BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the Syria conflict (all times local):
The U.N. health agency says reports from its partners indicate some 500 patients showed signs of exposure to toxic chemicals following shelling on the Syrian town of Douma over the weekend.
The World Health Organization says patients at health facilities showed “signs of severe irritation of mucous membranes, respiratory failure and disruption to central nervous systems of those exposed.”
A WHO statement Wednesday did not confirm outright that a chemical weapons attack had taken place.
WHO also cited reports about the deaths of more than 70 people who sheltered in basements, saying 43 of those people who died had shown “symptoms consistent with exposure to highly toxic chemicals.”
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Tuesday it would send “shortly” a fact-finding mission to Douma.
A senior Russian lawmaker has warned the United States that Russia would view an airstrike on Syria as a war crime.
U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened military action after last weekend’s suspected chemical attack on a rebel-held town near Damascus, which activists and rescuers say killed at least 40 people. The Syrian government and its ally Russia have denied that such an attack ever happened.
State news agency RIA Novosti on Wednesday quoted Andrei Krasov, deputy chairman of the State Duma’s defense committee, as saying that Russia will treat a U.S. airstrike on Syria “not just as an act of aggression but a war crime of the Western coalition.”
Russia has been a key backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad, providing air cover for his offensive against the Islamic State group and Syrian rebels. Russian military advisers are deployed at many Syrian government facilities.
European airspace authorities are warning aircraft to be careful over the next days when flying close to Syria because of possible military action against President Bashar Assad’s forces.
The Eurocontrol airspace organization said that the European Aviation Safety Agency had sent a “Rapid Alert Notification” that flight operations needed to consider the possibility of air or missile strikes into Syria.
U.S. officials have consulted with global allies on a possible joint military response to Syria’s alleged poison gas attack on a rebel-held town.
In a notice posted to Eurocontrol’s website, EASA said: “Due to the possible launch of air strikes into Syria with air-to-ground and/or cruise missiles within the next 72 hours, and the possibility of intermittent disruption of radio navigation equipment, due consideration needs to be taken.”