The US-led coalition's missiles have already blasted craters into the ground near Damascus and Homs (and while the attacks produced no fatalities, the US and Russia have presented dramatically different accounts of strike), but investigators from the United Nation's chemical weapons watchdog are only just arriving in Damascus to begin processing the scene of the brutal chemical weapons attack in Douma last week that left at least 70 people dead.
Both Syria and Russia called for an OPCW inquiry into the attack, while Russia has claimed that it has evidence US-backed "white helmets" - a US-funded "humanitarian" NGO long applauded by the mainstream media for its efforts - had a hand in fabricating evidence. The US State Department, meanwhile, has asserted that it has "proof" the Syrian government was behind the attack (though it has neglected to release any details about this purported "proof" to the public). Furthermore, the US has blamed Russia for failing to ensure that chemical weapons stockpiles in Syria had been destroyed, per RT.
The agency was set up to oversee and guarantee the destruction of chemical weapons and to investigate instances of their use. The agency will examine samples taken from attack victims to determine the chemical used as it tries to uncover the perpetrator. Syria, Russia, the UK, the US, France and Russia are all members of the organization.
This isn't the first time OPCW has visited Syria in recent memory. It carried out a similar investigation in 2017, when the organization found that sarin or a sarin-like substance was employed in the town of Khan Shaykhun, but did not undertake an on-the-ground inspection of the site.
Evidence put forward in the agency’s report revealed the gas was most likely released to the north of the settlement. However, it did not attribute blame to the April 2017 attack, which was carried out in an area not controlled by the government of the Syrian Arab Republic at the time.
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Meanwhile, the Russian Ministry of Defense says it has proof that the gas attack in Douma was staged to give the West an excuse to justify a military intervention in Syria, according to Major-General Igor Konashenkov.
It also accused the British government of pressuring the perpetrators to speed up the "provocation." The MoD released interviews with two men who are purported to be the only doctors on the ground in Douma. They said video showing victims suffering from a chemical weapons attack was actually damage from smoke inhalation after a bomb struck a building, per RT.
"The Russian Defense Ministry also has evidence that Britain had a direct involvement in arranging this provocation in Eastern Ghouta," "We know for certain that between April 3 and April 6 the so-called White Helmets were seriously pressured from London to speed up the provocation that they were preparing."
Furthermore, Konashenkov said Russia hoped that international monitors from OPCW would confirm Russia's findings. He added that Eastern Ghouta is trying to return to a peaceful existence after being liberated from militant groups by Syrian government forces.
Earlier this week, Russia's MoD said in a statement that experts who had been sent by Russia to investigate "found no traces of the use of chemical agents" following a search of the site, adding that "all these facts show... that no chemical weapons were used in the town of Douma, as it was claimed by the White Helmets."
“All the accusations brought by the White Helmets, as well as their photos… allegedly showing the victims of the chemical attack, are nothing more than a yet another piece of fake news and an attempt to disrupt the ceasefire,” said the Russian Reconciliation Center.
Russia's ambassador to the UN said earlier this week that the White Helmets were "mendaciously acting under the cloak of health professionals" and instead were spreading western propaganda.