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Syria: Death toll from chemical attack rises to over 70

13 April 2018

US President Donald Trump and French counterpart Emmanuel Macron have vowed a strong response to the suspected poison gas attack, which left dozens dead, and the UN Security Council was expected to discuss the crisis later on Monday.

Pope Francis also condemned chemical attacks against civilians in a special appeal during Sunday's service in St Peter's Square in the Vatican.

The tests found "markers" in samples taken at Ghouta and at the sites of two other nerve agent attacks, in Khan Sheikhoun in April 2017 and Khan al-Assal in March 2013, two people involved in the process say.

In his tweets Sunday, Trump called Assad an "animal" and delivered a rare personal criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin for supporting him.

Jaysh al-Islam (Army of Islam) gave up the town just outside the capital Damascus after 42 civilians were killed in a chemical weapon attack on Saturday.

The West's response to atrocities in Syria came under the spotlight on Monday as horrific images purported to show a chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held town on Saturday. At least 14 people, including Iranians, were killed in the attack, Sky News Arabia reporting, citing the opposition-aligned Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

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Local activists told NBC News that they saw dozens of dead bodies, many of whom were children, in the underground shelters across the city.

He added: "These latest reports must urgently be investigated and the global community must respond".

"If there is clear verified evidence of the use of chemical weapons and a proposal for action where the United Kingdom would be useful, then we will look at the range of options", Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesman said.

- Russian Federation casts a veto at the UN Security Council preventing the renewal of the mandate for the Joint Investigative Mechanism.

Israel has also struck inside Syria in recent years. The Syrian government denied the allegations, which could not be independently verified. We are in close touch with our allies following these latest reports.

And Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said those responsible "must be held to account".

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Mr Trump branded Assad an "animal" in a series of posts on Twitter.

US President Donald Trump accused Russian Federation and Iran over the alleged attacks: "Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad".

It leaves open the question of whether the USA president will opt for a "discrete punishment or a more ambitious and co-ordinated" response, says The Guardian's diplomatic editor Patrick Wintour.

He added he does not see the logic behind this type of attack: "All of the incentives go in the opposite direction that the rebels would want to pin this kind of an attack on the regime, an attack the regime never wanted".

On the Associated Press website, a hidden caption explaining that the photo is of victims of an "alleged poison gas attack in the rebel-held town of Douma" during a Syrian offensive (and not of the subsequent strike on the Syrian military base near the city of Homs) is not visible to readers unless they click on a small button at the bottom of the photo. The first was that Assad did not declare everything-a reality that Kerry acknowledged in a farewell memo to staff, in which he wrote that "unfortunately other undeclared chemical weapons continue to be used ruthlessly against the Syrian people".

Syria surrendered its stockpiles of chemical weapons in 2014 to a joint mission led by the United States and the OPCW, which oversaw the destruction of the weaponry. Its mandate is to determine whether chemical weapons have been used, not who is responsible for the alleged attacks.

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Syria: Death toll from chemical attack rises to over 70