More than 1,000 people are dead as the result of a chemical weapon attack carried out by Syrian forces, say activists. From WSJ:
Syrian opposition groups said government forces killed over 1,000 people in the capital’s suburbs in poison gas attacks on Wednesday with United Nations chemical-weapons experts just miles away. Syrian authorities denied the accusations, but said they were conducting military operations in several areas around Damascus.
The accusations came three days after the team of U.N. inspectors arrived in the Syrian capital to investigate prior allegations that both the government and rebels have used chemical weapons, including toxic nerve agents, in the civil war.
The Local Coordination Committees—a network of opposition activists operating throughout Syria—said that at least 1,320 people were killed in “shelling with poison gases” on the towns of Ain Tarma and Zamalka in the capital’s eastern suburbs and the town of Moadamiyah in the western suburbs.
“The international community must bear its responsibility toward the massacre,” the head of the Western-backed Syrian Opposition Coalition, Ahmed al-Jarba told the Al-Arabiya news channel, which is owned by Saudi Arabia, an opponent of the Syrian government.
Video clips purportedly filmed by rebels and activists and broadcast on the Saudi government-owned Al-Arabiya news channel showed rows of children allegedly killed in gas attacks Wednesday lined up on the floor of what appeared to be a field hospital. No wounds were visible.
An activist identified by the same channel as Aram al-Doumani said the regime fired several ballistic missiles equipped with warheads bearing the toxic nerve agent sarin against rebel areas starting in the early hours of Wednesday.
Neither the rebel claims nor the authenticity of video clips of alleged victims released by the opposition could be independently verified.
Syria’s government denied the accusations. “There is absolutely no truth to reports about the use of chemical weapons in the Ghouta,” a Syrian Ministry of Information official said, according to Syrian state media, using the local term for the capital’s suburbs.
He said Al-Arabiya and media outlet Al Jazeera, which is owned by Syrian government opponent Qatar, were trying to influence the U.N. team during its visit.
“What is being broadcast by the channels that are complicit in the shedding of Syrian blood is false and an attempt to derail the chemical weapons investigation committee and prevent it from carrying out its mission,” he said in the state media report.
The U.N. Security Council was set to meet Wednesday afternoon in an emergency session on the alleged chemical-weapons attacks. The U.S., U.K., Germany and others called for U.N. experts to investigate.
“These reports are uncorroborated and we are urgently seeking more information. But it is clear that if they are verified, it would mark a shocking escalation in the use of chemical weapons in Syria,” said Foreign Minister William Hague, calling for the Syrian government to allow the U.N. team immediate access to the area where the alleged attacks took place.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the U.S. was deeply concerned. “We are working urgently to gather additional information,” he said.
The claims came one year to the day after U.S. President Barack Obama said that use of weapons of mass destruction by the Syrian regime would constitute a “red line” prompting U.S. intervention.