Incriminating evidence had likely been removed, as inspectors allowed in Douma

A Syrian boy cycles down a destroyed street in Douma on the outskirts of Damascus on April 16, 2018 during an organized media tour after the Syrian army declared that all anti-regime forces have left Eastern Ghouta, following a blistering two month offensive on the rebel enclave: (Louai Beshara/AFP)
Updated 17 April 2018
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Incriminating evidence had likely been removed, as inspectors allowed in Douma

BEIRUT: International investigators on Tuesday entered a Syrian town hit by an alleged chemical attack, after days of delay and warnings by Western powers that crucial evidence had likely been removed.
The suspected gas attack on April 7 on Douma, near Damascus, reportedly left more than 40 people dead and was blamed by Western powers on the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
In response, the United States, France and Britain conducted unprecedented missile strikes on Syrian military installations, but Paris admitted on Tuesday they were a matter of “honor” that had solved nothing.
“Experts from the chemical weapons committee enter the town of Douma,” state news agency SANA wrote, referring to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
The inspectors arrived in Damascus on the day of the Western strikes but had not been allowed to enter Douma.
France and the United States appeared to question the purpose of such a mission, warning that any incriminating evidence had likely been removed by now.
“It is highly likely that evidence and essential elements disappear from the site, which is completely controlled by the Russian and Syrian armies,” the French foreign ministry said.
The US ambassador to the OPCW, Ken Ward, had claimed Monday that the Russians had already visited the site and “may have tampered with it.”
In an impassioned defense to the European Parliament on Tuesday, France’s President Emmanuel Macron admitted that Saturday’s strikes had been a more political than military decision.
“Three countries have intervened, and let me be quite frank, quite honest — this is for the honor of the international community,” he said in the French city of Strasbourg.
“These strikes don’t necessarily resolve anything but I think they were important,” Macron added.
The French leader was also set to strip Syrian President Bashar Assad of a prestigious award he was granted by former president Jacques Chirac in 2001.
“The Elysee confirms that a disciplinary procedure for withdrawing the Legion d’Honneur (Legion of Honour) is under way,” Macron’s office said.


Libya’s coast guard rescues 235 migrants off western coast

Updated 22 min 38 sec ago
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Libya’s coast guard rescues 235 migrants off western coast

  • Libya is the main departure point for Europe-bound migrants fleeing poverty and conflict
  • The coast guard rescued 190 migrants on board two inflatable boats off the port of Khoms

TRIPOLI: Libya’s coast guard rescued 235 migrants in three separate operations on Sunday night off its western coast, a naval forces spokesman said.
Western Libya is the main departure point for Europe-bound migrants fleeing poverty and conflict, although many drown in the attempt.
The coast guard rescued 190 migrants on board two inflatable boats off the port of Khoms, Naval forces spokesman Ayoub Qassem told Reuters. A group of 45 others were picked up on board a wooden boat about 50 miles (80 kms) off Zuwarah.
They included 20 women and two children, the source said.
The number of crossings has sharply dropped since July 2017 when an armed group expelled human traffickers from a smuggling hub after an Italy-backed deal.
Aquarius 2, the one charity rescue vessel still operating in the central Mediterranean, has had its registration revoked by the Panama Maritime Authority in a move that means there will be no charity rescue ships off the Libyan coast in the near future unless the vessel can find a new flag to sail under.
Tripoli and western Libya are run by a UN-backed government mainly supported by armed groups, while eastern Libya is controlled by a rival administration. The country has been riven by conflict since Muammar Qaddafi was toppled in 2011.