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Citizen journalism image, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, a Syrian man mourns over a dead body after an alleged poisonous gas attack in Douma town, Damascus. AP Photo/Media Office Of Douma City

Syrian forces bomb area of alleged chemical attack

The United States, Britain and France have demanded that a team of UN experts already in Syria be granted immediate access to investigate the site of an alleged chemical attack.

This article contains an image that some may find disturbing.

SYRIAN GOVERNMENT FORCES pressed on with a military offensive in eastern Damascus today, bombing rebel-held suburbs where the opposition said the regime had killed over 100 people the day before in a chemical weapons attack.


The government has denied allegations it used chemical weapons in artillery barrages on the area known as eastern Ghouta yesterday as “absolutely baseless.”

The United States, Britain and France have demanded that a team of UN experts already in Syria be granted immediate access to investigate the site.

Syrian opposition figures and activists have reported widely varying death tolls from the attack, from 136 to as high as 1,300.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it had no word on casualties in the bombing of eastern Ghouta. It said Syrian warplanes conducted several air raids on eastern and western suburbs of Damascus.

The Local Coordination Committees, another activist group, said President Bashar Assad’s forces were bombing eastern Ghouta from the Qasioun mountain overlooking Damascus.

imageA Syrian man, who lives in Beirut, holds up a placard during a vigil against the alleged chemical weapons attack on the suburbs of Damascus, in front the United Nations headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon. Pic: AP Photo/Hussein Malla


Wednesday’s alleged chemical attack had killed scores of children.

Images of dead children lined shoulder to shoulder in rooms and of others being treated for breathing problems brought worldwide condemnation and shock.

UNICEF said in a statement that the reports of attacks on civilians, presumably including children, were “deeply disturbing.”

Such horrific acts should be a reminder to all the parties and all who have influence on them that this terrible conflict has gone on far too long and children have suffered more than enough. Children must be protected, and those who fail to protect them will be held accountable.

The UN Security Council called for “a thorough, impartial and prompt investigation” of the latest allegation of chemical weapons’ use in Syria.

Syria’s state media quoted today an unnamed Foreign Ministry official, as saying that allowing the UN team to go to Ghouta would require an agreement between the Syrian government and the United Nations.

UN team

imageImage provided by the Local Committee of Arbeen which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows Syrian citizens trying to identify dead bodies, after an alleged poisonous gas attack fired by regime forces, according to activists in Arbeen town, Damascus, yesterday.

A 20-member UN team led by Swedish chemical weapons expert Ake Sellstrom is in Damascus since Sunday to investigate three sites where chemical weapons attacks allegedly occurred in the past: the village of Khan al-Assal just west of the embattled northern city of Aleppo and two other locations being kept secret for security reasons.

France, meanwhile, raised the possibility of the use of force in Syria if it is proven that Assad’s regime used chemical weapons, while Turkey said several red lines have been crossed.

Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s minister for intelligence and strategic affairs, said their “intelligence estimates” concluded that chemical weapons indeed were used.

In Germany, Turkish and German foreign ministers underlined demands for the Syrian regime to allow UN inspectors to investigate the claims. The Turkish diplomat called for new sanctions.

“Several red lines have been crossed — if sanctions are not imposed immediately, then we will lose our power to deter,” said Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

He added that he had spoken to UN chief Ban Ki-moon and told him that “the UN must not behave hesitantly anymore, sanctions must now be imposed.”

- © AFP, 2013

Read: Syrian opposition accuses regime of killing 1,300 in chemical weapons attack>

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