The New York Times, April 21, 2018 - The international monitoring group investigating a suspected chemical weapons attack on a Syrian town said its experts had finally been able to visit the site on Saturday after repeated delays and they collected samples for analysis.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said its experts had reached the Damascus suburb of Douma a week after they arrived in Syria.
Rubble fills a street in Douma, the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack, near Damascus, Syria, Monday, April 16, 2018. The international team has been in the country since Saturday but has not been allowed to visit Douma.
“The O.P.C.W. will evaluate the situation and consider future steps including another possible visit to Douma,” the organization said, adding that its experts had taken “samples for analysis in connection with allegations of chemical weapons.”
Western nations have accused President Bashar al-Assad of Syria of an April 7 chemical weapons attack on Douma that killed 43 people. The United States, Britain, and France carried out airstrikes a week later on military targets to punish Mr. Assad for what they called his repeated violations of the treaty banning chemical weapons.
This photo released by the Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows smoke rising after Syrian government airstrikes hit in the town of Douma, in eastern Ghouta region east of Damascus, Syria, Saturday, April. 7, 2018.
Mr. Assad and Russia, his main ally in the seven-year-old Syrian conflict, have denied the accusation and offered alternative explanations, saying rebels carried out the attack or that it was a hoax.
Inspectors were allegedly allowed to inspect in Douma, in this image you can see airstrike on the town
The inability of the chemical weapons inspectors to visit the site for days because of security concerns raised Western suspicions of a possible effort to cleanse evidence of chemical munitions.
They inspectors are tasked with determining whether chemical weapons were used, not who was responsible.
The Foreign Ministry of Russia said Saturday that Russian and Syrian forces had ensured safe passage for the O.P.C.W. group and suggested that any delays in their visit had not been caused by them.
“We consider such delays in a notable case like that, for whatever reasons, to be unacceptable, since the security of the O.P.C.W. staff was ensured not only by the Syrian side but also by the command of the Russian military forces in the Syrian Arab Republic,” the ministry said a statement.