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Resources updated between Monday, April 02, 2018 and Sunday, April 08, 2018

April 8, 2018

Medical workers treating toddlers following an alleged poison gas attack in the opposition-held town of Douma, in eastern Ghouta, near Damascus, Syria

BEIRUT (AP) - An alleged gas attack killed at least 40 people in the eastern suburbs of Damascus, local responders said on Sunday. Syrian state media, meanwhile, reported that rebels there have agreed to give up their last foothold in the area.

First responders and a relief organization said they found families suffocated in their homes and shelters in the besieged town of Douma, with foam on their mouths.

They did not identify the substance used, but the Syrian Civil Defense and the Syrian American Medical Society said survivors treated at clinics smelled strongly of chlorine.

The reports, which started circulating late Saturday, could not be independently verified, and the government denied allegations it had used chemical weapon in its assault on the town.

Meanwhile, state news agency SANA said the Army of Islam group agreed to leave Douma on Sunday, after three days of intensive government shelling and bombardment.

SANA said buses had been sent to the town to pick up prisoners released by the militants and to transport rebel fighters to opposition-held territory in north Syria.

The Army of Islam could not be immediately reached for comment.

Talks to surrender Douma collapsed on Friday, leading to the government to restart its campaign to take the town after ten days of calm.

Late Saturday, first responders reported they were treating residents for poison gas exposure.

The Syrian Civil Defense first responder group documented 42 fatalities but was impeded from searching further by strong odors that gave their rescuers difficulties breathing, said Siraj Mahmoud, a spokesman for the group, which is known as the White Helmets.

Douma has been devastated by close to five years of siege at the hands of government forces. It was once one of the hubs of the 2011 Arab Spring-styled uprising against President Bashar Assad's government.

In recent weeks, government forces have recaptured villages and towns in the eastern Ghouta suburbs of the capital. Douma is the only town left holding out.

A joint statement by the Civil Defense and the Syrian American Medical Society, a relief organization, said that more than 500 people, mostly women and children, were brought to medical centers with difficulty breathing, foaming at the mouth, and burning sensations in the eyes. It said patients gave off a chlorine-like smell. Some had bluish skin, a sign of oxygen deprivation.

It said the symptoms were consistent with chemical exposure. One patient, a woman, had convulsions and pinpoint pupils, suggesting exposure to a nerve agent.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 80 people were killed in Douma on Saturday, including around 40 who died from suffocation. But it said the suffocations were the result of shelters collapsing on people inside them.

"Until this minute, no one has been able to find out the kind of agent that was used," said Mahmoud, the White Helmets' spokesman, in a video statement from Syria.

He said the government was also targeting homes, clinics, and first responder facilities with conventional explosives and barrel bombs. Most of the medical points and ambulances of the town have been put out of service.

Videos posted online by the White Helmets showed victims, including toddlers in diapers, breathing through oxygen masks at makeshift hospitals.

The Syrian government, in a statement posted on the state-run news agency SANA, strongly denied the allegations. It said the claims were "fabrications" by the Army of Islam, calling it a "failed attempt" to impede government advances.

"The army, which is advancing rapidly and with determination, does not need to use any kind of chemical agents," the statement said.

The Army of Islam was negotiating with Russia, an ally of Damascus, to withdraw its fighters and allow government institutions back into the town, according to the Observatory. An agreement was said to have Russia deploy its military police to take guardianship of the town as Army of Islam fighters handed over their heavy weapons, the group added, but those talks collapsed on Friday, prompting the government to start shelling and bombing Douma indiscriminately.

Hundreds of fighters and their relatives had already left Douma for rebel-held areas in northern Syria.

The alleged gas attack in Douma comes almost exactly a year after a chemical attack in the northern Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun killed dozens of people. That attack prompted the U.S. to launch several dozen Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian air base. President Donald Trump said the attack was meant to deter further Syrian use of illegal weapons.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said that Washington was closely following "disturbing reports" of the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma.

"These reports, if confirmed, are horrifying and demand an immediate response by the international community," she said in a statement late Saturday.

The Syrian government and its ally, Russia, denied any involvement in the alleged gas attack.

Maj. Gen. Yuri Yevtushenko was quoted by Russian news agencies on Sunday as saying Russia was prepared to send specialists to Douma to "confirm the fabricated nature" of the reports.

A chemical attack in eastern Ghouta in 2013 that was widely blamed on government forces killed hundreds of people, prompting the U.S. to threaten military action before later backing down.

Syria denies ever using chemical weapons during the seven-year civil war, and says it eliminated its chemical arsenal under a 2013 agreement brokered by the U.S. and Russia after the attack in eastern Ghouta.

Alleged chemical attack strikes rebel-held Douma in Syria Document

April 6, 2018

Weapons found on a rooftop near Joseph’s Tomb where some 1,000 Jewish worshipers prayed

A Palestinian hurled explosives at Israeli soldiers protecting a crowd of Jewish worshipers in the West Bank city of Nablus overnight Wednesday-Thursday, causing no injuries or damage, the army said.

A thousand Jewish worshipers flocked in the early hours of Thursday to Joseph's Tomb for Passover prayers under military escort.

In a statement, the military said that before the worshipers entered the site, observations indicated "suspicious activity" in addition to the explosives that were hurled. Soldiers arrested three suspects and found weapons, including rifle magazines, bullets and a knife on a nearby roof.

The worshipers, who included the head of the Shomron Regional Council Yossi Dagan, prayed, sang and danced at Joseph's Tomb, believed to be the burial site of the biblical figure.

The Shomron Regional Council said in a statement that the new head of the IDF Central Command, Nadav Padan, also came and toured the site.

After the festive prayer was over, Palestinian residents began a "violent riot" at the exit from the city, the army said, adding that troops employed riot control methods to disperse the crowd. Two Palestinians were said to have been injured.

Pilgrimages by Israeli or foreign civilians to the Joseph's Tomb holy site are frequent catalysts for violence. In the past, Nablus residents have attacked the groups visiting the site with rocks, Molotov cocktails and rifle fire.

As a result, those interested in visiting the site require a military escort.

In January, army sappers detonated a cellphone-operated explosive device that was apparently planted by Palestinians at the entrance to Joseph's Tomb ahead of a similar arrival of Jewish worshipers. There were no injuries or significant damage caused by the controlled blast, and the pilgrimage to the shrine continued as planned, an Israel Defense Forces spokesperson said.

The left-wing B'Tselem rights group has condemned the routine pilgrimage, saying that "Israel has preferred the interest of Jewish worshipers over the rights of the Palestinian residents, their security, their safety and their daily routine."

In August, two Palestinians were shot and wounded by Israeli troops who were providing protection to Jewish worshipers visiting Joseph's Tomb.

In October 2015, Palestinian rioters set fire to the holy site. It was restored and reopened a few weeks later.

Explosives hurled at IDF troops guarding Jewish worshipers in Nablus Document

Current U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton

"U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Thursday she shares incoming national security adviser John Bolton's disdain for the world body and believes the two will work well together.

Bolton, who was U.S. envoy to the United Nations for President George W. Bush, will become President Donald Trump's national security adviser on Monday. He once said it would make no difference if 10 floors were knocked off the U.N. headquarters in New York.

'I know John Bolton well. I have gotten advice from him, I have talked to him. I know his disdain for the U.N. I share it,' Haley said at Duke University in North Carolina. 'I think we're going to have a great working relationship.'..."

U.S. UN Ambassador Haley says she shares "disdain" for the UN Article

April 5, 2018

April 4, 2018

A Palestinian rioter at the Gaza border

Palestinians at U.N. libel Israel as having 'shoot-to-kill policy' in Gaza Article

April 3, 2018

French Jews holding Israeli flags at a demonstration against UNESCO at its Paris headquarters, July 17, 2017

UNESCO to pass 'most extreme' Jerusalem resolution next week Article

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley (File photo)

Palestinians slam Nikki Haley as 'ambassador of hatred' after she blocks anti-Israel move Article

April 2, 2018

Rioters at Hamas-led clashes at Gaza border fence, March 30, 2018

U.S. blocks Arab-sponsored U.N. Security Council statement on Hamas-led riots at Gaza border Article

Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon (File photo)

Israeli envoy lodges complaint over Passover U.N. Security Council meeting Article