Syria conflict: Inspectors visit site of alleged gas attack

OPCW delegation has reportedly taken samples from the site in Douma

 People walk in the recently recaptured Douma, on the outskirts of Damascus, Syria. Photograph: Youssef  Badawi/EPA

People walk in the recently recaptured Douma, on the outskirts of Damascus, Syria. Photograph: Youssef Badawi/EPA

 

A team of inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has visited a site in Douma, Syria, to collect samples as it tries to determine whether a gas attack took place there on April 7th, the agency said.

In a statement, the OPCW said it would now evaluate and consider whether the team needs to make a second visit to Douma.

Samples will be transported back to the Netherlands and onward to the organisation’s network of designated labs for analysis.

Based on the analysis of the sample results, as well as other information and materials collected by the team, the mission would compile a report and submit it to the organisation’s member states, the statement said.

The OPCW has been investigating use of toxic chemicals in Syria’s civil war since 2014. Inspectors had been trying to reach Douma for several days but were delayed after an advance security detail was fired upon on April 17th.

The OPCW team will attempt to determine whether chemical weapons were used and if so, which. It is not mandated to conclude which side in the conflict used them.

Evacuation

Meanwhile, rebels have started to evacuate three towns in the eastern Qalamoun region in the Damascus countryside, according to Syrian state media.

Several buses left the towns of Ruhaiba, Jayroud and al-Nasriya carrying hundreds of rebels and their families to opposition territory in north Syria, said Al-Ikhbariya TV.

The station said there could be 3,200 rebels leaving the three towns on Saturday.

It said the evacuations will continue for three days. Syrian government forces will take over the towns once the departures are complete.

The evacuations are the latest in a string of population transfers across the Syrian capital that have displaced more than 60,000 people as the government reconsolidates control.

More to follow . . .

– Reuters and PA