Syria retains limited capability for chemical attack: Pentagon

Photo showing Defense Secretary James Mattis at the US Department of Defense in Arlington, Virginia, Apr 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 19 April 2018
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Syria retains limited capability for chemical attack: Pentagon

  • No signs Assad regime is preparing new chemical attacks
  • Syria and Russia deny unleashing poison gas on April 7 during their offensive on Douma

WASHINGTON: The US State Deparmtment said on Thursday that Assad regime troops and their Russian ally have been cleaning up the site of chemical attack in Douma.  Earlier the Pentagon said on Thursday that while there were no signs the Syrian government was preparing to launch a chemical weapons attack, President Bashar Assad still retained the ability to launch limited attacks.
Reuters reported on Wednesday that US assessments following US, British and French joint missile strikes on Syria last weekend show they had only a limited impact on Assad’s ability to carry out chemical weapons attacks.
“They do retain a residual capability. It is probably spread throughout the country at a variety of sites,” said Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, joint staff director.
“They will have the ability to conduct limited attacks in the future, I would not rule that out,” McKenzie said during a Pentagon briefing.
The United States, France and Britain destroyed three targets tied to Syria’s weapons program. The most important of them was the Barzah Research and Development Center, which US intelligence concluded was involved in the production and testing of chemical and biological warfare technology.
Syria and Russia deny unleashing poison gas on April 7 during their offensive on Douma, which ended with the recapture of the town that had been the last rebel stronghold near the capital, Damascus. The suspected chemical attack triggered the US response.
McKenzie said that the “absolute preponderance of the evidence” pointed to chemical weapons being present at the sites that were struck, including elements of sarin, particularly at the Barzah site.
He added that while the United States could not know with certainty, there was no evidence that any chemicals had escaped into the air after the strike.


Israel announces plan to approve 2,500 new settler homes in West Bank

Updated 24 May 2018
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Israel announces plan to approve 2,500 new settler homes in West Bank

JERUSALEM: Israel’s defense minister said on Thursday he plans to seek approval next week for the construction of some 2,500 new homes in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Avigdor Lieberman, writing on Twitter, said a regional planning board would be asked to designate 1,400 of the housing units for immediate construction.

Settlements are one of the most heated issues in efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, frozen since 2014.

Palestinians want the West Bank for a future state, along with East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Most countries consider settlements that Israel has built in territory it captured in the 1967 Middle East war to be illegal.

Israel disputes that its settlements are illegal and says their future should be determined in peace talks with the Palestinians.

“We will promote building in all of Judea and Samaria, from the north to south, in small communities and in large ones,” Lieberman wrote, using the Biblical names for the West Bank.

There was no immediate comment from Palestinian officials, who have long argued that Israeli settlements could deny them a viable and contiguous country.

Some 500,000 Israelis live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas that are also home to more than 2.6 million Palestinians.