Turkey: Syria autopsies show chemical weapons used in attack

Russian President Vladimir Putin scolded Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for blaming Syria's Assad regime for a devastating chemical weapons attack on civilians.

Foreign Minister Walid Moallem reiterated that stance on Thursday, telling reporters in Damascus that his government never used and will not use chemical weapons in Syria.

Some 32 victims were brought to Turkey, where three later died in hospital and underwent examination.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said support for Syria wasn't unwavering, and Russian Federation is calling for a full investigation into the Tuesday attack on Khan Sheikhoun that's killed more than 80 people - including 30 children.

The wounded had been brought from Idlib through Turkey's Cilvegozu border gate for the treatment in the Reyhanli district of Hatay province.

Sens. John McCain of Arizona, who spoke to Trump on Wednesday, and Lindsey Graham of SC said in a statement Thursday that Syrian President Bashar Assad "has crossed a line" and "must pay a punitive cost for this horrific attack".

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley laced into the country for its military support of Syria, as well as blocking sanctions against the Assad government. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group put the toll so far at 86 killed. The U.S., United Kingdom and France have expressed a desire to draw up a U.N. Security Council resolution over the incident, something Zakharova said was a "political show" that presented charges against the Syrian government without any evidence.

Syrian President Bashar Assad speaks during an interview with Yahoo News in Damascus, Syria on February 10, 2017. At the U.N., Haley threatened unilateral US action if the world body failed to act. "In November, Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons expressed grave concern that all gaps, inconsistencies and discrepancies" in the regime's claims that it had fully destroyed it stockpiles.

Victims showed signs of nerve gas exposure, including suffocation, foaming at the mouth, convulsions, constricted pupils and involuntary defecation, the World Health Organization and Doctors Without Borders said. Paramedics were using fire hoses to wash the chemicals from the bodies of victims.

At the Damascus presser, Moallem also echoed that statement, saying the Syrian army bombed a warehouse belonging to al-Qaida's branch in Syria which contained chemical weapons.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will presumably discuss the options when he meets with President Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago retreat in Florida, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Al-Nusra - now known as Fateh al-Sham Front - was once Al-Qaeda's Syria affiliate and is the main jihadist rival of the Islamic State group.

On Thursday, Muallem said such an investigation "must guarantee that it is not politicized, that it has broad geographic representation and that it is launched from Damascus, not Turkey".

Part of the equation, for any perpetrator, is the difficulty of proving anything in the aftermath of such attacks, largely due to the lack of immediate access. Britain's deputy ambassador Peter Wilson said "what we want is a unanimous resolution. and we want to see this done soon".

Jan Egeland, the top humanitarian aid official with the UN's Syria office, said he believes an awareness of the need to protect civilians is finally "sinking in".

  • Leroy Wright