United Nations vehicles are seen outside the hotel where the international experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) are staying in Damascus on April 19, 2018. 
UN security experts have said they were negotiating with Syrian and Russian authorities for international chemical inspectors to deploy to the site of an alleged toxic gas attack near Damascus, after a reconnaissance mission came under fire. The team from the world's chemical arms watchdog has not yet been able to begin its field work in Douma, where dozens were killed in a suspected April 7 gas attack, as Western powers warn that President Bashar al-Assad's regime may attempt to remove crucial evidence.
United Nations vehicles are seen outside the hotel where the international experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) are staying in Damascus in April. Louai Beshara

Chemical weapons experts to exhume Douma bodies

Chemical weapons experts want to exhume the bodies of the victims of a chemical attack last month on the city of Douma, a former rebel-held enclave on the outskirts of Damascus.

The unprecedented move will see inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) gather samples in a bid to amass indisputable proof of whether chlorine or sarine were used in the attack.

The inspectors have already gathered over 100 "environmental samples," the head of the OPCW told the Financial Times on Thursday.

However, say experts, two weeks of Syrian and Russian alleged obstructions may have resulted in vital chemical evidence "slipping away."

In an interview with The National last month, Jerry Smith, who helped oversee the OPCW-led withdrawal of much of Syria's sarin stockpile in 2013 said that every hour, day or week of delay may have diluted what the inspectors will eventually uncover in Douma.


Read more:

Editorial: Scrubbing evidence of chemical weapons' use is as bad as using them

Douma evidence may have 'slipped away' because of Syrian and Russian delays

Belgian companies to be prosecuted for exporting chemicals to Syria 


OPCW experts have in past carried out autopsies, explained Mr Uzumcu. But the exhumation of bodies is an unprecedented move for the watchdog.

The organisation has been critcised for not doing enough to prevent President Bashar Al Assad's use of chemical weapons.

For weeks Douma and the larger Eastern Ghouta area came under heavy bombardment from regime and Russian strikes. According to Airwars, a UK-based non-profit organisation that tracks reports of civilians deaths in Iraq and Syria, there were 250 civilians casualties in March alone attributed to Russia and centred around the area of Eastern Ghouta.

North of Douma, in the countryside north of Homs, rebels agreed on Wednesday to a Russia-brokered withdrawal deal. The deal would restore state rule, with fighters handing over their heavy weapons. The agreement also states that the Russian police and Syrian civil police would enter after the evacuation of the last bus.

Each fighter may take one rifle and three reserve bullets as well as their personal belongings and lorries can be used to transfer possible furniture. No money or jewels to be taken by evacuees and the authorities have the right to decide the route of the evacuation journey and should expect inspections by the Russian military police .

The deal is valid for six months and civilians who stay behind will be subject to be drafted into the Syrian military.

What the Russians want, said Col. Fatih Hassoun of the Free Syrian Army, is surrender and forced displacement.

"They preceded it with heavy shelling and the preparation of agents to help them disperse the resistance of the region," he told The National.

Meanwhile on Thursday in the western Syrian province of Latakia, a Russian fighter jet stationed in Syria crashed, killing its pilots, Moscow's Defence Ministry confirmed.

State news agency Tass cited the ministry as saying the Su-30 jet crashed after climbing from takeoff at the Russian Hemeimeem airbase in the western Syrian province of Latakia.

"As it was climbing after taking off from the Hmeimim airbase, the Russian fighter Su-30SM crashed into the Mediterranean Sea. Two pilots, who fought until the last minute to save the plane, died, according to reports from the scene", his statement said.

Russia said the aircraft had not come under enemy fire, but that a bird could have fallen "into the engine", according to preliminary information.

The plane was among Russia's most advanced and performed its maiden flight in 2012. In Syria, it was used to launch air-to-ground missiles at rebel targets and to escort attack jets and strategic bombers.

The country that is supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad has suffered 86 military deaths since it intervened in Syria in October 2015.

With additional reporting by Jacob Wirtschafter 

UAE jiu-jitsu squad

Men: Hamad Nawad and Khalid Al Balushi (56kg), Omar Al Fadhli and Saeed Al Mazroui (62kg), Taleb Al Kirbi and Humaid Al Kaabi (69kg), Mohammed Al Qubaisi and Saud Al Hammadi (70kg), Khalfan Belhol and Mohammad Haitham Radhi (85kg), Faisal Al Ketbi and Zayed Al Kaabi (94kg)

Women: Wadima Al Yafei and Mahra Al Hanaei (49kg), Bashayer Al Matrooshi and Hessa Al Shamsi (62kg)

Confirmed bouts (more to be added)

Cory Sandhagen v Umar Nurmagomedov
Nick Diaz v Vicente Luque
Michael Chiesa v Tony Ferguson
Deiveson Figueiredo v Marlon Vera
Mackenzie Dern v Loopy Godinez

Tickets for the August 3 Fight Night, held in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, went on sale earlier this month, through www.etihadarena.ae and www.ticketmaster.ae.


Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2


Company: Eco Way
Started: December 2023
Founder: Ivan Kroshnyi
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: Electric vehicles
Investors: Bootstrapped with undisclosed funding. Looking to raise funds from outside


Director: Sudha Kongara Prasad

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Radhika Madan, Paresh Rawal

Rating: 2/5

How does ToTok work?

The calling app is available to download on Google Play and Apple App Store

To successfully install ToTok, users are asked to enter their phone number and then create a nickname.

The app then gives users the option add their existing phone contacts, allowing them to immediately contact people also using the application by video or voice call or via message.

Users can also invite other contacts to download ToTok to allow them to make contact through the app.


Company Profile

Name: Direct Debit System
Started: Sept 2017
Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
Industry: FinTech
Funding: Undisclosed
Investors: Elaine Jones
Number of employees: 8


Director: Abu Bakr Shawky 

Starring: Omar Alatawi, Tulin Essam, Ibrahim Al-Hasawi 

Rating: 4/5


Director: Nayla Al Khaja

Starring: Jefferson Hall, Faten Ahmed, Noura Alabed, Saud Alzarooni

Rating: 3.5/5

The biog

Age: 35

Inspiration: Wife and kids 

Favourite book: Changes all the time but my new favourite is Thinking, Fast and Slow  by Daniel Kahneman

Best Travel Destination: Bora Bora , French Polynesia 

Favourite run: Jabel Hafeet, I also enjoy running the 30km loop in Al Wathba cycling track

The five pillars of Islam

1. Fasting

2. Prayer

3. Hajj

4. Shahada

5. Zakat

The five pillars of Islam

1. Fasting

2. Prayer

3. Hajj

4. Shahada

5. Zakat

The biog

Favourite food: Tabbouleh, greek salad and sushi

Favourite TV show: That 70s Show

Favourite animal: Ferrets, they are smart, sensitive, playful and loving

Favourite holiday destination: Seychelles, my resolution for 2020 is to visit as many spiritual retreats and animal shelters across the world as I can

Name of first pet: Eddy, a Persian cat that showed up at our home

Favourite dog breed: I love them all - if I had to pick Yorkshire terrier for small dogs and St Bernard's for big

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