Syria strikes – latest updates: Chemical weapons inspectors have entered Douma, Syrian state media says

UK

Chemical weapons inspectors have entered Douma, the location of the alleged poison gas attack on 7 April, according to Syrian state media. The UK and US had accused Russia and Syria of blocking the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) team from the area, which Russia denied.

It had previously said it would grant the inspectors access on Wednesday, after suggesting any delay was due to Saturday’s joint air strikes and a lack of proper permits  – an assertion denied in turn by the UN. On Tuesday, France said it was “very likely” that evidence was “disappearing” from Douma while inspectors waited in Damascus to be allowed in.

It came as MPs held a second emergency debate on the use of Britain’s armed forces in Saturday’s air strikes. Jeremy Corbyn and others have criticised Theresa May for not giving parliament a vote on military action, but the prime minister defended the bombings as “a limited, targeted strike on a legal basis that has been used before” designed to disrupt Syria’s chemical weapons capability.

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Live Updates

2 mins ago

The UK parliament has made clear its support for Prime Minister Theresa May‘s decision to launch air strikes against Syria, her spokesman has said.

The government won a symbolic vote in the Commons on the broader issue of whether it should consult lawmakers before taking military action.

The 317 to 256 vote went against a call by Jeremy Corbyn to protest Ms May’s decision to launch strikes against Syria without first seeking approval. 

42 mins ago

Doctors in Douma are being threatened at gunpoint to say there was no chemical weapons attack in the Syrian town, or their children will be killed, an MP has said.

Labour’s Geraint Davies raised the claim from his constituent in the Commons.

In an intervention on Tory MP Richard Benyon, the Swansea West MP said: “He may be interested to know that a Syrian doctor in Swansea approached me to say that his wife’s family … were under a gas attack where their two-year-old died in front of them.

“He’s now telling me that the doctors in Douma are saying that the Syrians, at the point of a gun, are saying unless you give a testimony, doctor, that there wasn’t a gas attack, we’ll be killing your children.”

PA

52 mins ago

Saudi Arabia has said it is willing to send troops to Syria if a wider coalition effort is proposed, according to the country’s state-run media.
It follows a report in the Wall Street Journal that Donald Trump was seeking to offload some of the US military effort in Syria to Arab nations.
National security adviser John Bolton spoke to a senior Egyptian official about the plan, the paper reported.

1 hour ago

Just a quick re-post of our defence editor’s analysis of the US-UK “special relationship” in light of the weekend’s air strikes on Syria.

Bombing Syria revealed just how fragile the ‘special relationship’ is

Emmanuel Macron has declared that he persuaded Donald Trump to limit the Syria air strikes to a few targets and avoid a conflagration.
In London, the briefing from government officials was that the US president was, in fact, wobbling over military action at the end and Theresa May played a part in his holding firm.

1 hour ago

Paul Ryan, the Republican speaker of the House, has said Donald Trump “did the right thing” in ordering air strikes on Syrian chemical weapons targets.
Mr Ryan, who has announced he will not seek re-election when his current term as a member of Congress expires, added: “I was also impressed he made a multilateral effort.”

1 hour ago

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani agreed on Tuesday to maintain the cooperation between Turkey, Iran and Russia for a political solution to the conflict in Syria, a source in Mr Erdogan’s office said.
Mr Erdogan also told Mr Rouhani in a telephone call that actions to increase tensions in the region should be avoided, after US, British and French forces carried out air strikes on Syria over the weekend.

2 hours ago

Chemical weapons inspectors have entered Douma, according to Syrian state media.
A team from the OPCW arrived on Tuesday, a day before Russia had indicated they would.

3 hours ago

Angela Merkel has said Russia bears joint responsibility for the suspected Douma chemical attack, but that dialogue with Vladimir Putin’s government must continue nonetheless.
“We know that in relation to the poison gas attack in Syria, that Russia, as an ally of Assad, has joint responsibility, there is no question about that, but it is nevertheless important to keep talking to Russia,” Ms Merkel said in a joint press conference with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Ms Merkel added she expected to meet with Mr Putin in the foreseeable future, but that no date had been set. It follows a phone call between the two leaders on Tuesday.
Earlier, Germany’s foreign minister Heiko Mass said he believed his country could be “the ones who can prop open the window for dialogue with Russia”.

3 hours ago

While we cover the international developments in the Syria crisis in this live blog, our political reporters are providing live updates on the Commons debate on parliamentary approval of military action.

Follow all the latest updates from the Commons here

Jeremy Corbyn is leading a second emergency debate over Britain’s role in missile strikes on Syria’s suspected chemical weapons facilities.
It follows a marathon sessions in the Commons on Monday and today’s motion will consider the rights of Parliament to debate and approve military action by British forces overseas.

3 hours ago

SNP MP Stewart McDonald has accused the Government of using intelligence and security briefings to “manipulate” MPs.
He said this was “not to inform them but to potentially bolster their own case”.
Raising a point of order in the Commons, Mr McDonald said: “It’s been brought to my attention by several sources that the Government has been selectively offering intelligence and security briefings by the prime minister’s national security adviser on the current situation in Syria and the UK military response to it.
“These briefings appear to have been offered to members of the Labour opposition not on the basis of privy counsellor status but on the basis of those opposition members who are sympathetic to the government’s position.
“That leads to concerns that the government is using intelligence briefings to manipulate parliament and to bolster its own case for its behaviour on the opposition benches – not on security terms, but on politics.”

4 hours ago

A fuller story here on the French foreign ministry’s fears that evidence is “disappearing” from Douma.

France says evidence is likely ‘disappearing’ from suspected chemical attack site in Syria

France’s foreign ministry has said it is ”very likely” that proof has disappeared from the location of a suspected poison gas attack in Syria, adding it was essential that international inspectors be given full access to the site.
Inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) travelled to Syria last week to inspect the site, but have yet to gain access to Douma, which is now under government control after revel forces withdrew.

4 hours ago

France’s foreign ministry has said it is essential that Syria grant chemical weapons inspectors immediate and full access to Douma.
The ministry, in a statement, also said it was “very likely” evidence is now disappearing from the site of the alleged chemical attack.

4 hours ago

Vladimir Putin has told Angela Merkel that Saturday’s air strikes by Western powers violated international law, the Kremlin has said.
Mr Putin told his German counterpart that action by the US, UK and France had harmed the peace process in Syria.
A readout of the phone call came after Germany’s foreign minister suggested his country could act as an intermediary, keeping dialogue with Russia open.
Heiko Mass said an upcoming G7 summit should provide a chance “to get the political process going again”.
“We also need Russia for this dialogue,” he said, suggesting Germany’s traditionally closer relationship with Russia could help facilitate talks.

5 hours ago

The Trump administration is seeking to bring together an Arab force to replace US military personnel on the ground in Syria, it has been reported.
John Bolton is involved in the initiative, the Wall Street Journal reported, and recently spoke to a senior Egyptian official to gauge that country’s support for the plan.
“We have asked our partners to take greater responsibility for securing their home region including contributing larger amounts of money for the resources, equipment and all of the anti-Isis effort” in Syria, Mr Trump said when he announced Saturday’s joint air strikes.

5 hours ago

Greek authorities say hundreds of refugees and other migrants have crossed the land border with Turkey in the past two days, with illegal crossings in the area increasing significantly following Turkey’s military operation in northern Syria. 
Police said they had detained 370 people on Monday who had crossed the Evros River, which forms a natural border between Greece and Turkey, and another 140 people on Sunday.
The land route from Turkey into north-eastern Greece has become increasingly popular as conditions deteriorate on Greek islands, long the preferred route, where strict controls are now imposed on movement and camps are overcrowded.
Authorities have noted a surge in arrivals across the Evros, with 1,658 people detained in March compared to 586 in February and 262 in March 2017.

5 hours ago

Theresa May has told a meeting of Commonwealth leaders that the use of chemical weapons must not be normalised.
The prime minister said at a London gathering of the organisation: “At the very moment international cooperation is so important some nations are choosing instead to shun the rules-based international system that underpins global security and prosperity.
“And the danger of the rules-based system being undermined is nowhere more obvious right now than in Syria.
“On top of the huge suffering inflicted on the Syrian people by years of conflict, we have seen a persistent pattern of behaviour in the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons. Most recently in the barbaric attack on Douma earlier this month.
“We cannot allow the risk of chemical weapons to become normalised, either within Syria, or on the streets of the UK or elsewhere.”

5 hours ago

Scrutiny of Russia’s role on the world stage is deepening in the wake of the alleged chemical attack in Syria, where it backs president Bashar al-Assad’s regime, and accusations the Kremlin meddled with 2016’s US presidential election.
Last night UK and US officials claimed Vladimir Putin’s government was behind an effort to target millions of internet-connected devices worldwide in order to spy, steal information and build networks for potentially devastating future cyber attacks.
The first ever joint “technical alert” from the two countries urged members of the public and businesses to help combat vulnerabilities with basic security precautions.

Russian hackers targeting millions of devices around the world, US and UK warn

Russian hackers are targeting millions of devices around the world to spy, steal information and build networks for potentially devastating future cyber attacks, the US and UK have revealed.
The first ever joint “technical alert” from the two countries urged members of the public and businesses to help combat vulnerabilities with basic security precautions.

6 hours ago

Syrian state media is now also saying that reports of a new missile strike on the country were a false alarm.
Government-run television quoted an unnamed military official as saying that air defenses fired a number of missiles because of a false alarm, without providing more information.
Hours earlier, state media outlets had said the country’s air defenses confronted a new “aggression,” shooting down missiles over the central region of Homs and a suburb of Damascus.
The reports did not say who had launched the pre-dawn strikes, which were reported by Syrian state TV and the government-run Syrian Central Media.

6 hours ago

A new claim has been made relating to the reports of fresh missile strikes against Syrian air bases overnight.
The claimed false alarm that triggered Syria’s air defence systems was caused by “a joint electronic attack” by Israel and the US, a commander in the Assad-aligned regional military alliance told Reuters.
Syrian state media had reported that missiles were fired at the Sharyat and Dumair air bases overnight, but morning bulletins later featured no mention of the strikes, according to the BBC Monitoring Twitter account.
The US said it had had no military assets in the area at the time of the reported strikes while Israel declined to comment.

7 hours ago

Here, our defence editor Kim Sengupta analyses the UK-US “special relationship” in the light of the joint strikes on Syria.

Bombing Syria revealed just how fragile the ‘special relationship’ is

Emmanuel Macron has declared that he persuaded Donald Trump to limit the Syria air strikes to a few targets and avoid a conflagration.
In London, the briefing from government officials was that the US president was, in fact, wobbling over military action at the end and Theresa May played a part in his holding firm.

Representatives of the UK, US and Russia had spent much of Monday in diplomatic combat over chemical inspectors’ access to Douma. The US’ envoy to the OPCW, Kenneth Ward, said he believed Russian personnel had visited the site and voiced fears it may have been tampered with, prompting Moscow’s foreign minister to “guarantee” this was not the case.

Meanwhile, reports in Syrian state media early on Tuesday morning that a fresh missile strike had been launched against two air bases in the country were incorrect, government-run outlets later said.

Air defences were triggered due to a false alarm, state television said, having previously reported that a new missile attack had targeted Syria’s Sharyat air base, near Homs, and the Dumayr air field north-east of Damascus. The Pentagon had denied US involvement and Israel declined to comment.

During Tuesday’s second-round debate, Ms May said it was “right” that she took the decision on the military strike, and told MPs that coming to parliament before undertaking military action would “compromise the effectiveness of our operations and safety of British servicemen and women”.

Intelligence and assessments “cannot be shared in full” with parliament, she added.

Mr Corbyn, who previously said Saturday’s strikes were of “questionable legality”, told the Commons that “The executive must be the servant of parliament, not the other way round”.

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