A Free Syrian Army (FSA) commander Fateh Hassoun has announced that it will start a new offensive following a possible US strike on Syria. According to him, the FSA is planning on regaining lost areas and capturing new ones. He also claimed that the possible US strike would weaken Damascus' positions and will allow the start of "real negotiations."
"We will try to take advantage of this strike, […] since these strikes will lead to the dispersion of the regime's forces, the chaos in its ranks and the retreat of the regime. Such circumstances will subsequently prepare the armed forces […] for launching attacks, during which it will be possible to regain control of certain areas and capture new ones," Hassoun said.
Washington Threats and Moscow, Damascus Reaction
US President Donald Trump threatened Syria with a missile strike in retaliation for the alleged chemical attack in Douma on his Twitter. The attack was reported by the Syrian NGO White Helmets, which has previously been seen working with terrorist groups in the country. The Pentagon declined to comment the US President's tweets.
Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!” You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 11 апреля 2018 г.
Moscow and Damascus slammed the accusations as a mere pretext for a military intervention in Syria. Russia has warned the US against any attack on the country, noting that the Russian military is still present and will react accordingly.
Answering the threats by the White house, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova noted that "smart" missiles should fly towards terrorists, not the legitimate government, fighting them. She also expressed her opinion that a missile attack might be used to cover up traces of the fake chemical attack provocation so that OPCW inspectors would not be able to find any evidence.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry has issued a statement saying that the escalation of military threats, using fabricated intelligence on the purported chemical attack in Douma as a pretext, "comes as no surprise." The ministry's statement also noted that Damascus will not stop its campaign against "US-coalition backed" terrorist groups.
Investigation of the Incident
Damascus and Moscow have sent requests to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to send an investigative team to Douma to look into information on the alleged chemical attack. The OPCW, in its turn, sent a request to Damascus to make the necessary preparations for the investigators' arrival.
Russia has also sent its chemical experts to the area where chemical weapons were allegedly used. According to their reports, no signs of such an attack were found there. Moreover, none of the patients in the nearby hospitals showed signs of being affected by chemical agents.
Several countries called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the situation in Syria, and specifically the investigation of the alleged chemical attack in Douma. The US-proposed resolution included the creation of a new body for investigation purposes, ignoring existing ones, namely the OPCW — the world's leading watchdog agency on the use of such weapons. Russia used its veto to block the proposal.
Instead, Russia offered its own resolution, supporting the OPCW's investigative group. Although the resolution wasn't vetoed, it failed to gather enough support. Russia, China, Bolivia, Kazakhstan and Ethiopia voted in favor of the resolution, while France, the United States, Britain and Poland voted against it. Other members abstained from the vote.