Moscow censures Israel’s condemnation of ‘fake’ chemical gas attack
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Moscow censures Israel’s condemnation of ‘fake’ chemical gas attack

As bilateral tensions mount, Russian embassy slams Israel’s ‘hasty conclusion’ that Assad regime was behind deadly Douma raid

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

This image released Sunday, April 8, 2018 by the Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, shows a child receiving oxygen through respirators following an alleged poison gas attack in the rebel-held town of Douma, near Damascus, Syria. Syrian rescuers and medics said the attack on Douma killed at least 40 people. (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP)
This image released Sunday, April 8, 2018 by the Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, shows a child receiving oxygen through respirators following an alleged poison gas attack in the rebel-held town of Douma, near Damascus, Syria. Syrian rescuers and medics said the attack on Douma killed at least 40 people. (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP)

The Russian embassy in Israel on Tuesday came out against Israel’s condemnation of Syria for having carried out a chemical attack against civilians in the Damascus suburb of Douma.

In a statement, the embassy “notes with concern a hasty conclusion made in Israel with regard to the fake chemical attack.”

“The truth is that there is no evidence of any chemical attack in Douma at all,” read the statement, another indication of growing tensions between Moscow and Jerusalem.

Israel on Monday joined almost the entire international community when it “strongly condemn[ed]” the regime of President Bashar Assad for Saturday’s attack on the rebel-held town in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta region. More than 40 people were killed by the bombing, including many children.

“The Syrian regime continues to perpetrate crimes against humanity in using these outlawed weapons,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“The latest attack joins a long series of similar attacks using chemical weapons perpetrated by the regime since Assad undertook to disarm from such weapons. The attack shows clearly that Syria continues to possess lethal chemical weapons capabilities and even to manufacture new ones.”

But the Russian embassy in Tel Aviv, in a lengthy statement posted on its social media channels, argued that there was no evidence of any chemical attack in Douma.

“According to medical staff of the only operational hospital in Douma, nobody came or was brought to them with symptoms of sarin or chlorine poisoning. Bodies of allegedly poisoned people were not discovered. The local residents, reconciled rebels and medics have no information about graves of alleged ‘bodies,’” the statement read.

Moscow has long warned about “provocations” in Douma, the embassy noted, referring to Russian defense officials who have argued for some time that the rebels are likely to stage a fake chemical attack to get the international community to accuse the regime.

“The Embassy emphasizes that hasty conclusions prior to an independent international investigation on Douma seem to be shortsighted: this contributes to the dirty confrontation against Russia and Syria, pursued by some western governments, that brings the world and the region closer to the dangerous threshold,” the statement concludes.

There has been significant tensions between Moscow and Jerusalem in recent weeks, despite Jerusalem bucking the Western trend when it refrained from expelling Russian diplomats in the wake of the so-called Skripal affair, in which the Kremlin was accused of having okayed a nerve gas attack on an ex-spy living in the UK.

On Monday, Russia publicly blamed Israel for an airstrike on a Syrian military installment. A day later, Israel’s envoy to Moscow, Gary Koren, was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry for clarifications.

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