Published: Wed, February 07, 2018
Global Media | By Garry Long

United Nations investigators say they are probing alleged chlorine gas attacks in Syria

United Nations investigators say they are probing alleged chlorine gas attacks in Syria

"Most alarmingly, the commission has received multiple reports, now under investigation, that bombs allegedly containing weaponized chlorine have been used in the town of Saraqeb in Idlib and in Douma in Eastern Ghouta", near Damascus, Paulo Pinheiro, chair of the UN's commission of inquiry on Syria, said in a statement issued in Geneva.

"These reports are extremely troubling, and make a mockery of the so-called "de-escalation zones" meant to protect civilians from such bombardment", said Paulo Pinheiro, chair of the Commission.

Pinheiro said the attacks on Eastern Ghouta involve "the worldwide crimes of indiscriminate bombardment and deliberate starvation of the civilian population".

In apparent retaliation, rockets were fired on Damascus's Bab al-Touma neighbourhood, killing three civilians, the state news agency SANA reported.

United Nations officials in Syria called for fighting to stop to enable aid deliveries and the evacuation of sick and wounded, listing seven areas of concern including northern Syria's Kurdish-led Afrin region, being targeted by a Turkish offensive.

The death toll in the Syrian government's intensive airstrikes on rebel-held areas near the capital Damascus has risen to 70, a monitoring group says.

This is a key point people should know: "there is no safe space", Siraj Mahmoud, the head of the Civil Defence rescue service in opposition-held rural Damascus, told Reuters.

Syria's multi-faceted war has drawn in armies and insurgents from around the world, aggravating a conflict which began as an uprising against President Bashar Assad's rule. Syrian government forces have been on the offensive in Idlib in recent weeks but the push intensified after militants shot down a Russian Su-25 near the town of Saraqeb over the weekend.

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Three privately owned television stations were shut down last week as they began to cover Odinga's "swearing in". Madowo noted the transmitters for Citizen TV were in a different place, which might explain the delay.

The UN has a plan to reach 700,000 people with relief in the next two months, if it can obtain permission to proceed.

Air strikes also killed at least six people in rebel-held Idlib including five in Tarmala village, the Observatory said. It said one of its workers was also killed by an airstrike while responding to a call for rescue in the area.

In May a year ago, Russia, Iran and Turkey signed an agreement to set up de-escalation centres, in order to reduce violence and airstrikes in some parts of Syria.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said the military operations in Afrin and Idlib would continue, and repeated Turkey's demand for US forces to pull back from the town of Manbij where they are stationed alongside Kurdish-led forces.

That deployment is separate from a Turkish military offensive that Ankara launched last month to rout US -backed Syrian Kurdish fighters from the northern enclave of Afrin.

Located in northern Syria near the Turkish border, the Idlib province was declared a "de-escalation zone".

Idlib is one of the last main strongholds of anti-Assad rebels who have been driven from most of their bastions in Syria since Russian Federation joined the war on the side of the Damascus government in 2015.

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