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Syria Chemical Attacks

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Syria Chemical Attacks, Chemical weapons attacks have killed hundreds on the outskirts of Damascus, Syrian opposition activists say.

Rockets with toxic agents were launched at the suburbs of the Ghouta region early on Wednesday as part of a major bombardment on rebel forces, they say.

The Syrian army says the accusations have been fabricated to cover up rebel losses.

The main opposition alliance said that more than 1,000 people were killed by the attacks.

Activist networks also reported death tolls in the hundreds, but these could not be independently confirmed.

It is also not clear how many died in the bombardment of the sites and how many deaths were due to any exposure to toxic substances.

Two things stand out immediately in this reported Syrian attack.

Firstly, the timing is odd, bordering on suspicious. Why would the Assad government, which has recently been retaking ground from the rebels, carry out a chemical attack while UN weapons inspectors are in the country?

But secondly, the scale of the apparent casualties is far worse than any of the previous alleged chemical attacks. Experts say it would be almost impossible to fake so many dead and injured, including children and babies. They bear no visible wounds from gunshots; instead, many display the classic symptoms of a nerve agent attack, with startled, frozen expressions that experts say are reminiscent of Saddam Hussein’s 1988 attack on the Kurds at Halabja.

Last year a senior Syrian defector, Nawaf Fares, told me in Qatar that the Assad government would not hesitate to use chemical weapons if it wanted to. However, today it denies any guilt and instead says this is a media campaign by its enemies.

Video footage showed dozens of bodies with no visible signs of injuries, including small children, laid out on the floor of a clinic.

Ghazwan Bwidany, a doctor treating the injured, told the BBC the main symptom, especially among children, was suffocation, as well as salivating and blurred vision.

“We don’t have the capability to treat all this number of people,” he said.

“We’re putting them in mosques, in schools. We are lacking medical supplies now, especially atropine, which is the antidote for chemical weapons.”

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