Chemical attack ups tension over Syria
International | World powers mull larger response to brutality against civilians
by Mindy Belz
Posted 4/09/18, 11:35 am
SYRIA: No one has yet claimed responsibility for airstrikes early Monday on a military base that reportedly killed 14, including Iranians, but Syrian and Russian officials blame Israel.
The strikes appear to be retaliation for a chemical weapons attack near Damascus on Saturday, and the heightened tension among the world’s powers comes as former U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton starts work as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, and Secretary of State–designate Mike Pompeo’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee begins on Thursday.
Medical workers and rescue teams say Syrian forces hit the town of Douma, a suburb of Damascus, with bombs Saturday that unleashed toxic gas, killing at least 70 residents and injuring perhaps 500. The deadly gas attack was at least the fifth since 2015, when President Bashar al-Assad agreed to dismantle his chemical weapons stockpile as part of a deal with the Obama administration and Russia. Video of the aftermath (warning: graphic images) and images of the dead are prompting residents to flee the area, which is part of a battle pattern by the Syrian regime. Russian media is denying the attacks. Britain may take the lead in a coordinated response as an emergency session of the UN Security Council takes place later Monday.
TURKEY appears to be blackmailing the Trump administration to secure the release of American pastor Andrew Brunson, stifling objections to Turkish military actions in Syria and dropping charges against members of a security detail involved in attacking mostly Armenian protesters outside the Turkish Embassy in Washington, D.C., last May. Last week, two Turkish-Americans on trial in the assault received light sentences.
- The recently released indictment against Brunson, who pastored a church in Izmir for 20 years, accuses him of working with U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, to stir chaos in Turkey and divide the country.
- Turkey has scheduled a first hearing for Brunson on April 16, just days after Turkish banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla—a confidante of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan convicted of taking part in a billion-dollar scheme to evade American sanctions against Iran—is scheduled for sentencing in New York. The message: Be lenient on Atilla and the Turks might go easy on Brunson.
NORTH KOREA: The Kim Jong Un regime has told the United States for the first time it is prepared to discuss denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula when Kim meets President Trump, a U.S. official said Sunday. But “denuclearization” may mean different things to North Korea and the United States.
ALGERIA: Authorities have closed four churches in the last four months, and 25 of 45 congregations of the Protestant Church of Algeria (l’Église Protestante d’Algerie) have received notices they, too, may face closure as part of a crackdown aimed to appease Islamist elements in the North African country.
FRANCE: Policeman Arnaud Beltrame made a serious commitment to serving his country and returning to his faith before laying down his life in a March terrorist attack in southern France—a rare moment of courage worth revisiting in a season of threats.
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