Syrian state TV says another 5,000 security forces are deploying in a town near the capital that was brought under full government control a week after an alleged chemical attack.
Douma was the last rebel holdout in the eastern Ghouta suburbs, the target of a massive government offensive in February and March. The town was also the scene of a suspected poison gas attack on April 7 that prompted the U.S., Britain and France to launch missiles on Syrian military targets early Saturday.
The Syrian government and its ally Russia have denied allegations of a chemical attack. An international fact-finding mission from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is in Syria and expected to visit Douma.
State-run Al-Ikhbariya TV says a second batch of 5,000 security forces deployed in Douma on Sunday.
Syrian newspapers meanwhile boasted that the country’s air defense systems had shot down missiles.
The front-page headline of the government daily Tishrin reads: “Our heroic army shoots down the missiles of aggression.”
The Pentagon says none of the missiles were shot down and that Syria’s air defenses were ineffective.
Pope Francis says he is “deeply disturbed” by the international community’s failure to come up with a common response to the crises in Syria and other parts of the world.
The pontiff said after his traditional Sunday blessing that “despite the tools available to the international community, it is difficult to agree on a common action toward peace in Syria or other regions of the world.”
Francis called on “all people of goodwill” to join him in praying for peace, and appealed to political leaders to help “justice prevail.”
The pope spoke after airstrikes by the United States, France and Britain aimed at taking out Syria’s chemical weapons capacity, following a suspected poison gas attack on a Damascus suburb that killed dozens, including children.
A group of Russian politicians has met with Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose mood they describe as good a day after Western airstrikes.
In Assad’s view, the airstrikes that were launched in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack by Syrian forces on the town of Douma will unify the country. That’s according to Dmitry Sablin, a member of the lower house of the Russian parliament, who was quoted by Russian news agencies.
Natalya Komarova, governor of Russia’s Khanty-Mansiysk region, also attended Sunday’s meeting. She says: “President Assad has an absolutely positive attitude, a good mood.”
Sablin was quoted as saying that Assad estimates rebuilding the country after years of war would cost $400 billion.
France is urging Russia to join a push for a political solution in Syria after joint U.S., French and British attacks on Syrian chemical weapons sites.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in an interview published Sunday in the Journal du Dimanche newspaper that “we should join our efforts to promote a political process in Syria that would allow a way out of the crisis.”
France has continued to talk regularly with Russia even as East-West tensions have grown. French President Emmanuel Macron spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, hours before the Western missile strikes.
Western countries blamed Syria’s government for a chemical attack on a rebel-held area earlier this month that killed more than 40 people. The Syrian government and its ally Russia denied the allegations.