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Chief Bakes

BBC: Syria war: Scores dead in Syria gas attack, rescuers and medics say

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Chief Bakes

Syria war: Scores dead in Syria gas attack, rescuers and medics say

  • 8 April 2018
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Smoke billows in the town of Douma, the last opposition holdout in SyriaImage copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Douma is the last opposition holdout in Syria's Eastern Ghouta, and is being heavily bombarded by government forces

Rescuers in Syria say at least 150 people have died after toxic gas was dropped on Douma, the last rebel-held town in Eastern Ghouta.

Volunteer rescue force The White Helmets tweeted graphic images showing scores of bodies in a basement. It said the death toll is likely to rise.

There has been no independent verification of the reports.

Syria's government has called the allegations of a chemical attack a "fabrication".

The US state department said it is monitoring the reports, and that Russia - which is fighting alongside the Syrian government - should be held responsible if deadly chemicals had been used.

"The regime's history of using chemical weapons against its own people in not in dispute," said the State Department.

"Russia ultimately bears responsibility for the brutal targeting of countless Syrians with chemical weapons."

The pro-opposition Ghouta Media centre tweeted that more than a thousand people had suffered the effects of the alleged gas attack.

It blamed a barrel bomb allegedly dropped by a helicopter which it said contained sarin, a toxic nerve agent.

Douma is the last rebel-held town in Syria's Eastern Ghouta region, and is under siege from government forces.

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Trump condemns Syria for 'chemical attack' on Douma

  • 8 April 2018
Breaking News image

US President Donald Trump has lashed out at Russia, Iran and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over a suspected chemical attack in Syria, saying there will be a "big price to pay".

Scores of people are said to have been killed in an attack on the rebel-held town of Douma on Saturday.

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Strikes hit Syrian airfield, state media report

  • 9 April 2018
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Breaking News image

A military airport in Syria has come under missile attack, the country's state media has reported.

Its air defence system was activated, the reports said.

Syrian TV said loud explosions had been heard near the T4 airfield in the city of Homs in the early hours of Monday.

Details are still emerging and the reports have not been independently verified.

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Syria conflict: Russia says no evidence of Douma chemical attack

  • 9 April 2018
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Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionUnverified video shows children being treated after the alleged gas attack

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said no evidence has been found of a chemical weapons attack in Syria's formerly rebel-held town of Douma.

He said Russian specialists and aid workers had visited the area. Rebel fighters have started leaving the town under a surrender deal.

Medical sources say dozens were killed in Saturday's alleged attack but numbers are impossible to verify.

The US and France threatened a "joint, strong response" to the alleged attack.

The United Nations Security Council is to discuss the allegations later on Monday.

The Russian denial came hours after a deadly attack on a Syrian military airport, which Moscow and the Syrian government blamed on Israel.

It hit the Tiyas airbase, known as T4, near the city of Homs. Observers say 14 people were killed.

Israel, which has previously hit Syrian targets, has not commented. Syria initially blamed Washington for the strike, but the US, UK and France have all denied involvement.

What has been the reaction on Douma?

US President Donald Trump said there would be a "big price to pay" for the alleged attack in Douma, in the Eastern Ghouta region, near the capital Damascus. He branded Syria's President Bashar al-Assad an "animal".

Along with France's President Emmanuel Macron, he issued a joint statement on Sunday vowing to "co-ordinate a strong, joint response".

UK Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesman said Britain was working with its allies on the response.

Meanwhile Ahmet Uzumcu, head of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, expressed "grave concern" about the alleged attack. The OPCW is currently gathering information about the possible use of chemical weapons.

What do the Russians say?

Mr Lavrov said that the Russian military had warned many times of a "provocation" being prepared, aimed at putting the blame on Damascus for the alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians.

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Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionA short guide to the Syrian civil war

"Our military specialists have visited this place, along with representatives of the Syrian Red Crescent... and they did not find any trace of chlorine or any other chemical substance used against civilians," he said.

Moscow favoured an "honest investigation" of such incidents, he said, but opposed apportioning blame without any proof.

What is happening in Douma?

Medical sources say dozens of people were killed on Saturday in Douma.

One video, recorded by rescue workers known as the White Helmets, shows a number of men, women and children lying lifeless inside a house, many with foam at their mouths.

However, it has not been possible to verify independently what actually happened, or the number of dead.

Syria and Russia have reached an evacuation deal with the Jaish al-Islam rebels, who up until now have been holding Douma.

Moscow said military operations there had been halted. Under the deal, 100 buses are said to be moving 8,000 fighters and 40,000 of their relatives out of the battered town. Hostages who had been held by the rebels are being set free.

The development means pro-government forces have now taken full control of the Eastern Ghouta.

Analysts say this is President Assad's biggest military success since the fall of Aleppo in 2016. It follows a weeks-long government offensive in which more than 1,600 people were killed.

What about the airfield attack?

Syrian state news agency Sana, quoting a military source, reported that air defences had repelled an Israeli missile attack on T4, saying the missiles were fired by Israeli F15 jets in Lebanese airspace.

It said there were casualties, without giving a number.

Russia's defence ministry said that, of eight missiles, five were shot down and three reached the western part of the aerodrome.

UK-based monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said that fighters of various nationalities - meaning Iranians or members of Iranian-backed Shia militias - were among the 14 dead at the base.

Israel rarely acknowledges carrying out strikes, but has admitted attacking targets in Syria dozens of times since 2012. Its heaviest air strike on Syria, in February this year, included targeting the T4 air base.

That followed an incursion by an Iranian drone into Israel and the shooting down by Syrian air defences of an Israeli F16 fighter jet.

Israel has said it will not allow Iran, its arch-foe, to set up bases in Syria or operate from there, something Israel considers a major threat.

The Israeli military said Iran and its Revolutionary Guards had long been active in the T4 base, and were using it to transfer weapons, including to Lebanese Shia militant group Hezbollah, an enemy of Israel.

They also said the drone had been launched from the base.

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Chief Bakes

Theresa May condemns 'barbaric attack' in Syria

  • 9 April 2018
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Theresa May

Theresa May has said she "utterly condemns" the "barbaric" alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria.

The PM said if the attack was confirmed as another example of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad's brutality, "the regime and its backers including Russia, must be held to account".

Russia has said no evidence of a chemical weapons attack in formerly rebel-held Douma has been found.

The US and France threatened a "joint, strong response" to the alleged attack.

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Chief Bakes
  • 9 April 2018
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Russia and the US exchange fierce words at UN over suspected Syria chemical weapons attack

This breaking news story is being updated and more details will be published shortly. Please refresh the page for the fullest version.

You can receive Breaking News on a smartphone or tablet via the BBC News App. You can also follow @BBCBreaking on Twitter to get the latest alerts.

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Syria 'chemical attack': Trump pledges 'forceful' US response

  • 10 April 2018
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Media captionThe US president has said "nothing's off the table" - so what options are on the table?

US President Donald Trump has promised a "forceful" response to the alleged chemical attack in Syria, as Western leaders consider what action to take.

"We have a lot of options militarily," he told reporters. He added that a response would be decided "shortly".

Mr Trump said the US was getting some "good clarity" on who was responsible for the incident in Douma on Saturday.

Medical sources say dozens were killed in the alleged attack but exact numbers are impossible to verify.

Mr Trump also discussed the incident with French President Emmanuel Macron late on Monday, and both leaders expressed a desire for a "firm response".

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has said she "utterly condemns" the "barbaric" alleged chemical weapons attack and called for backers of President Bashar al-Assad to be held to account.

The condemnation from Western leaders follows a tense meeting at the UN Security Council in which the US and Russia traded harsh words over the incident.

Russian representative Vassily Nebenzia said the alleged attack was staged and warned that US military action in response could have "grave repercussions".

US envoy Nikki Haley said Russia - a Syrian military backer - had the "blood of Syrian children" on its hands and branded President Assad a "monster".

Ms Haley has called for a vote on Tuesday on a draft resolution to set up a new inquiry into the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

But Russia says it cannot support the proposal because it contains "unacceptable elements".

What happened on Saturday?

The Syrian-American Medical Society said more than 500 people were brought to medical centres in Douma, in the Eastern Ghouta region, near the capital Damascus, with symptoms "indicative of exposure to a chemical agent".

It said this included breathing difficulties, bluish skin, mouth foaming, corneal burns and "the emission of chlorine-like odour".

Neither the death toll nor what exactly occurred can be verified as the area is blocked off with access denied.

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Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionUnverified video shows children being treated after the alleged gas attack

The estimates of how many people died in the suspected chemical attack range from 42 to more than 60 people, but medical groups say numbers could rise as rescue workers gain access to basements where hundreds of families had sought refuge from bombing.

The French representative at the UN Security Council said poison gas had deliberately been used as it could seep down to the basements.

The US, France and UK have led international condemnation of the alleged attack, with the Syrian government and its Russian backers denying any responsibility.

What did Russia say at the UN?

Mr Nebenzia, presenting Russia's case that rebels in Douma staged the event for their own ends, painted the incident and its fallout as part of a US-led effort to hurt Russia with a "broad arsenal of methods", including slander, insults and "hawkish rhetoric".

In an angry statement, he invited investigators from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to fly to Syria as soon as Tuesday, saying that Russian troops would escort them to the site of the alleged attack.

Moscow has said its experts have not found "any trace of chlorine or any other chemical substance used against civilians".

Mr Nebenzia said the tone taken against Russia had gone beyond what was acceptable even during the Cold War and warned against a US military response.

"Armed force under mendacious pretext against Syria, where, at the request of the legitimate government of a country, Russian troops have been deployed, could lead to grave repercussions," he said.

What is the wider context?

Tensions between Russia and the West have plunged to their worst level in decades, following the poisoning in March of an ex-spy in England that the UK blamed on Moscow, and alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US election.

The poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with what the British government says was a military-grade Novichok nerve agent of a type developed by Russia led to the mass expulsion of Russian diplomats by Western allies, to which Moscow responded in kind.

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Chief Bakes

Syria 'chemical attack': Trump cancels Latin America trip

  • 10 April 2018
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p063thdx.jpg
Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionThe US president has said "nothing's off the table" - so what options are on the table?

US President Donald Trump has cancelled his first official trip to Latin America to focus the response to a suspected chemical attack in Syria.

He will remain in Washington to "oversee the American response to Syria", the White House said.

Vice-President Mike Pence will travel in his place to Peru for the Summit of the Americas and then Colombia.

Medical sources say dozens were killed in the alleged attack in Douma, but exact numbers are impossible to verify.

Syria and its military backer Russia have denied any involvement in Saturday's incident. They have invited inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to visit Douma.

Mr Trump has pledged a "forceful" response, and has spoken of numerous military options.

Washington has been in discussion with Britain and France, raising the prospect of co-ordinated Western military action.

France says poison gas was deliberately used in Douma, in the Eastern Ghouta region outside Damascus, as it could seep down to the basements where people were sheltering from bombardment.

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Syria 'chemical attack': Allies agree need for response

  • 10 April 2018
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Media captionSuspected chemical attack is 'barbaric' - May

The prime minister has agreed with her US and French counterparts that the international community must respond to an alleged chemical attack in Syria.

In phone calls, Theresa May, Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron said those responsible should be "held to account".

The international chemical weapons body is to send a team to the site in Douma.

But Russia, which provides military support to Syria, has said there is no evidence of a chemical attack.

Medical sources say dozens of people were killed, including children, during the alleged toxic bombing of formerly rebel-held Douma, in the Eastern Ghouta region.

Downing Street said the separate phone calls established the countries would work together to take action to "uphold the worldwide prohibition on the use of chemical weapons".

A spokeswoman said the leaders agreed the reported attacks were "utterly reprehensible" and if confirmed, "represented further evidence of the Assad regime's appalling cruelty against its own people and total disregard for its legal obligations not to use these weapons".

Earlier, US President Trump cancelled a planned trip to Latin America to focus on the issue. He has pledged a "forceful response".

French President Emmanuel Macron said that if military action was taken, it would target "the regime's chemical capabilities", and not the forces of its allies, Russia or Iran.

Speaking in Paris, he said he did "not want an escalation" and that a decision would be made in the coming days.

The information that France had showed "chemical weapons were indeed used and that the regime could clearly be held responsible", Mr Macron added.

Russian veto

On Tuesday evening, the UN Security Council rejected a draft US resolution, which proposed a new inquiry to establish who was to blame.

Russia vetoed the move and China abstained, meaning a resolution could not be passed.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the result was "hugely disappointing" and accused Russia of holding Syrian people to "political ransom" by supporting President Assad's regime in the country.

At the UN meeting, Britain's Ambassador Karen Pierce called for "an independent, investigative mechanism" into the alleged attacks, which the council, its members and the Syrian people could have confidence in.

"It's become very clear Russia will do what it takes to protect Syria, whatever the compelling evidence of the crimes committed, and to shut down further investigation and discussion of those crimes," she said.

On Tuesday afternoon Mrs May also chaired a National Security Council meeting to discuss the issue of chemical weapons in Syria.

Last year, President Trump ordered a missile strike in retaliation for a Sarin gas attack against a Syrian town.

Analysis: May's dilemma

by James Robbins, BBC diplomatic correspondent

The US would like any military response to include European powers, but Theresa May would not be drawn by questions on possible British involvement.

She faces the acute dilemma of whether or not to seek parliamentary approval, which she might not get.

To recall parliament before it returns next week, after the Easter recess, would be a huge step, but taking her own decision carries political risk.

Then there's a question of loyalty among international allies.

After Donald Trump took unprecedented action in answer to her appeals for support by expelling record numbers of Russian diplomats from the US after the Salisbury nerve agent attack, is this her payback time?

And how will it look if France joins possible action against President Assad and Britain does not? Would that be confirmation that Paris is the dominant military capital of post-Brexit Europe?

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Syria 'chemical attack': Russia warns US against military action

  • 11 April 2018
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A picture taken on April 8 2018 shows Syrian Army soldiers gathering in an area on the eastern outskirts of DoumaImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption Syrian Army soldiers gather near the town of Douma, where the suspected chemical attack happened

Russia has urged the US to avoid taking military action in response to an alleged chemical attack in Syria.

"I would once again beseech you to refrain from the plans that you're currently developing," Moscow's UN envoy Vasily Nebenzia said on Tuesday.

He warned Washington that it will "bear responsibility" for any "illegal military adventure" it carries out.

But Western leaders say they have agreed to work together to target those responsible for the attack in Douma.

French President Emmanuel Macron said any strikes would target Syrian government chemical facilities.

The warning from Moscow came during a divided meeting of the UN Security Council in which a proposal to open a new inquiry into the alleged attack failed to pass.

Russia vetoed the US-drafted resolution and China abstained. A counter-measure proposed by Moscow also failed to garner enough support.

The US proposal called for an independent investigation into claims that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime carried out the suspected chemical attack on the rebel-held town of Douma, in the Eastern Ghouta region.

Syria - which receives military backing from Russia - denies being behind any chemical attack.

A team from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is due to deploy to Syria "shortly" to determine whether banned waepons were used in Douma.

But the OPCW will not seek to establish who was responsible for the attack.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Nikki Haley and Vasily Nebenzia clashed at the UN

The UN session was the latest in a series of showdowns between Russia and the US and saw harsh words exchanged between the countries.

Mr Nebenzia accused the US of "planting this resolution" as a "pretext" to justify military action.

"We could find ourselves on the threshold of some very sad and serious events," he said.

US envoy Nikki Haley responded by calling the vote a "travesty".

"Russia has trashed the credibility of the council," she said.

Will there be a military strike?

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Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionThe US president has said "nothing's off the table" - so what options are on the table?

US President Donald Trump has promised a "forceful" response, and has spoken of numerous military options.

He cancelled his first official trip to Latin America to focus on Syria. His Defence Secretary, James Mattis, has also cancelled travel plans.

Mr Trump's decision to cancel his Latin America trip suggests the US response may involve a larger military operation than a limited strike, says the BBC's Barbara Plett Usher in Washington.

Last April, after a Sarin nerve agent attack killed more than 80 people in a Syrian opposition-held town, Mr Trump ordered the firing of dozens of cruise missiles at a Syrian government air base from US Navy ships in the Mediterranean.

It was the first direct US military action against forces commanded by President Assad.

Since Saturday's incident, Washington has been in discussion with Britain and France, raising the prospect of co-ordinated Western military action.

A US Navy guided-missile destroyer, the USS Donald Cook, is in the Mediterranean.

What happened on Saturday?

Syrian opposition activists, rescue workers and medics allege that bombs filled with toxic chemicals were dropped on Douma, in the Eastern Ghouta region, near the capital Damascus, by Syrian government forces.

The Syrian-American Medical Society said more than 500 people were brought to medical centres with symptoms "indicative of exposure to a chemical agent".

It said this included breathing difficulties, bluish skin, mouth foaming, corneal burns and "the emission of chlorine-like odour".

The estimates of how many people died in the suspected chemical attack range from 42 to more than 60 people, but medical groups say numbers could rise as rescue workers gain access to basements where hundreds of families had sought refuge from bombing.

The French representative at the UN Security Council said poison gas had deliberately been used as it could seep down to the basements.

Following the alleged attack, Syria and Russia reached an evacuation deal with the Jaish al-Islam rebels, who up until now have been holding Douma.

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WHO demands access to Syria 'chemical attack site'

  • 11 April 2018
Breaking News image

The World Health Organization (WHO) has demanded "unhindered access" to Douma in Syria, to check reports from its partners that 500 people have been affected by a chemical attack there.

The Syrian government denies being behind any chemical attack.

The US has threatened a "forceful" response to reports of an attack but Russia has called this a "pretext" to attack its ally, Syria.

The WHO said more than 70 people had reportedly died after the attack.

This breaking news story is being updated and more details will be published shortly. Please refresh the page for the fullest version.

You can receive Breaking News on a smartphone or tablet via the BBC News App. You can also follow @BBCBreaking on Twitter to get the latest alerts.

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  • 11 April 2018
Breaking News image

US President Donald Trump has tweeted that Russia should "get ready" for missiles to be fired into Syria, in response to an alleged chemical attack at the weekend.

Senior Russian figures had threatened to meet any US strikes with a response.

Mr Trump previously promised a "forceful" response.

President Bashar al-Assad's government - which receives military backing from Russia - denies being behind any chemical attack.

This breaking news story is being updated and more details will be published shortly. Please refresh the page for the fullest version.

You can receive Breaking News on a smartphone or tablet via the BBC News App. You can also follow @BBCBreaking on Twitter to get the latest alerts.

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Fedster

Has Trump gone mad? Has anyone seen his latest tweets? WW3 imminent?

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m_Cooper
Has Trump gone mad? Has anyone seen his latest tweets? WW3 imminent?


Yes, yes and quite possibly.

If the Russians plan to not only target the missiles, but where they’ve been launched from....I imagine the Russians targeting one of the American Carrier Groups wouldn’t go down too well.

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Mac7

At least Trump is being decisive and doing something. You (and I) may not like he rhetoric but he isn’t standing back and allowing an humanitarian disaster to unfold, like the rest of the international community are. I just hope he knows who the enemy are.

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