Syrian activists claim hundreds killed in chemical weapons attack

President Bashar al-Assad's forces reportedly fired nerve gas on rebel-controlled areas near Damascus

Topics: Global Post, Syria, Massacre, Chemical weapons, weapons of mass destruction, Middle East,

This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

Global PostHundreds of people died Wednesday after Syrian government forces fired nerve gas on rebel strongholds near Damascus, the opposition says, in what activists are describing as one of the worst atrocities in Syria’s two-year civil war.

Rockets loaded with the poisonous gas landed on the suburbs of Ain Tarma, Zamalka and Jobar in Syria’s Ghouta region, to the east of the capital, activists told Reuters.

The Syrian government denies the reports.

One nurse told Reuters that regional medical centers had counted a combined total of 213 fatalities, including women and children. Syria’s main opposition alliance,the Syrian National Coalition, put the number as high as 650.

Graphic videos posted online purported to show rows of victims — including several young children — lying motionless in makeshift hospitals. Their authenticity cannot be established.

“I saw many children lying on beds as if they were sleeping, but unfortunately they were dead,” one activist who said he helped recover the bodies told the New York Times from Damascus.

In Israel, where government and military officials have repeatedly accused President Bashar al-Assad’s forces of using chemical weapons, army radio played an interview with one local doctor who told a Syrian TV network that he was looking at up to 1,000 dead, entire families, many children.

“A massacre,” he said, his voice breaking, “and the world looks away.”

You Might Also Like

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll lower, telling the Associated Press that “tens of people” were killed. Another activist group, the Local Coordination Committees, said hundreds were dead or injured.

None of the claims have been independently verified.

Hospitals in northern Israel that regularly treat wounded Syrians said they had not received any new patients from across the border Wednesday — including two, the Western Galilee hospital and Haifa’s Rambam hospital, that are set up specifically for chemical weapons injuries. “With chemicals, you’re dead or you’re alive,” a Rambam spokesman said.

Syrian officials called the reports “completely baseless,” according to state news agency SANA. They claimed the story was an attempt to “distract” the United Nations from its investigation into earlier allegations of chemical weapon use.

UN inspectors arrived in Syria on Sunday to begin looking into claims that both government and rebel forces have used poison gas during the conflict.

They are due to visit three sites, including the village of Khan al-Assal near the northern city of Aleppo, where dozens died in an attack on March 19 that each side blames on the other.

Amid appeals by activists, UN Security Council member France said it would ask the inspectors to add Ghouta to their itinerary to investigate the latest claims.

UN spokesperson said that the organization was aware of the reports and would try to find out more.

Its inspectors require permission from Assad’s government, however, and given the limited access they’ve been granted so far, it seems unlikely they’ll be permitted to go anywhere other than the three sites already agreed.

Reports on Israel Army Radio said that the inspectors were being prevented from leaving their hotel rooms in Damascus Wednesday morning.

“We thought this regime would not use chemical weapons, at least these days with the presence of the UN inspectors,” the Damascus activist, Abu Yassin, told the Times. “It is reckless. The regime is saying, ‘I don’t care.’”

More GlobalPost

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...