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SYRIA

French reporters witness chemical arms in Syria

French newspaper Le Monde reported Monday that the Syrian army is using chemical weapons against rebel forces in the outskirts of Damascus, quoting two of its journalists who were in the area in April and May.

French reporters witness chemical arms in Syria
Photo: Screenshot from Le Monde's website. www.lemonde.fr

The journalists "witnessed over several consecutive days" the use of explosive chemical weapons and their effects on rebel fighters in the village of Jobar on the outskirts of the capital, reporter Jean-Philippe Remy wrote.

Photographer Laurent Van der Stockt reported that on April 13 he saw fighters "suffocating and vomiting" in the area after an apparent attack using chemical weapons.

The journalists said they had gathered witness accounts of the use of chemical weapons in a large area around Damascus.

One doctor in a rebel-held area told the newspaper that the weapons caused breathing difficulties, headaches and nausea, and could cause death if victims were not treated.

"The gases are used on the front on an ad hoc basis, avoiding widespread use that would easily provide irrefutable evidence," Remy wrote.

A top UN envoy said Wednesday there are "mounting reports" of the use of chemical weapons in Syria and called on Damascus to let in UN investigators.

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SYRIA

French group to open two hotels in Damascus

France's Louvre Hotels Group has signed an agreement to open two hotels under its own name in Damascus, the first with a western hotel operator since Syria's brutal civil war began in 2011.

French group to open two hotels in Damascus
Louvre owns the Golden Tulip five-star brand. Photo: Louvre Hotels Group
The confirmation of the two hotels opening, after recent media reports, came a day after the UN announced an internal investigation into the bombing of hospitals in Syria, and as at least six civilians were killed by the Syrian regime and Russian fire in northwestern Idlib province in the past days, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
The region of around three million people, many of them displaced by fighting in other areas, is one of the last holdouts of opposition fighting against the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
   
The Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance led by Al-Qaeda's former Syria affiliate controls most of Idlib as well as parts of neighbouring Aleppo and Latakia provinces.
   
The hotels “will open soon under the brand name of Louvres Hotels Group,” the company, which is owned by China's Jin
Jiang, said in a statement.
 
Louvre Hotels Group said the deal was signed between Syria's Nazha Investment Group and “a partner with whom Louvre Hotels cooperates in the Middle East”.
   
The exact number of people killed in Syria's war is unknown but hundreds of thousands have died.
   
Several dozen medical facilities with links to the UN have been damaged or destroyed by bombs this year. Russian has denied deliberately targeting civilian installations.
   
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Friday said an internal inquiry would look into the bombing of hospitals in Syria which had previously flagged their coordinates to avoid air strikes.
   
“The deal is strictly in line with international law and all international directives regarding Syria,” the French company statement said.
   
According to the website, The Syria Report, it is the first agreement with a western hotel operator since 2011, when the devastating conflict began. Louvre Hotels Group was taken over by China's Jin Jiang in 2015 and it operates more than 1,500 hotels in 54 countries.
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