Syrian doctors and rescue workers said Sunday that scores of people had died in an apparent chemical attack on a besieged enclave near Damascus, as government forces escalate their battle there.
At least 42 people were killed in the attack in Douma, the final rebel stronghold northeast of Damascus, according to the Syrian-American Medical Society.
The group, a Washington-based nonprofit medical relief organization that supports health facilities in the area, shared photographs of men, women and young children, apparently dead and foaming at the mouth. They said a barrel bomb packed with chemicals had hit an air raid shelter Saturday night.
It was not possible to independently confirm that claim, and Syrian state media denied government involvement.
The U.S. State Department said it was monitoring mass casualty reports, describing them as “horrifying.”
Hundreds of people have been killed in eastern Ghouta, of which Douma is the largest city, since the Syrian army and allied Russian forces began a punishing assault to root rebels from the area.
That offensive escalated Friday, after a temporary cease-fire allowed Jaish al-Islam, a hard-line opposition group that controls the area, to negotiate next steps with Russia.
Local medical workers have alleged the use of chlorine gas on multiple occasions but said that symptoms witnessed Sunday could suggest that a more lethal substance had been used.
Syria’s Sana state news agency accused Jaish al-Islam of “fabrications” and said the rebel group was “in a state of dramatic collapse.”
Citing a military source, it said the Syrian army was making swift progress in Douma and “does not need to use any chemical materials as claimed by terrorists’ media affiliates.”
Video footage shared by White Helmets rescue workers in Douma showed the bodies of several women slumped dead in stairwells and a man lying with a child, both of them foaming at the mouth.
Source: Washington Post