March 18, 2018

Mattis warns Syria on chemical weapons, doubts Russian missile claims

12 March 2018, 10:00 | Opal Carroll

Modal Trigger James Mattis Getty Images

Mattis warns Syria over use of chemical weapons on civilians

On Monday, Haley told the Security Council that if the 15-member body failed to act on Syria then Washington "remains prepared to act if we must", just as it did in April previous year when the United States bombed a Syrian government air base it said was used to launch a deadly chemical weapons attack.

Last year, the USA responded to reports that the Syrian regime had used sarin gas against the city of Khan Sheikhoun by attacking the regime's Shayrat Air Base.

The draft resolution would allow "safe, unimpeded and sustained access" for humanitarian aid convoys and "safe, unconditional, medical evacuations in Eastern Ghouta".

At least 1,162 civilians have been killed, including 241 children, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Briefing the Security Council on Monday afternoon, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said fighting had continued across Syria despite the resolution, even intensifying in the Eastern Ghouta and claiming hundreds of civilian lives.

Rebel-held parts of Ghouta are under a crippling government siege that has made it hard for its estimated 400,000 residents to access food and medicine.

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More than 1,160 civilians have been killed since Russia-backed regime forces launched a brutal air and ground assault on Eastern Ghouta, the last stronghold of the armed opposition near the capital Damascus. "This is the Assad regime, Iran, and Russian Federation continuing to wage war against their political opponents", Haley said. Eastern Ghouta has been besieged for years after many of its residents joined the initial protests against Assad's rule in 2011.

Douma residents said dozens of people were trapped alive under rubble, with rescuers unable to reach them due to the intensity of the raids.

The United States on Monday warned that it was ready to act in Syria, if needed, to end chemical attacks and "inhuman suffering", as it pushed for a new 30-day ceasefire in Eastern Ghouta.

Syrian jets also struck rebel-held towns in the country's south, the first aerial attacks on the area since the United States and Russian Federation brokered a deal making it a "de-escalation zone" a year ago, rebels and residents said. He blamed Russian Federation and Turkey for what he called "war crimes that are being committed in Afrin".

Jaysh al-Islam said the evacuations would take place in stages, but it did not say when they would begin.

Turkey's Hurriyet newspaper also reported that civilians were leaving the town of Afrin, heading to government-controlled areas and the town of Manbij, held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. Ankara considers the YPG a terror organization linked to its own Kurdish insurgency.

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