UN 'alarmed' by chemwar claim; Russia denies it
UN Secretary-General António Guterres issued a statement April 9 saying he is "deeply concerned" about ongoing air-strikes on Douma in Syria's besieged Eastern Ghouta enclave, noting the "killing of civilians" and "destruction of civilian infrastructure," including hospitals and health facilities. The statement said he is "particularly alarmed by allegations that chemical weapons have been used against civilian populations in Douma." It also noted reports of civilians killed by shelling of Damascus from rebel positions in Douma. Guterres called on all sides to abide by Security Council Resolutions 2401, which last month demanded a 30-day halt to hostilitiess. He reiterated that there is no military solution to the conflict.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meanwhile said no evidence has been found of a chemical weapons attack in Douma. Lavrov said Russian specialists and aid workers had visited the area, which rebel fighters have started leaving under a surrender deal.
These denials were rejected by the Syrian-American Medical Society, which has aid workers on the ground. SAMS said more than 500 people were brought to medical centers in Douma with symptoms "indicative of exposure to a chemical agent," including breathing difficulties, bluish skin, mouth foaming, corneal burns and "emission of chlorine-like odor." (BBC News)
In other news, Israel, which has sporadically bombed targets in Syria over the past two years, has launched new air-strikes, hitting an airbase used by Iranian forces. Russian personnel at the base were reportedly notified in advance of the strikes, so they could evacuate in time. The base was identified as T-4 airfield near Homs. (Reuters, EA Worldview)