Survivors of Syria gas attack saved evidence for inspectors

Damascus sky lights up with service to air missile fire as the U.S. launches an attack on Syria targeting different parts of the Syrian capital Damascus Syria early Saturday

In a press release, the OPCW said its team had visited one of the two sites reportedly bombed in Douma on 7 April.

United Nations security experts deployed to the town on Tuesday to check it was safe, but were forced to pull out after an explosion went off and they were shot at. Syria had already fulfilled its undertakings to destroy stockpiles of such weaponry, with the OPCW reporting the destruction as complete. Although technically speaking chlorine (the gas alleged to have been used in Douma) is a substance which could fade away relatively easily, Sarin, the nerve agent which is also alleged to have been deployed, is quite persistent in the environment and its traces could be collected through environmental sampling.

A fact-finding mission from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) finally entered the area on Saturday after days of being held back.

"Based on the analysis of the sample results as well other information and materials collected by the team" a report will be drawn up, the OPCW added.

Assad and his main ally, Russia, have denied responsibility for the attack.

"The use of chemical weapons is a flagrant violation of worldwide law", NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (all 29 NATO member nations supported the action) said in an interview with National Public Radio.

The Syria government says it has retaken control of Douma from rebels, but Mekdad said "sleeping cells" from terrorist groups remain there.

Western officials fear that evidence of the alleged double chemical attack may have been tampered with.

"Autopsy samples, if available, will provide invaluable evidence", said Alastair Hay, professor of environmental toxicology at the University of Leeds.

The committee has been negotiating a deal to spare the city a military assault by the Syrian army and its allies who encircle it.

Russian ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the delays to the OPCW team were "unacceptable", in a statement Saturday.

Thousands of people were sheltering in basements from government bombardment, when two bombs filled with chemicals were allegedly dropped several hours apart on two separate locations.

If any unlawful conduct counter to the Chemical Weapons Convention is left unaddressed, a hurdle to the use of chemical weapons could be lowered in conflicts in various places around the world.

The Syrian government and Russian Federation deny chemical weapons were used and say evidence was fabricated.

Time will tell to what extent the airstrikes impact use of chemical weapons in Syria, but the decision to deliver a message to the Assad regime was the right one. More than 350,000 people have died in the civil war, and evacuees both at home and overseas exceed 10 million.

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