U.N. Chemical-Weapons Inspectors in Syria Come Under Sniper Fire

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 26 2013 9:11 AM

U.N. Chemical-Weapons Inspectors in Syria Come Under Sniper Fire

A convoy of United Nations (UN) vehicles leave a hotel in Damascus on August 26, 2013 carrying UN inspectors travelling to the site of a suspected deadly chemical weapon attack the previous week in Ghouta, east of the capital

Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images

The team of U.N. inspectors tasked with investigating last week's reports of a massive gas attack in Syria are on the ground in the suburbs of Damascus today but have run into trouble in the form of what the United Nations is describing as sniper fire. None of the inspectors, who left their hotel this morning wearing body armor, were injured, although the attack was enough to turn their convoy around. The Washington Post:

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

The first vehicle of the Chemical Weapons Investigation Team was in a buffer zone between government and rebel positions when it was “deliberately shot at multiple times by unidentified snipers,” the U.N. statement said. No one was hurt. Because the car was no longer serviceable, the team returned to government-held territory.
The United Nations did not blame the sniper fire on either the government or the rebels, instead urging “all sides . . . to extend their cooperation so that the team can safely carry out their important work.”

As you'd expect, both sides pointed their fingers at the other, with the Assad regime's state-run media blaming the attack on "armed terrorist groups" (a term they routinely use for opposition forces) and the rebels saying the shots came from loyalist soldiers and militiamen. In any event, the U.N. says the team will give things another go later today.

Update, 10:45 a.m.: After being turned back the first time, the U.N. convoy has now reached the Damascus suburb where hundreds of people were killed last week. The Washington Post reports that video live-streamed from a field hospital there showed members of the team, dressed in blue helmets and body armor, examining patients and talking to doctors.

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