Russia: OPCW's Report over Syria Chemical Weapons is 'Baseless'

Russia: OPCW's Report over Syria Chemical Weapons is 'Baseless'
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Russia: OPCW's Report over Syria Chemical Weapons is 'Baseless'

Russia: OPCW's Report over Syria Chemical Weapons is 'Baseless'

Russia clashed with European nations in the UN Security Council on Wednesday over a report issued by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) blaming the Syrian air force for a series of attacks using sarin and chlorine on opposition-held town in 2017.

Moscow described the report as “baseless” by the time the Europeans demanded accountability for the Syrian regime action.

In a 82-page report issued April 8, the the global chemical weapons watchdog said the Syrian air force dropped bombs containing either chlorine or sarin on a hospital and open farmland in the central town of Latamneh, injuring over 70 people and killing at least three — a surgeon and two others.

The exchanges between Russia and the Europeans took place at the monthly meeting on Syria’s chemical weapons, which was closed, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

The group's investigative team noted that “there are reasonable grounds” to believe the perpetrators in Latamneh of the use of sarin on March 24 and 30, and chlorine on March 25, 2017, were part of the Syrian Arab Air Force, OPCW coordinator Santiago Oñate-Laborde said.

The investigation included interviews with witnesses, analyses of samples taken from the sites of the attacks, as well as review of symptoms reported by those affected and medical staff, along with examination of imagery, including satellite images.

For his part, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said UN disarmament chief Izumi Nakamitusu briefed the council, including on the findings of the OPCW report, and stressed that they were “deeply distressing.”

Dujarric said Nakamitusu reiterated Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ position “that the use of chemical weapons by anyone, anywhere, is intolerable and impunity for their use is equally unacceptable. It is imperative to identify and hold accountable all those who have used chemical weapons.”

Germany’s deputy UN ambassador Jurgen Schulz told the council: “Accountability is essential and impunity for these heinous crimes is not an option.”

Also, Estonia’s UN Ambassador Sven Jürgenson supported the report’s findings and condemned “the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime.”

After the report was issued, a Syrian Foreign Ministry official, quoted on state media, said: “Syria condemns in the strongest terms what was stated in the report,” and “categorically denies that it used toxic gases in the town of Latamneh or in any other Syrian city or village.”

Meanwhile, Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told the council that all of Syria’s chemical weapons were destroyed and accused the OPCW experts of “echoing baseless accusations” by some unnamed countries, “biases,” and preparing a report “without even the slightest traces of due diligence.”

According to AP, the report said that Syrian authorities repeatedly refused to cooperate with the investigation.



High Risk of Famine Persists Across Gaza, Global Hunger Monitor Says 

Men and children search through debris in the yard of the Asma school run by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), in the Shati camp for Palestinian refugees west of Gaza City, in the aftermath of overnight Israeli bombardment on June 25, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
Men and children search through debris in the yard of the Asma school run by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), in the Shati camp for Palestinian refugees west of Gaza City, in the aftermath of overnight Israeli bombardment on June 25, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
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High Risk of Famine Persists Across Gaza, Global Hunger Monitor Says 

Men and children search through debris in the yard of the Asma school run by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), in the Shati camp for Palestinian refugees west of Gaza City, in the aftermath of overnight Israeli bombardment on June 25, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
Men and children search through debris in the yard of the Asma school run by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), in the Shati camp for Palestinian refugees west of Gaza City, in the aftermath of overnight Israeli bombardment on June 25, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)

A high risk of famine persists across the whole of the Gaza Strip as long as conflict between Israel and Hamas continues and humanitarian access remains restricted, a global hunger monitor said on Tuesday.

Over 495,000 people, or more than one fifth of Gaza's population, are facing the most severe, catastrophic level of food insecurity, said an update from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC).

The IPC said increased deliveries of food and nutrition services to northern Gaza in March and April appeared to have reduced the severity of hunger in the area, where the UN-backed body had previously projected that famine was likely.

But Israel's offensive around the southern city of Rafah from early May and other hostilities and displacement have led to a renewed deterioration in recent weeks, it added.

"The humanitarian space in the Gaza Strip continues to shrink and the ability to safely deliver assistance to populations is dwindling. The recent trajectory is negative and highly unstable," the report said.

The Rafah offensive led to the closure of the crossing on Gaza's border with Egypt, which had been a main route for the delivery of food and other supplies, as well as an evacuation point for civilians who were critically ill or injured.

This factor, along with disruptions at the nearby Israeli crossing of Kerem Shalom, reduced humanitarian access to two million people in southern Gaza, the IPC said.

Within Gaza, displacement to areas with less water and fewer health services "increases the risk of disease outbreaks, which would have catastrophic effects on the nutritional and health status of large segments of the population", it said.

Israel's military campaign in Gaza was launched after Hamas-led fighters raided southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

The Israeli response has killed almost 37,600 people, according to Palestinian health authorities, leaving Gaza in ruins and repeatedly displacing much of its population within the blockaded coastal territory.