United Nations chemical weapons investigators have returned to their Damascus hotel after visiting the scene of a suspected poison gas attack in Syria on Monday.
Here’s the latest:
• U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday, in a forceful statement, said all nations must stand up for accountability on the use of chemical weapons in Syria. The information so far, including videos and accounts from the ground, indicate “that chemical weapons were used in Syria. Moreover, we know that the Syrian regime maintains custody of these chemical weapons,” Kerry said.
• U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to speak about the situation in Syria at 2 p.m. EDT on Monday. U.S. officials say the Obama administration is preparing to ratchet up its criticism of the Assad regime as world leaders consider possible military options to help end the crisis.
• The UN investigators arrived Monday in Mouadamiya, a rebel-held suburb of Damascus, where they met and took samples from victims. The town is one of several where a suspected chemical weapons attack killed hundreds of civilians last Wednesday.
• The team was targeted by unidentified snipers as they travelled to the area. A vehicle was damaged, according to the UN. State television blamed rebels for the shooting, while the opposition blamed it on militiamen supportive of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
• The Syrian government only agreed on Sunday to grant the 20-member UN team access to the sites. The UN investigators had been waiting since Wednesday in a hotel a few kilometres away, after arriving in Syria three days earlier to investigate previous reports of chemical weapons use.
• World leaders fear that the five-day delay in allowing the team to visit the sites will prevent inspectors from determining what happened and from assigning responsibility. In the meantime, state television on Sunday showed footage of tanks moving into one of the districts and opposition activists said the army was using surface-to-air missiles and artillery in the area. A U.S. official said “the evidence available has been significantly corrupted as a result of the regime’s persistent shelling and other intentional actions over the last five days.”
• However, Western leaders, who are considering military strikes, say there is little doubt that the Syrian government was behind the mass poisonings, which appear to be the world’s worst such attack in 25 years. The al-Assad regime maintains that rebels unleashed the attacks.
With reports from Reuters