Six killed in Syrian chemical attack, claim rebels

A group monitoring the Syrian civil war said government forces had carried out a poison gas attack that killed six people in the northwest, and medics posted videos of children suffering what they said was suffocation.

A Syrian military source described the report of an attack in the village of Sarmin in Idlib province as propaganda. “We confirm that we would not use this type of weapon, and we don’t need to use it,” the source said.

President Bashar al-Assad’s government has previously denied accusations that it has used chemical weapons in the four-year-old war. Officials were not available for comment. An army statement said dozens of militants were killed in other areas of Idlib province overnight in clashes and attacks.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the six dead included a man, his wife, and their three children. It cited medical sources as saying they died as a result of gas from barrel bombs dropped late on Monday and that the chemical used was likely chlorine. Dozens more were wounded in the attack, the observatory said.

The Idlib branch of the Syrian Civil Defence rescue organisation, which operates in insurgent-held areas, posted seven videos on YouTube.

One video showed three children and a woman, all apparently unconscious, in a medical centre. A voice off camera said the name of the village, Sarmin, and gave Monday’s date.

“One of the infants, only a few months old,” a male voice says, shaking, as he films a baby with liquid around its mouth. Two more limp-bodied infants are brought in, one by a man wearing a gas mask and another carrying a young girl.

“She’s still alive, doctor,” a man checking the girl says. “Doctor, doctor, she is still breathing.”

The Syrian Civil Defence includes more than 2,000 humanitarian volunteers.

Another video posted by the group and shot at nighttime showed a very young girl, naked except for underwear and pink shoes, being doused in liquid by people wearing white helmets, her horrified expression illuminated by their headlamps shining on her face.

The Syrian Civil Defence said on Twitter there had been more than 100 casualties, including its own volunteers.

The reports came a day after Kurds in neighboring Iraq said that Islamic State insurgents used chlorine gas against military police and peshmerga forces in December and January. An officer said the gas was used three times, and that a number of military police were treated in hospital.

A UN inquiry found in late 2013 that sarin gas had likely been used in several rebel-held districts of the Syrian capital Damascus in August 2013, where hundreds of people were killed.


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