Photo by the Associated Press
Government forces loyal to President Bashar Assad have carried out a
"poisonous gas" attack near the capital Damascus that has left hundreds
dead, Syrian opposition groups claimed Wednesday.
activists are saying that regime forces fired "rockets with poisonous
gas heads" in the attack. The number of reported deaths has ranged from
100 to close to 800. The claims and reports could not be independently
The Syrian government denied the claims of a chemical weapons attack Wednesday.
what has been said is ridiculous and naive, unscientific, illogical and
subjective," said Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi, speaking to
Syrian state television.
The state-run SANA news agency said there was no truth to the allegations "whatsoever" that chemical weapons were used.
are an attempt to divert the United Nations commission on chemical
weapons from carrying out its mission," the news agency said.
chemical weapons inspectors are in Syria this week to investigate
claims that chemical weapons have been used there by both sides in a
bloody and protracted civil war.
The Britain-based Syrian
Observatory for Human Rights said the shelling was intense and hit the
eastern suburbs of Zamalka, Arbeen and Ein Tarma. Rami Abdul-Rahman from
the SOHR says he has documented at least 100 deaths from Wednesday's
attack. He says it's not clear whether the victims died from shelling or
toxic gas attacks.
The Local Coordination Committees said
hundreds of people, perhaps as many as 775, were killed or injured in
the shelling. Such different figures are common in the immediate
aftermath of attacks in Syria.
Videos and images that appeared to
show victims with symptoms consistent with a chemical attack surfaced
online Wednesday, although their veracity could not be immediately
The Syrian government has long denied claims by the
opposition on chemical weapons use, saying rebels fighting to overthrow
Assad's government have used such weapons.
Wednesday's claim of
the chemical attack, if confirmed, would be the most serious since the
March 19 incident in Khan al-Assal when at least 30 people were killed.
Assad's regime and the rebels have blamed each other for that attack.
in Syria began in March 2011 and later exploded into a civil war. More
than 100,000 people have been killed in the conflict.
president demanded the United Nations be granted access to the site of
the alleged attack, while Britain's foreign secretary William Hague said
if the claims are verified it would mark "a shocking escalation of the
use of chemical weapons in Syria."
He called on the Syrian government to allow immediate access to the area for the U.N. team currently in Syria.
Washington, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the United States
is "deeply concerned" by the reports of civilian deaths and is formally
requesting that the U.N. urgently investigate the allegations.
the Syrian government has nothing to hide and is truly committed to an
impartial and credible investigation of chemical weapons use in Syria,
it will facilitate the U.N. team's immediate and unfettered access to
this site," Earnest said.
France has also asked the U.N. delegation to visit the site of the alleged attacks.
request would seem to fulfill the U.N. requirement that a member state
make a formal request before such action can occur. Syria would also
need to agree to the request. It was not immediately clear whether that
Syria's ambassador to Russia dismissed the allegations, Russia's Interfax news agency reported.