United Nations team fired on at suspected Syria chemical attack site

Hours after the alleged chemical attack, the rebel faction that controlled the town, the Army of Islam, relented and was evacuated along with thousands of residents. Another said they had been met by protesters demanding aid, and gunfire was heard. Journalists in Damascus were prevented by government minders from contacting the OPCW inspectors, and The Hague-based organization refused to comment on "operational details regarding the Douma deployment".

Damascus and its ally Moscow deny that any gas attack took place, that they are holding up the inspections or that they have tampered with evidence at the site.

At least 40 people are believed to have died in the attack on Douma, which until Saturday was the last rebel-held town near Damascus. The attack on Syria carried out by the US-led coalition is not only aimed at discrediting Damascus but is also an attempt to deal a blow to the peace process, Head of Russia's Federation Council's International Affairs Committee, Konstantin Kosachev, said at a meeting of the upper house of parliament on Wednesday.

The delay comes a day after Syria's UN Ambassador Bashar al-Jaafari told UNSC members that the OPCW would begin probing the alleged poison gas attack on Wednesday. They are still waiting to visit nearby Douma, 11 days after the alleged attack took place.

Before dawn on Saturday, a coalition of US, United Kingdom and French forces launched more than 100 missiles targeting three chemical facilities in Syria in retaliation for an apparent chemical attack that killed dozens of civilians on April 7.

The demand was made by Ambassador to Holland and Permanent Representative of India to OPCW Venu Rajamony at the 58th Meeting of the Executive Council of the OPCW convened on Monday to discuss allegations regarding use of chemical weapons in Douma, Syria.

Russian Federation and Syria cited "pending security issues" as their reason for turning the inspectors away, said Ahmet Üzümcü, the director general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

After the recapture of eastern Ghouta, Assad still has several smaller pockets of ground to recover from rebels, as well as two major areas they hold in the northwest and southwest.

Syrian state media say rebels in a town northeast of Damascus are handing over their weapons as part of an agreement reached with the Syrian government.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov denied that Russia interfered with any evidence. The OPCW team does not have a mandate to assign blame for the attack.

The inspection was initially delayed by Russian Federation and Syria, who reportedly refused to allow the chemical weapons team to enter the city.

The United States has raised concerns that Russian Federation might have tampered with evidence on the scene - a charge Russian Federation vehemently denies - and it remains to be seen what investigators will find and what they'll have access to. 'And the other thing is. if it is a gas attack, a chemical weapons attack, then that material is degrading in the atmosphere.

Currie said the United States will remain focused on achieving the goal of ending the war and helping the Syrian people "no matter how many times our Russian colleagues convene these cynical, thinly disguised diversions".

The West has criticized the delay in allowing access to the site to the investigators, who arrived in Syria last week.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday warned that if the strikes continue, "it will inevitably entail chaos in global relations".

United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Wednesday that Staffan de Mistura embarked on the consultations following a meeting Monday with Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the sidelines of the Arab League summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia "and in view of current tensions".

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