Syria will allow chemical inspectors to examine the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack on Wednesday, 11 days after the alleged attack took place and two days after they were turned away for suspicious reasons, BBC News is reporting.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) will be granted access to the site of the suspected April 7 chemical weapons attack in Douma, according to Igor Kirillov, the head of Russia’s radiological, biological, and chemical protection unit. Russia and Syria have long been considered allies.
On April 7, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime allegedly dropped chemical weapons on the town of Douma, where rebels were suspected to be hiding out. The word “allegedly” is used here because the regime continues to insist that the event was fabricated by rebels.
Horrifying and gruesome images and videos emerged from the site of the attack, showing victims — some of them women and children — foaming at the mouth and gasping for breath. At least 40 people are believed to have been killed in the attack.
U.S., U.K., and French authorities believe the agent used was probably chlorine, possibly aided by a suspected “nerve agent.”
Weapons Inspectors Denied
On Monday, as the Guardian reported at the time, OPCW attempted to reach the site of the suspected attack in order to carry out an inspection. They found themselves turned away by Russian troops.
We asked one mother of five why she didn’t leave Douma, if the fighting had been so bad.
“We tried more than once,” she told us. “But the rebels wouldn’t let us go.” https://t.co/tTuXclGLhi
— Max Abrahms (@MaxAbrahms) April 17, 2018
Russia and Syria cited “pending security issues” as their reason for turning the inspectors away, said Ahmet Üzümcü, the director general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). On Tuesday, Kirillov said that inspectors would be allowed once the roads leading to the site were “cleared of mines” and tested by U.N. forces for safety, according to NPR News.
Neither OPCW nor the West is satisfied with that excuse. U.S. ambassador Kenneth Ward said on Tuesday that he and U.S. allies believe that, in the 11 days since the attack, Russian forces have had plenty of time to tamper with the site.
“It is our understanding the Russians may have visited the attack site.”
Similarly, France’s foreign ministry said in a statement that it is “very likely that proof and essential elements are disappearing from this site.”
Inspectors will take soil samples and gather other evidence from the site of the suspected attack.