OPCW chemical probe team has not yet begun work in Douma, says Syrian envoy

The security team entered Douma earlier to determine whether the experts can deploy there Wednesday. (Reuters)
Updated 18 April 2018
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OPCW chemical probe team has not yet begun work in Douma, says Syrian envoy

  • Ambassador Jaafari says it's up to the UN mission to decide whether to deploy, based on security considerations
  • The suspected April 7 gas attack on Douma, blamed by Western powers on the Syrian regime, left more than 40 people dead

NEW YORK: Experts from the OPCW chemical watchdog are awaiting the green light from a UN security assessment team before beginning their investigation of an alleged chemical attack in the Syrian town of Douma, the Syrian ambassador said Tuesday.
The security team entered Douma earlier to determine whether the experts can deploy there Wednesday, said Ambassador Bashar Jaafari.
“If this United Nations security team decides that the situation is sound in Douma then the fact-finding mission will begin its work in Douma tomorrow,” Jaafari told the Security Council.
The Syrian state news agency earlier reported that the international team of experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had entered Douma to begin their investigation of whether chemical agents were used as a weapon.
The ambassador stressed that the “Syrian government did all that it can do to facilitate the work of this mission” but that it was up to the UN and the OPCW to decide whether to deploy, based on security considerations.
The inspectors arrived in Damascus on Saturday, when Britain, France and the US launched military strikes against what they said were targets linked to Syria’s chemical weapons program. The suspected April 7 gas attack on Douma, near Damascus, reportedly left more than 40 people dead and was blamed by Western powers on Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.
Syrian regime forces shelled the last pockets in Damascus controlled by Daesh, preparing the ground for a possible assault on the terrorist stronghold, a monitor said Wednesday.
After fully retaking the Eastern Ghouta region on the edge of the capital, the Syrian regime has turned its attention to other areas across the country that still escape its control.
Among them are neighborhoods in southern Damascus from which many civilians have fled but are still held by Daesh, including the Yarmouk area that hosts a Palestinian refugee camp.
“Regime forces shelled several Daesh positions in Yarmouk camp and Hajjar Al-Aswad, killing one person and wounded others,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Both sides had traded fire the previous night, the Britain-based monitor said, causing at least five deaths, most of them regime soldiers.
“The regime is turning up the heat ahead of a big assault that would break Daesh’s back and force them to evacuate the area,” the head of the observatory, Rami Abdel Rahman, said.
Daesh still has a presence in Yarmouk, and the neighboring areas of Hajjar Al-Aswad, Tadamon and Qadam. Yarmouk used to be the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Syria, with a population of 160,000, but only a few thousand people remain inside the devastated area.
The state news agency SANA reported on Tuesday that a deal had also been reached for rebels to quit Dumayr, a town further to the east, where a reconciliation agreement had kept a security status quo since 2016.
It said on Wednesday fighters from the Jaish Al-Islam rebel faction were continuing to hand over their heavy and intermediate weapons in Dumayr ahead of their departure to the northern town of Jarabulus.
SANA said a total of 5,000 people including 1,500 rebels were expected to leave the town.


Former Egyptian president Morsi buried in Cairo: lawyer

Updated 18 June 2019
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Former Egyptian president Morsi buried in Cairo: lawyer

  • Morsi, was suffering from a benign tumor, had continuous medical attention, says state TV
  • The former president died aged 67

CAIRO: Egypt’s first democratically elected president Mohammed Morsi was buried on Tuesday in eastern Cairo, one of his lawyers said, a day after he collapsed in court and died.

“He was buried in Medinat Nasr, in eastern Cairo, with his family present. The funeral prayer was said in Tora prison hospital” where he was declared dead on Monday, his lawyer Abdel Moneim Abdel Maksoud said.

Egyptian state television announced that Morsi, 67, who was ousted by the military on July 3, 2013, had been attending a court session at his trial on charges of espionage and links with the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

It was reported that he collapsed in the courtroom inside a glass cage he and others had been sharing, before his body was transferred to a local hospital.

Morsi died from a sudden heart attack, state television reported early on Tuesday, citing a medical source. The source said the former president, who was suffering from a benign tumor, had continuous medical attention.

Attorney-General Nabil Sadiq issued a statement saying: “The accused, Mohammed Morsi, in the presence of the other defendants inside the cage, fell unconscious, where he was immediately transferred to the hospital.

“The preliminary medical report stated that by external medical examination they found no pulse, no breathing, and his eyes were unresponsive to light. He died at 4:50 p.m. and no apparent injuries to the body were found.”

Sadiq added he had ordered the transfer of teams from the Supreme State Security Prosecution Office and the Southern Cairo Prosecution Office to conduct an investigation into Morsi’s death, and to examine surveillance footage from the courtroom and collect witness testimonies.

He also ordered that a senior forensic committee headed by the chief medical officer and the director of forensic medicine to prepare a forensic report on the cause of death.

Various outlets say that a state of high alert has been issued by the military and the Ministry of the Interior throughout the country following the news, for fear of riots or activity by the Muslim Brotherhood, in which Morsi was a prominent figure.

Morsi became president in June 2012 after the first democratic elections in the country following the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak on Jan. 25, 2011. He was Egypt’s fifth president.

He was born to a family of farmers on Aug. 20, 1951, in the village of Al-Adwa in Sharkia province. He married in 1978 and leaves behind his wife, five children and three grandchildren.

Following his deposition and arrest, Morsi was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment on Oct. 22, 2016, over bloody clashes that took place on Dec. 5, 2012 in front of the presidential palace in Cairo, between supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and opponents of Morsi rejecting a constitutional declaration issued in November of that year.

Other sentences meant his total incarceration could have been up to 48 years, with the ongoing espionage case potentially carrying a further maximum sentence of 25 years.

In Istanbul on Tuesday, hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters took to the streets, mourning former Egyptian president Mohamed Mursi and some chanting slogans blaming Cairo authorities for his death.

* With AFP