As it happenedended1523990385

Syria strikes - as it happened: Chemical weapons inspectors have entered Douma, Syrian state media says

Reported granting of access follows claims by France that evidence is likely 'disappearing' from the town

Harriet Agerholm,Jon Sharman
Tuesday 17 April 2018 16:12
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Syria bombing: EU 'understands' recent airstrikes but calls for 'urgent' resumption of peace talks

Chemical weapons inspectors have entered Douma, the location of the alleged poison gas attack on 7 April, according to Syrian state media.

The UK and US had accused Russia and Syria of blocking the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) team from the area, which Russia denied.

Moscow had previously said it would grant the inspectors access on Wednesday, after suggesting any delay was due to Saturday’s joint air strikes and a lack of proper permits – an assertion denied in turn by the UN.

On Tuesday, France said it was “very likely” that evidence was “disappearing” from Douma while inspectors waited in Damascus to be allowed in.

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British MPs on Tuesday held a second emergency debate on the use of Britain’s armed forces in Saturday’s air strikes.

Jeremy Corbyn and others have criticised Theresa May for not giving parliament a vote on military action, but the prime minister defended the bombings as “a limited, targeted strike on a legal basis that has been used before” designed to disrupt Syria’s chemical weapons capability.

The Government won the support of MPs at a symbolic vote on the issue of whether it should consult parliament before taking military action in Syria.

The 317 to 256 vote went against a call by Mr Corbyn to protest Ms May’s decision to launch strikes against Syria without first seeking approval.

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Welcome to our live blog of developments in the Syria crisis for 17 April.

Today MPs are preparing for a second debate on the UK's armed forces having been deployed without parliament voting for action, following hours of questions in the Commons yesterday evening.

Jon Sharman17 April 2018 07:37
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Jon Sharman17 April 2018 07:38
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A bit more on those overnight missile strikes on Syrian air bases.

State-run media decried what it described as new "aggression", following launches against two sites, Sharyat and Dumair. The reports did not say who carried out the pre-dawn strikes.

Shayrat air base near Homs was targeted last year in a US cruise missile attack in response to a chemical attack that killed at least 70 people, including children on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun.

Israel has struck Syrian army locations numerous times in the course of the conflict, hitting convoys and bases of Iranian-backed militias that fight alongside President Bashar al-Assad's forces.

While Israel has declined to confirm or deny reports of strikes in Syria, it is widely believed to be engaging in a shadow conflict with Iran in Syria.

Earlier this month, four Iranian military personnel were killed in an air strike on Syria's T4 air base, also in Homs.

Jon Sharman17 April 2018 07:53
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Haaretz is reporting that Syrian military sources have denied the reports of an early-morning missiles attack on Sharyat air bases.

The sources told the DPA news agency that air defence systems were activated following a false alarm, the website said.

Syrian state television first reported the strikes.

According to the BBC Monitoring Twitter account, state-run television did not repeat details of those launches in its morning news bulletin.

Jon Sharman17 April 2018 08:19
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The G7 industrialised nations have condemned the alleged chemical attack in eastern Ghouta in Syria on 7 April and backed "proportionate" efforts by the US, Britain and France to stop the future use of such weapons.

"We fully support efforts made by the US, the UK and France to decrease the capacity to use chemical weapons by the Assad regime and to prevent their future use," said the leaders.

"We still stand by a diplomatic solution to the conflict in Syria," they added in the statement released by Germany on Tuesday.

The G7 comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US.

Additional reporting by Reuters

Jon Sharman17 April 2018 08:45
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Jon Sharman17 April 2018 09:00
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The Syrian army has completed its preparations for an operation against Isis and Nusra front militants in an area south of Damascus, according to a commander loyal to Bashar al-Assad.

It began shelling Yarmouk Camp and the adjoining al-Hajar al-Aswad area ahead of a move to retake the sites, the commander told Reuters.

The government also plans to recover another rebel enclave south of Damascus around the town of Beit Sahm, the commander said, though this would happen through an agreement with the government by which fighters would leave for Idlib.

Jon Sharman17 April 2018 09:20
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Jon Sharman17 April 2018 09:40
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A new claim has been made relating to the reports of fresh missile strikes against Syrian air bases overnight.

The claimed false alarm that triggered Syria's air defence systems was caused by "a joint electronic attack" by Israel and the US, a commander in the Assad-aligned regional military alliance told Reuters.

Syrian state media had reported that missiles were fired at the Sharyat and Dumair air bases overnight, but morning bulletins later featured no mention of the strikes, according to the BBC Monitoring Twitter account.

The US said it had had no military assets in the area at the time of the reported strikes while Israel declined to comment.

Jon Sharman17 April 2018 10:00
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Syrian state media is now also saying that reports of a new missile strike on the country were a false alarm.

Government-run television quoted an unnamed military official as saying that air defenses fired a number of missiles because of a false alarm, without providing more information.

Hours earlier, state media outlets had said the country's air defenses confronted a new "aggression," shooting down missiles over the central region of Homs and a suburb of Damascus.

The reports did not say who had launched the pre-dawn strikes, which were reported by Syrian state TV and the government-run Syrian Central Media.

Jon Sharman17 April 2018 10:31

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