Though details vary, it is believed that at least 58 people – including 11 children – were killed in a “toxic gas” bombing raid on rebel-held Syrian town. The attack was carried out in Khan Shaykhun, a town in northwest Syria. Shortly after the area was bombarded with a suspected chemical agent, a hospital in Syria’s northern Idlib province was hit, relays an AFP war correspondent. The incident as a whole is being investigated as a possible war crime.
According to NPR’s Alison Meuse, who is reporting from Beirut:
“The opposition-leaning Syrian Observatory says warplanes carried out a number of strikes in the northern town, but that victims died of suffocation. Opposition activists published videos of purported victims, including one showing nine lifeless children. The U.N. finds Syrian government forces have used toxic chemicals in at least three attacks since 2014.”
The Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations-USA says the attack killed “approximately 100 people, including at least 25 children.” A member of the White Helmets reported at least 300 to be injured. Three UOSSM medical staff were affected by the second attack at the hospital and were rushed to the ICU.
Correspondent Alan Fisher for Al Jazeera said locals on the ground are expecting the death toll to rise and that many of the wounded are children.
“There were people fainting, they were vomiting, they were foaming at the mouth,” Fisher said. “In that situation, the treatment tends to be to try and strip people off, to get the chemicals away from their bodies, to hose them down as quickly as possible. But even then some of the pictures that have been posted on social media in the last couple of hours show very young people struggling for breath, many people dead where they fell.”
The incident is being regarded as the deadliest chemical attack in Syria since sarin gas killed hundreds of civilians in Ghouta, near the nation’s capital in 2013. At the time, Damascus blamed rebels whereas Western states said the Syrian government was to blame. Both Syrian and Russian jets have bombed the area before.
Russia’s defense ministry has denied responsibility, telling the state-run RIA news agency that no bombings were carried out in the area on Tuesday. The Syrian government, as well, has denied using such weapons in the past, though has been found guilty of using chemical weapons by the United Nations.
News of the attack have resulted in international condemnation, most notably by spokespeople for the U.N. and the U.S. Reportedly, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is “deeply disturbed by the reports.” Additionally, White House press secretary Sean Spicer commented:
“Today’s chemical attack in Syria against innocent people including women and children is reprehensible and cannot be ignored by the civilized world. These heinous actions by the Bashar al Assad regime are a consequence of the past administration’s weakness and irresolution. President Obama said in 2012 that he would establish a quote, unquote red line against the use of chemical weapons and then did nothing. The United States stands with our allies across the globe to condemn this intolerable act.”
This article will be updated as details are released.