August 21, 2013

Syrian activists claim deadly 'toxic gas' attack

By Bassem Mroue / The Associated Press

(Continued from page 2)

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This citizen journalism image provided by the Local Committee of Arbeen shows a Syrian girl receiving treatment at a makeshift hospital, in Arbeen, Damascus, Syria, on Wednesday. The image has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting.

AP

click image to enlarge

This citizen journalism image provided by the Media Office Of Douma City shows Syrian men lying on the ground as they wait for treatment after an alleged poisonous gas attack fired by regime forces. The photo was authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting.

AP

The Syrian government long has denied claims by the opposition on chemical weapons use, while saying rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar Assad's government have used such weapons.

Following Wednesday's reports, the Observatory called upon the U.N. team in Syria and all international organizations "to visit the stricken areas and to guarantee that medical and relief supplies reach the people as soon as possible." It also called for an investigation into the attack.

Mohammed Saeed, an activist in the area, told the AP via Skype that hundreds of dead and injured people were rushed to six makeshift hospitals in the eastern suburbs of Damascus.

"This is a massacre by chemical weapons," Saeed said. "The visit by the U.N. team is a joke. ... Bashar is using the weapons and telling the world that he does not care."

An activist group in Arbeen posted on its Facebook page pictures purporting to show rows of Syrian children, wrapped in white death shrouds, and others with their chests bared. There appeared to be very little signs of blood or physical wounds on the bodies.

An amateur video showed four children on the floor of a makeshift hospital, apparently unconscious, as a doctor is seen giving them some sort of shots. A bit later, a child starts shaking slowly.

"Is this baby girl a terrorist?" a man could be heard asking. "God willing, we will bring his regime down. He (Assad) is killing Sunni children in front of the whole world."

"Oh, Bashar, you son of a dog," another man says. "We will come and get you in your place."

Other videos show bodies of children lined on the floor of a room, showing no signs of life, and rows of dead men who appeared to be fighters. Very few of them showed signs of blood or physical wounds on their skin.

The photos and videos distributed by activists to support their claims were consistent with AP reporting of shelling in the area, though it was not known if the victims died from a poisonous gas attack.

Sellstrom's team of U.N. experts is meant to probe three sites: the village of Khan al-Assal, just west of the embattled northern city of Aleppo and two other locations, which are being kept secret for security reasons.

At least 30 people were killed in the March 19 incident in Khan al-Assal. Assad's regime and the rebels have blamed each other for that attack.

Unrest in Syria began in March 2011 and later exploded into a civil war. More than 100,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

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