Missiles hit early Monday a Syrian military airport, causing several deaths, shortly after the commitment of the US and French presidents to bring a “strong and common response” to a “chemical attack” that caused dozens of deaths in an area rebel near Damascus.
“Several missiles have hit the Tayfur airport,” the official Syrian news agency SANA reported, saying “an American attack is suspected” before removing any reference to the United States.
The Pentagon immediately responded by assuring that its armed forces “do not conduct air strikes in Syria”.
“Dead and wounded in the missile strike at Tayfur airport” (center), SANA added, citing a military source.
Shortly before, the Elysee Palace, then the White House, issued press releases mentioning a telephone conversation between Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron during which, according to the Elysee, they “strongly condemned the chemical attacks on April 7 against the Duma population in Eastern Ghouta “. The French presidency did not explicitly mention the Syrian government.
Unconfirmed sighting of low-flying ‘cruise missile’ over #Jounieh #Lebanon. Meanwhile, pro-regime FB media claiming “loud, frightful” bangs near #Homs and air defence “shooting at targets” in Lebanese airspace (H/T @Tom_Daraki12) pic.twitter.com/n8rfdngiIJ
— Riam Dalati (@Dalatrm) April 9, 2018
The two presidents “exchanged information and analyzes confirming the use of chemical weapons”, said the French presidency, sweeping away any doubt about the use of chemical weapons, which Paris has made a “red line” in front of trigger retaliatory strikes.
Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump have also “decided to coordinate their actions and initiatives within the UN Security Council” to be held Monday at 15:30 GMT, added the Elysee.
For its part, the White House said the two presidents intend to hold the Damascus regime accountable “for its ongoing human rights violations.”
“Many deaths, including women and children, in a senseless chemical attack in Syria”, tweeted Mr. Trump. He pointed to the “responsibility” of Russia and Iran, calling Mr. Assad “animal”.
Paris has repeatedly threatened to hit Syrian military targets in case of proven use of chemical weapons against civilians. In such circumstances, “we will hit,” Emmanuel Macron reaffirmed in February.
The Syrian regime, defended by its two unyielding allies, Russia and Iran, denied any chemical attack in the ultimate rebel pocket in Eastern Ghouta, which its forces appeared to be recovering entirely.
While an adviser to Trump said that military action was not to be ruled out, Moscow warned Washington against such intervention “for fabricated pretexts” and that could “lead to the gravest consequences”.
Russia has also called for another meeting of the Security Council, to be held at 19:00 GMT. Unlike the first, it does not specifically target Syria and speaks of “threats to peace in the world,” according to diplomatic sources.
A year ago, the US president had bombed a base of the Syrian regime in retaliation for a sarin gas attack, which had killed more than 80 civilians in Khan Cheikhoun (north-west) three days earlier.
White Helmets – rescuers in rebel areas – as well as an insurgent group and the opposition in exile have accused the regime of conducting a chemical attack in Duma. The European Union has estimated that the indices point “to a new chemical attack perpetrated by the regime”.
– “Frightening scenes” – It was not possible to confirm these allegations from an independent source. 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.
But the White Helmets and medical NGO Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) said in a joint statement that 48 people died in the “poison gas” attack.
They also reported “more than 500 cases, most of them women and children” who suffer from “breathing difficulties and give off” a smell similar to that of chlorine “.
A video posted by the White Helmets on Twitter and presented as a tour after the alleged chemical attack shows a tangle of lifeless bodies, including those of women and children, lying on the ground, white foam escaping from the ground. their mouth.
Firas al-Doumi, a first aid worker in Duma, spoke of “frightening scenes”. “There were many people suffocating, some died immediately,” he told AFP. “It was a massacre, there was a very strong smell which caused breathing difficulties for the rescuers”.
— The Intel Crab (@IntelCrab) April 9, 2018
“We did a tour of the city, we saw bodies still abandoned on the roads,” said a Syrian Red Crescent volunteer.
Iran, for its part, blasted a new “plot” against President Assad and a “pretext for military action”.
The regime saw it as “a boring tale” on the part of countries “that support terrorism in Syria”.
Turkey said it “strongly” suspects the regime.
“Nothing can justify the use of such instruments of extermination against people and populations without defense,” said Pope Francis.
– Rebels evacuated in Duma – Determined to bend the rebel group Jaich al-Islam, the last still present in eastern Ghouta and cut off from Duma, the authorities again bombed intensely Friday and Saturday the city, killing nearly a hundred civilians, according to the OSDH.
The regime has apparently obtained what it wanted because, according to the official Sana news agency, the evacuation of rebels and their families to northern Syria started on Sunday night, under a agreement reached in the day with Jaich al-Islam.
The commander of the Russian center for reconciliation between the parties, Yuri Yevtushenko, had announced earlier that “100 buses” had arrived on site and that “all (was) planned for the evacuation of 8,000 fighters and about 40,000 members of their families “.
Meanwhile, hostages held in Douma by the rebels were able to return to Damascus.
Thanks to Moscow’s military support, the regime already controls more than half of Syria, at the cost of 350,000 deaths in seven years.