empt any findings, the Russian delegation to the OPCW will hold a briefing on Thursday in which will present “some Syrians to speak about the reported Douma incident”.

Those Syrians are likely to include medical personnel, who were warned in interrogation by Russian personnel to deny any chemical attacks occurred and then subsequently displayed on Russian State media. The leading outlet Russia 24 has also featured staged interviews with residents, including an 11-year-old boy who was seen crying in hospital on the night of the attacks. The OPCW criticized the Russians on Wednesday for not allowing inspectors to first speak to the purported witnesses, but said the briefing would proceed. “The FFM [Fact Finding Mission] will continue to carry out its independent and impartial mission based on interviews with relevant people, its findings from the site visits, analysis of the sample results, as well as any other information and materials collected,” a statement said.