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Executive Summary for April 11th

We review the key developments in Syria, including Trump threatening to strike Syria and more people leaving Eastern Ghouta as part of a Russian-mediated evacuation deal.

Published on April 11, 2018 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Trump Threatens Syria Strike, U.S. Alliance Mulls Joint Response

U.S. president Donald Trump on Wednesday threatened to strike Syria in response to this weekend’s suspected poison gas attack on the town of Douma, the Associated Press reported.

Missiles “will be coming,” he said in a tweet, hours after Russia warned Washington against launching military strikes in the country.

“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!’,” Trump said on Twitter. “You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”

Trump’s announcement came hours after reports claimed that the U.K., France and the U.S. are considering joint military action in Syria in response to the suspected poison gas attack on Douma that killed more than 40 people.

Citing unidentified U.S. officials, the AP said no firm decision had been taken regarding a joint response, but the three states were in “extensive consultations” about launching military strikes in Syria as early as the end of this week.

One official told the AP that the U.S., France and Britain were considering extensive military options, rather than punitive one-off strikes. Those options include targeting military capabilities involved in carrying out chemical attacks to prevent President Bashar al-Assad from resorting to chemical weapons in the future, the AP said.

French president Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday that France, the U.K. and the U.S. would announce their decision in the “coming days.” He called for a “strong and joint response” to Saturday’s suspected attack.

Eurocontrol, a pan-European air traffic control agency, warned airlines on Tuesday that air-to-ground and cruise missiles could target Syria in the next 72 hours, according to Reuters.

Activists and the international community have held Assad responsible for Saturday’s purported gas attack, but the Syrian government and its Russian allies have denied responsibility. Russia said this week that its officers and experts have found no trace of chemical weapon use in Douma.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said on Tuesday it was sending a fact-finding mission to Douma following a request by the Syrian government and Russia, the AP said. The invitation by Moscow and Damascus “appeared to be aimed at averting punitive Western military action,” the AP reported.

The OPCW statement did not specify when investigators would arrive in Syria but said the fact-finding mission was preparing to deploy “shortly.”

Meanwhile, at the United Nations, Russia vetoed a U.S.-drafted resolution on Tuesday that would have “condemned the suspected gas attack and established a new body to determine responsibility for Syrian chemical weapons attacks,” the AP said.

“History will record that, on this day, Russia chose protecting a monster over the lives of the Syrian people,” U.S. ambassador Nikki Haley said after the vote, referring to President Assad.

Thousands Leave Douma as Part of Evacuation Agreement

Around 2,000 people, including rebels and their relatives, left the Eastern Ghouta town of Douma on Tuesday as part of a Russian-mediated evacuation agreement, Reuters reported.

An additional 4,000 people are also ready to leave as part of the same arrangement, Reuters said, citing the RIA news agency. But it was not immediately clear when the next batch of evacuees would leave Douma.

The evacuations are part of a Russian-mediated deal brokered on Sunday between the Jaish al-Islam rebel group and the Syrian government. Under the agreement, the Syrian government grants rebels safe exit to northern Syria in return for the release of hundreds of hostages and prisoners held by the group. The deal also grants an offer of reconciliation for those rebels who wish to stay in Douma.

The complete evacuation of Jaish al-Islam fighters will transfer control of the Eastern Ghouta suburbs to the Syrian government. It will also mark the end of a seven-week-long offensive that has killed at least 1,600 people.

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