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World

AFP
March 13, 2018

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France will strike Syria chemical arms sites if used to kill: Macron

PARIS: France is prepared to launch targeted strikes against any site in Syria used to deploy chemical attacks that result in the deaths of civilians, President Emmanuel Macron said.

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Shortly before the United Nations was due to discuss Syria, Macron said Moscow, a close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad´s government, had not done enough to permit relief efforts into the rebel-held Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta.Asked about the Syrian conflict at a news conference in India, Macron said France would be ready to strike if it found “irrefutable evidence” chemical weapons had been used to kill.

“The day we have, in particular in tandem with our American partners, irrefutable proof that the red line was crossed — namely the chemical weapons were used to lethal effect — we will do what the Americans themselves did moreover a few months ago; we would put ourselves in position to proceed with targeted strikes,” Macron said.

“We are cross-matching our own information with that of our allies but to put it very clearly we have an independent capacity to identify targets and launch strikes where needed.Syrian government forces pounded rebel towns in Eastern Ghouta with air strikes on Monday, as troops edged closer to retaking the battered opposition enclave outside Damascus.

Seven years of conflict in Syria have left more than 350,000 people dead, according to an updated overall death toll released Monday by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.The Britain-based monitoring group, which relies on an extensive network of sources on the ground across Syria, said 353,935 people have been killed since March 15, 2011. The conflict, which will enter its eighth year on Thursday, is taking a devastating toll on civilians, including in the ongoing regime assault on the rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta, near Damascus.

According to the head of Observatory, 106,390 civilians have been killed in seven years.

Here is a breakdown of the deaths, according to the Observatory:

- 106,390 civilians, including 19,811 children and 12,513 women

- 63,820 regime soldiers

- 58,130 regime-allied and militia fighters (including 1,630 from Lebanon’s Hezbollah and 7,686 from other foreign Shiite groups)

- 63,360 hardline Islamists and jihadists (including from the Islamic State group and a former Al-Qaeda affiliate)

- 62,039 fighters from other forces, including non-jihadist rebels, Kurdish forces and defected government soldiers

- 196 identity unknown but death documented.

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