International inspectors are to begin work Sunday at the site near Damascus of an alleged chemical attack that prompted an unprecedented wave of Western strikes against Syria’s regime.
US, French and British missiles destroyed sites suspected of hosting chemical arms development and storage facilities but the buildings were mostly empty and the Western trio swiftly reverted to its diplomatic efforts.
Washington trumpeted the total success of the biggest international attack on President Bashar Assad’s regime but both Damascus and Syria’s opposition rubbished its impact.
A team of chemical experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, based in The Hague, arrived in Damascus hours after the strikes.
They have been tasked with investigating the site of an April 7 attack in the town of Douma, just east of the capital Damascus, which Western powers said involved chlorine and sarin and killed dozens.
“The fact-finding team arrived in Damascus on Saturday and is due to go to Douma on Sunday,” Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Ayman Soussan tells AFP.
“We will ensure they can work professionally, objectively, impartially and free of any pressure,” he says, adding he was confident the experts would prove chemical weapons were never used.
The OPCW itself had declared that the Syrian government’s chemical weapons stockpile had been removed in 2014, only to confirm later that sarin was used in a 2017 attack in the northern town of Khan Sheikhun.