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JIM probe into Syria chemical attack fails ‘basic standards’ – Russia’s OPCW envoy

- 1510288520 5a051d3afc7e936b778b4567 - JIM probe into Syria chemical attack fails ‘basic standards’ – Russia’s OPCW envoy



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The UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), which has been probing the chemical attack in the Syrian town of Khan Shaykhun on April 4, failed to address any concerns that Russia voiced during the entire course of the investigation, Alexander Shulgin said. In its conclusions, released on October 26, JIM said it was “confident that the Syrian Arab Republic is responsible for the release of sarin at Khan Shaykhun,” alleging that “sarin was delivered via an aerial bomb that was dropped by an airplane.”

In April, Washington, working under a similar assumption, immediately used the chemical incident as an excuse to launch a volley of Tomahawk missiles at Syria’s Shayrat Airbase, pinning blame on Damascus just days after the incident. The “retaliatory attack” was reportedly ordered after US President Donald Trump was shown footage of the alleged suffering of the victims.

“It was believed that President Trump while looking at these terrible pictures was so appalled that he ordered an instant airstrike against the Syrian Airbase,” Shulgin said. He added that the footage of young victims “was kind of a triggering point in the whole story,” but JIM’s investigation of the incident offered “absolutely no explanation at all.”

“Some experts found it troubling that the children all had hugely dilated pupils, which is quite contrary to the known effect of this gas – sarin, which is very powerful nerve agent known to cause the victim's pupils to [contract], to be reduced to a size of a pin, pinpointed pupils,” the diplomat explained.

Shulgin pointed out that JIM experts were well aware of this anomaly, but said “they were not asked to investigate this particular thing.” Shulgin recalled how the Russian side was repeatedly told: “Don't worry, just wait for the JIM reports, we’ll have all the answers.” But in their conclusions “there is no hint as to what has happened to the children,” he added.

“One day I spoke with one of the experts here in the Hague, and obviously he was not pleased with my questions, and at some point, he told me: ‘Well don't you understand it is all about [it being an] information war’" Shulgin told RT.

The UN-OPCW mission has apparently, from the very beginning, settled on an aerial attack as the main theory behind the incident. Moscow, meanwhile, after examining the size and shape of the crater left from the explosion, continues to insist that the detonation and dispersal of the chemical agent likely occurred on the ground. Russia slammed the conclusions of JIM and questioned whether its mandate, which expires next week, should be renewed in its current form.

“We are of the view that the JIM report, the seventh report, has been established by a flagrant disregard of [the] basic higher standards of the Chemical Convention, UN Security Council resolutions and previous decisions by the ECE executive council,” Shulgin said, voicing the overall concerns that have been made public before.

“It is about the non-respect of the chain of custody, basic methods of investigation whereby samples should be taken by authorized experts who are expected to ensure their custody, in other terms, protection, all the way until a designated laboratory,” Shulgin emphasized.

READ MORE: ‘Syrian opposition has motive for chemical attacks, while govt has every motive to prevent it’

The JIM mission, which never actually visited the site of the alleged attack, instead relied on evidence collected by the militant groups controlling the area. The investigation also failed to properly inspect the Shayrat Airbase by not gathering ground samples there. Shulgin said JIM’s team trusted data provided by questionable sources – the militants – while dismissing information offered by the Syrian government.

“It is about very skewed approach whereas information collected, provided by various NGOs affiliated with the terrorist armed groups are trusted, whereas the data, information provided by the Syrian authorities are at best ignored,” he noted.

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Syria

Turkey Begins Ground Assault on Kurdish Enclave in Syria

- 22turkey1 facebookJumbo - Turkey Begins Ground Assault on Kurdish Enclave in Syria


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Turkish soldiers waiting Sunday near the Syrian border. Turkish forces renewed their assault on Kurdish militia. Credit Bulent Kilic/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

ISTANBUL — Turkish troops crossed the Syrian border into the Kurdish enclave of Afrin on Sunday morning, beginning a ground assault against American-allied militias there, as the first accounts of casualties emerged amid rising international criticism of Turkey’s military action.

Turkish fighter jets were again in the skies Sunday bombing Kurdish militia targets in the border region. Ten people were reported killed in the bombing raids, according to Kurdish militants, and three people died on the Turkish side of the border in retaliatory shelling, local people said.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim of Turkey confirmed to local journalists that his country’s troops had crossed the border into Syria on Sunday morning.

Mr. Yildirim said the forces intended to create a security zone about 18 miles deep inside Syria. The area would encompass urban centers, including the town of Afrin, with a predominantly Kurdish population, and the much larger city of Manbij, further east, as well as dozens of outlying villages.

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has vowed to eliminate “terrorist nests” in the Kurdish enclave, but on Sunday he promised that the operation would be swift. “Hopefully, we will complete this operation in a very short time,” he said in a speech to the women’s branch of his Justice and Development Party in the city of Bursa.

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“The real issue here is to deliver Afrin to its real owners,” Mr. Erdogan said. He said that “we have 3.5 million Syrians in our lands” and that Turkey wanted “to send our Syrian brothers back to their own land as soon as possible.”

Mr. Erdogan’s comments came amid growing international dismay over Turkey’s intervention, and amid reports of Syrian fighters massing to join the fight on both sides.

Members of the Free Syrian Army have been joining to fight alongside Turkish troops. Many of them are refugees from Arab villages and towns in the region.

At the same time, hundreds of Kurdish fighters from the American-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which has been leading the fight against the Islamic State in Syria, were assembling in towns to the east and south of Afrin, according to The Associated Press.

Photo
Syrian-Kurds demonstrating Sunday in the town of Amuda against the Turkish military action. Credit Delil Souleiman/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A shopkeeper in Raqqa, who asked not to be named out of fear for his safety, said by text message that a large number of Arab fighters in the Syrian Democratic Forces were being sent from Raqqa to Manbij to prepare for a Turkish attack. His cousin was among 1,000 fighters gathered in Manbij and commanders were telling them an attack was imminent.

Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson spoke by telephone with his Turkish and Russian counterparts on Saturday to express concern about the situation, a State Department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, said in a statement.

“We urge Turkey to exercise restraint and ensure that its military operations remain limited in scope and duration and scrupulous to avoid civilian casualties,” the statement said.

France called for an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting to discuss the developments and also urged Turkey to act with restraint, noting that the humanitarian situation was deteriorating in several regions of Syria.

Turkish officials have repeatedly criticized the United States for its support and arming of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, known as the Y.P.G., which are spearheading the fight against the Islamic State in Syria. Yet they made clear Sunday they did not want to confront American troops in Syria.

Mr. Yildirim said Turkish forces would seek to destroy any logistics supply routes to Kurdish units, but Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said United States officials had assured Turkey there were no American troops in the region.

“It is out of the question to have a direct clash between Turkey and the U.S. in the region,” he said at a news briefing for international reporters Sunday.

By nightfall Turkish troops seemed to have advanced only a few miles into Syria.

Syrian fighters allied with Turkish forces claimed to have seized control of Shankal, a village on the northwestern edge of the Afrin district, but Kurdish fighters rejected the claim.

Casualties were reported from both sides, but numbers varied.

Hanadi Hafsi, a homemaker who lives in Reyhanli, a border district in Turkey, said two Syrians and a Turk died Sunday afternoon from shelling by Kurdish militias. The shells fell on a market, killing three and wounding 32, she said. Turkish officials said that only one Syrian had refugee died and that 37 people were wounded.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu condemned the “indiscriminate rocket fire by #PYD/#YPG terrorists” in a Twitter post. “This attack on innocent people shows the real face of #PYD terrorists.”

Continue reading the main story

ISTANBUL — Turkish troops crossed the Syrian border into the Kurdish enclave of Afrin on Sunday morning, beginning a ground assault against American-allied militias there, as the first accounts of casualties emerged amid rising international criticism of Turkey’s military action.

Turkish fighter jets were again in the skies Sunday bombing Kurdish militia targets in the border region. Ten people were reported killed in the bombing raids, according to Kurdish militants, and three people died on the Turkish side of the border in retaliatory shelling, local people said.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim of Turkey confirmed to local journalists that his country’s troops had crossed the border into Syria on Sunday morning.

Mr. Yildirim said the forces intended to create a security zone about 18 miles deep inside Syria. The area would encompass urban centers, including the town of Afrin, with a predominantly Kurdish population, and the much larger city of Manbij, further east, as well as dozens of outlying villages.

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has vowed to eliminate “terrorist nests” in the Kurdish enclave, but on Sunday he promised that the operation would be swift. “Hopefully, we will complete this operation in a very short time,” he said in a speech to the women’s branch of his Justice and Development Party in the city of Bursa.

“The real issue here is to deliver Afrin to its real owners,” Mr. Erdogan said. He said that “we have 3.5 million Syrians in our lands” and that Turkey wanted “to send our Syrian brothers back to their own land as soon as possible.”

Mr. Erdogan’s comments came amid growing international dismay over Turkey’s intervention, and amid reports of Syrian fighters massing to join the fight on both sides.

Members of the Free Syrian Army have been joining to fight alongside Turkish troops. Many of them are refugees from Arab villages and towns in the region.

At the same time, hundreds of Kurdish fighters from the American-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which has been leading the fight against the Islamic State in Syria, were assembling in towns to the east and south of Afrin, according to The Associated Press.

A shopkeeper in Raqqa, who asked not to be named out of fear for his safety, said by text message that a large number of Arab fighters in the Syrian Democratic Forces were being sent from Raqqa to Manbij to prepare for a Turkish attack. His cousin was among 1,000 fighters gathered in Manbij and commanders were telling them an attack was imminent.

Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson spoke by telephone with his Turkish and Russian counterparts on Saturday to express concern about the situation, a State Department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, said in a statement.

“We urge Turkey to exercise restraint and ensure that its military operations remain limited in scope and duration and scrupulous to avoid civilian casualties,” the statement said.

France called for an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting to discuss the developments and also urged Turkey to act with restraint, noting that the humanitarian situation was deteriorating in several regions of Syria.

Turkish officials have repeatedly criticized the United States for its support and arming of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, known as the Y.P.G., which are spearheading the fight against the Islamic State in Syria. Yet they made clear Sunday they did not want to confront American troops in Syria.

Mr. Yildirim said Turkish forces would seek to destroy any logistics supply routes to Kurdish units, but Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said United States officials had assured Turkey there were no American troops in the region.

“It is out of the question to have a direct clash between Turkey and the U.S. in the region,” he said at a news briefing for international reporters Sunday.

By nightfall Turkish troops seemed to have advanced only a few miles into Syria.

Syrian fighters allied with Turkish forces claimed to have seized control of Shankal, a village on the northwestern edge of the Afrin district, but Kurdish fighters rejected the claim.

Casualties were reported from both sides, but numbers varied.

Hanadi Hafsi, a homemaker who lives in Reyhanli, a border district in Turkey, said two Syrians and a Turk died Sunday afternoon from shelling by Kurdish militias. The shells fell on a market, killing three and wounding 32, she said. Turkish officials said that only one Syrian had refugee died and that 37 people were wounded.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu condemned the “indiscriminate rocket fire by #PYD/#YPG terrorists” in a Twitter post. “This attack on innocent people shows the real face of #PYD terrorists.”

Nytimes

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Syria

Turkey fires barrage of missiles on Kurdish-held targets in Syria (VIDEO)

- 5a64d376fc7e93f94e8b4567 - Turkey fires barrage of missiles on Kurdish-held targets in Syria (VIDEO)


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Syria

Last thing Syria needs after beating ISIS is another conflict – German FM on Turkish op

- 5a64c468fc7e93f8458b4569 - Last thing Syria needs after beating ISIS is another conflict – German FM on Turkish op


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