Chemical weapons experts blocked from Syrian attack site, United Kingdom says

Allies vague on evidence linking Syria to chemical attack

Syrian air defenses hit several incoming missiles, state-run media said.

The US and France say they have evidence that poison gas was used in Douma, east of Damascus, killing dozens of people, and that President Bashar Assad's military was behind it, but they have made none of that evidence public.

A Syrian military statement said 110 missiles were fired Saturday by the U.S., Britain and France and that it shot down a lot of them.

"For all the sound and fury of these strikes, their net effect is a slap on the wrist of Bashar al-Assad", said Nick Heras, an analyst at the Center for a New American Security.

Among the contentious proposals, the draft resolution would establish an independent investigation of allegations of toxic gas attacks in Syria with the aim of identifying the perpetrators. The OPCW is in Damascus to certify whether a chemical attack occurred on 7 April, but it has no wider terms of reference.

The document "demands" that the Assad regime engage in peace talks "in good faith, constructively and without pre-conditions".

Faisal Mekdad, Syria's deputy foreign minister, said Monday that government officials have met with the delegation, which has been in Damascus for three days, a number of times to discuss cooperation. "Unfettered access essential. Russian Federation and Syria must cooperate". He said Russian Federation "should join our efforts to promote a political process in Syria that would allow a way out of the crisis".

With these latest strikes, the administration is putting the United States on the wrong side of global law and is running the risk of a hot war with Russian Federation and Iran over a chemical-weapons attack about which we still have little evidence.

Syria's chief allies, Russian Federation and Iran, called the use of force by the United States, Britain and France a "military crime" and "act of aggression" with the potential to worsen a humanitarian crisis after years of civil war.

The French leader said the allies were forced to act without an explicit United Nations mandate because of the "constant stalemate of the Russians" in the Security Council.

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Around 75 people, including children, were killed in the Douma assault, United Kingdom officials have said, while 500 people were treated in the attack's aftermath with symptoms consistent with chemical weapons exposure, the World Health Organization reported, citing its partners on the ground.

The narrowly targeted pre-dawn military operation on Saturday took aim at three alleged chemical weapons facilities.

Military analyst Qalaat Al Mudiq tweeted a map showing where pro-Assad forces operated following the Western strike.

"The three leaders agreed that the military strikes taken against the Syrian regime's chemical weapons sites had been a success", Downing Street said in a readout of the calls.

Russian Federation in November used its veto three times to bury a previous UN-led inquiry which found that Syrian forces had used sarin in the attack on Khan Sheikhun in April past year.

Ex-assistant secretary of state PJ Crowley, writing for the BBC, said the use at that time "represented a serious misreading of the challenge", adding: "But Syria isn't Iraq".

Assad's military, which is backed by Iran and Russian Federation, has difficulty defeating rebel groups when they are in well-defended positions in densely packed cities or neighborhoods. The U.N. Security Council was meeting at Moscow's request.

Ahead of the latest strikes, Haley signalled in the security council on Friday that any action by Washington would not only be in response to the attack in Douma.

"God has blessed this attractive country with a lot of blessings and we all look up for this country as a role model and as a leader when it comes to human rights and democracy, " Eid said.

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