Wed, Feb 07, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Syria raids kill 29; US, Russia clash over gas

AFP, ARBIN, Syria

Syrian regime bombardment on Monday killed 29 people in a rebel enclave near Damascus, as Syria’s seven-year conflict left civilians paying a heavy price.

Residents across several Syrian battlefronts have reported escalating bombardment and have accused Syrian troops of deploying toxic chemicals against rebel-held zones.

The US said there was “obvious evidence” of multiple chlorine gas attacks in recent weeks, including in the opposition-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta near Damascus.

Dozens of airstrikes and artillery fire on Monday battered Eastern Ghouta, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The deadliest raids hit a market in the town of Beit Sawa, killing 10 civilians, including two children. Another nine civilians, two of them children and one a local rescue worker, were killed in Arbin.

Eastern Ghouta is included in a de-escalation deal agreed last year by rebel ally Turkey and government supporters Iran and Russia, but violence has ramped up there in recent weeks, and this month alone, chlorine is suspected of having been used on two occasions in munitions launched by the regime on Eastern Ghouta.

A third accusation of toxic gas use came from Idlib, an opposition-controlled province in the nation’s northwest that also falls in a de-escalation zone.

Nearly a dozen people were on Sunday treated for breathing difficulties after Syrian government raids on the town of Saraqeb, the observatory said.

The US and Russia on Monday clashed at the UN Security Council over a push by Washington to condemn reported chlorine gas attacks in Syria.

The US proposed a draft statement condemning the use of chemicals as a weapon, but Russia added amendments that made no mention of the attack, according to a draft seen by reporters. In the end no statement was adopted.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley slammed Russia for balking at a statement that she described as a “simple condemnation of Syrian children being suffocated by chlorine gas.”

However, Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia hit back, saying: “It’s completely clear to us the goal is to basically accuse the Syrian government of chemical weapons use where no perpetrators have been identified.”

The UN has found that Syria’s government carried out chlorine gas attacks in 2014 and 2015, and also used sarin against a town in Idlib last year. Syria’s government has denied ever deploying chemical weapons in the seven-year war.

Also on Monday, two Canadian citizens who were being held by militant factions in the nation’s northwest were released to Turkish authorities.

Jolly Bimbachi and Sean Moore had crossed into Syria in December last year from Lebanon, where Bimbachi was fighting a custody battle for her two sons, she said.

They were picked up by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an alliance dominated by al-Qaeda’s former Syrian affiliate, and handed over to a civilian authority.

“They’re going to take us into Turkey, and in Turkey we are going to meet someone from the Canadian embassy,” Bimbachi said.

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