DAMASCUS (Dispatches) – The Syrian military said on Monday that it had found a militant workshop in eastern Ghouta used to make chemical weapons.
Troops found the workshop while sweeping through the village of Aftris in Eastern Ghouta after militants withdrew from the community, Colonel Feruz Ibrahim told reporters.
"Presumably, the equipment of these munitions could be produced as part of a false flag accusation that government troops used chemical weapons," he said.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry said recently militants in Eastern Ghouta may stage a chemical attack in order to blame the Syrian government for it.
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad stressed that Damascus was ready to assist any investigation of chemical attacks in Syria but the international organizations had declined to cooperate with the Syrian government.
Last week, the Russian Center for Syrian Reconciliation informed that terrorists were planning provocations involving chemical weapons in Eastern Ghouta.
Syrian authorities have been constantly accused of using chemical weapons since the beginning of the conflict in 2011.
On February 26, the infamous White Helmets, which have constantly falsified facts and information, claimed that the Syrian government had deployed chlorine gas against the town of Al-Shifoniya in Eastern Ghouta, Anadolu Agency reported.
When asked to comment on the information, U.S. Department of Defense spokesperson Dana White stated that the U.S. "had not seen any evidence yet" of the use of chemical weapons by Damascus in Eastern Ghouta.
Most recently, Pentagon chief Jim Mattis warned Damascus against using chemical weapons, although he said that there was no evidence of the use of chlorine gas so far.
Syrian President Bashar Assad said that the Western countries are accusing the Syrian government of deploying chemical weapons as a pretext for airstrikes on government forces.
President Emmanuel Macron said Monday France is prepared to launch targeted strikes against any site in Syria used to deploy chemical attacks that result in the deaths of civilians.
Shortly before the United Nations was due to discuss Syria, Macron claimed that Moscow had not done enough to permit relief efforts into the terrorist-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.
The French leader has made the threat before but has so far made little headway influencing events in Syria.
"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.”
Syria signed a Russian-brokered deal to give up its arsenal of chemical weapons to avert U.S. airstrikes after a nerve gas attack killed hundreds of people in 2013. Last year, the United States again accused Damascus of using nerve gas and launched airstrikes.
Since then, Washington has repeatedly accused Damascus of using chlorine gas in attacks. Chlorine is far less deadly than nerve agents and possession of it is allowed for civilian purposes, but its use as a weapon is banned.
Damascus and Moscow have been carrying out a fierce bombing campaign and ground assault against the besieged Eastern Ghouta enclave since mid-February to drive out terrorists.
"This is a debate we will have in the coming hours at the United Nations, where it will be shown that the concessions on the ground from Russia, but first and foremost the Syrian regime and its Iranian allies, are insufficient,” Macron said.
Eastern Ghouta was occupied by terrorists in 2012. According to Syrian Army reports, there could be 10,000-12,000 militants in the area.
Russia, which is helping Damascus curb foreign-backed militancy in the Arab country, has designated four safe passage routes in Eastern Ghouta after a ceasefire was declared across Syria by the UN Security Council.
The militants in Eastern Ghouta however are blocking civilians from leaving the region, using them as human shields in the face of army advances.
Late on Sunday, the Russian military said it had managed to evacuate 52 civilians, including 26 children, from Eastern Ghouta after talks with local authorities.
The civilians, inhabitants of the town of Misraba, were taken to a temporary refugee camp, where they were receiving medical aid, the military said in a statement.
Syrian TV also said another group of civilians had left Eastern Ghouta through a corridor established by the Syrian army.
It broadcast footage showing a group of men, women and children who left the town of Madyara on Monday. The town was captured by Syrian troops on Sunday.