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Russia warns of chemical attack by militants, White Helmets in Syria's Idlib

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
An unconscious Syrian child receives treatment at a hospital in Khan Shaykhun, Idlib Province, following a suspected toxic gas attack on April 4, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

The Russian Center for the Reconciliation of Opposing Sides in Syria says it has received a phone call warning about a possible chemical weapons attack in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib by militants and White Helmets.

The phone call warned that the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham Takfiri terrorist group, formerly known as al-Nusra Front, together with the White Helmets organization, a self-proclaimed civil defense group, are hatching the plot on the Idlib chemical attack, the center said in a statement on Tuesday.

The Russian military said it received the phone call from a resident from the Serakab settlement, located in Idlib province, on Monday evening who informed the center that the attack "could be staged to provide footage for a foreign TV channel."

The caller said Jabhat Fateh al-Sham terrorists "brought more than 20 chlorine gas cylinders and personal protective equipment to Serakab" in three cars earlier on Monday, it added.

"According to the caller, members of the local While Helmets branch wore personal protective equipment while rehearsing first aid provision to civilians suffering from chemical poisoning," the Russian Center added.

It said all this shows that the Takfiri terrorists and White Helmets members have been preparing to stage the chemical attack with the purpose of holding the Syrian government liable for it.

"The caller pointed out that all the proceedings had been filmed by professional reporters who used a mic with the CNN logo, while commenting on the actions being taken by the White Helmets," the statement said.

It noted that the reporters had also consulted with some people over a satellite telephone in English.

The statement said that "the information provided by the Idlib province resident raises serious concern."

In January, pro-militant sources in Syria, the White Helmets and the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, claimed that the Syrian government had used chlorine gas against militants in northwestern Syria.

The US and UK raised the issue at the UN Security Council on February 6, but the Syrian envoy rejected the allegations as “false and cheap.”

The Syrian diplomat said the US resorts to such “fabricated accusations” whenever it realizes that terrorist groups are in trouble in the face of any progress by the Syrian army.

US Defense Secretary James Mattis said on February 2 the United States has no evidence to confirm reports that the Syrian government used the chemical nerve agent of sarin against its civilians.

Mattis said Washington was “concerned” about the use of sarin in Syria but could not confirm reports from NGOs and militant groups regarding the issue.

The Syrian government in September categorically dismissed a United Nations report accusing it of being involved in a suspected chemical attack in the country’s province of Idlib, which killed dozens of people in early April.

The Permanent Mission of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations Office in Geneva, in a letter addressed to the Head of the United Nations Human Rights Council Joaquín Alexander Maza Martelli on Friday, refuted allegations by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria that government forces have used chemical weapons in Khan Shaykhun and elsewhere in the conflict-plagued Arab country.

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