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Syria. Chemical attack in Ghouta, red line crossed. The Security Council seized. Replica in sight (V2)

(B2) After the alleged chemical attack, which killed dozens of people in Douma, the last rebel pocket near Damascus on Saturday, there is a stir internationally.

A chlorine attack

The White Helmets and the medical NGO Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) said in a joint statement that 48 people had died in a chemical attack at " toxic gases in Douma, which remains one of the last rebel strongholds in Eastern Ghouta (1). They also reported " over 500 cases, mostly women and children ”, who suffer in particular from “ breathing difficulties » and release « an odor similar to chlorine ". Information that was not confirmed on Sunday (April 8) yet from an independent source, according to AFP. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH), which has a network of sources in the country, said it was unable to confirm a chemical attack.

appalling scenes

A video posted by the White Helmets on Twitter and presented as shot after the alleged chemical attack shows a tangle of lifeless bodies, including those of women and children, lying on the floor, white foam escaping from their mouths.

Firas al-Doumi, a rescue worker in Douma, spoke of " appalling scenes ". " There were many people suffocating, some died immediately “, he told AFP. " It was a massacre. There was a very strong smell which caused the rescuers to have difficulty breathing ". " We toured the city, we saw bodies still left on the roads said a Syrian Red Crescent volunteer. The Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) sub-branch in Douma was “ declared out of service on April 7 due to the current situation in Douma » announces the NGO in a communicated.

Referral to the Security Council

Nine countries — the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Poland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Kuwait, Peru and the Ivory Coast — under France's leadership, have asked for a urgent meeting Monday at 15 p.m. in New York (21 p.m. in Paris of the UN Security Council, according to diplomatic sources, " to discuss reports of chemical attacks in Syria.

Suspicions and concerns

The French Minister for Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, expressed his extreme concern », asserting that France « assume all its responsibilities in the fight against chemical proliferation ". His Swedish counterpart, Margot Wallström, said to herself " horrified by reports of chemical weapons attacks in Douma. An investigation must be launched immediately. Impunity is not an option. Sweden will demand action from the appropriate international bodies, including the United Nations Security Council. »

The spokesperson for Federica Mogherini, the head of European diplomacy, felt that “ all the evidence [pointed] towards a new chemical attack perpetrated by the regime ". " Almost a year to the day of the horrific attacks in Khan Sheikhoun, it is of grave concern that chemical weapons continue to be used, especially on civilians”, she added in a communicated.

Turkey, which supports the rebels, said it suspected strongly " the system of government. UN boss Antonio Guterres said to himself " particularly alarmed" by the presumed use of gas.

The high price

On the American side, the chief twitter was quick to indicate the content of his reaction. " Many dead, including women and children, in chemical attack senseless in Syria,” said US President Donald Trump, emphasizing the word 'chemical'. " President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for supporting Assad's animal ". The word 'animal' comes up several times. They will have to pay the full price ».

« The area [where the] atrocities [occurred] is blocked off and surrounded by the Syrian army, making it completely inaccessible to the outside world. » And to attack his predecessor head on: If President Obama had crossed his red line in the sand, the Syrian disaster would have ended long ago! Therenimal Assad would be history! »

« The Security Council must meet and demand immediate access to first responders, support an independent investigation into what happened and hold those responsible for this atrocious act to account. ", asked Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the United Nations.

Syrian denial supported by its allies

The Syrian regime has denied any chemical attack in the last rebel pocket in Eastern Ghouta, a strategic region at the gates of the capital that its forces are seeking to fully retake. Russia has denounced invented pretexts » for a military intervention which « would be absolutely unacceptable and can lead to the most serious consequences ". Iran for its part castigated a new "plot" against President Assad and a " pretext for military action ". The regime saw it a boring tune "from the countries" who support terrorism in Syria ».

The replica is preparing

Between French and Americans, a military response is preparing. French President Emmanuel Macron announced that he had a telephone conversation on Sunday (April 8) with Donald Trump, and thus had “ exchanged their information and analyzes confirming the use of chemical weapons ". " They instructed their teams to deepen the exchanges in the coming days “says a press release from the Elysée published in the early morning of Monday (April 9).

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde, with AFP)

(1) Determined to bring down the last rebel group, present in Eastern Ghouta, Jaich al-Islam entrenched in Douma, the power of Bashar el-Assad again bombarded intensely on Friday (April 6) and Saturday (April 7) the city ​​killing nearly a hundred civilians, according to the OSDH. The regime has, it seems, obtained what it wanted since according to the official agency Sana, an agreement to evacuate in the next 48 hours the rebels of Douma, was concluded Sunday with Jaich al-Islam. While the rebel group did not react immediately to this announcement, the commander of the Russian center for reconciliation between the parties, Yuri Evtouchenko, confirmed the agreement, stating that the fighting had stopped. According to him, " 100 bus » arrived on the spot and « everything is planned for the evacuation of 8.000 combatants and about 40.000 members of their families ».

(2) A year ago, the US president bombed a Syrian regime base in retaliation for a sarin gas attack that killed more than 80 civilians in Khan Sheikhoun.

Updated 9.4 (6am) with Franco-American statement and change of form

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).