Rebels say Syrian forces dropped chemicals on Douma, government denies accusation

Rebels say Syrian forces dropped chemicals on Douma, government denies accusation

BEIRUT: Syrian rebel group Jaish al-Islam accused government forces on Saturday of dropping a barrel bomb containing poisonous chemicals on civilians in eastern Ghouta, injuring more than 500 people.

“The Assad regime and its allies carry on with their crimes,” the rebels’ military spokesman Hamza Birqdar told al-Hadath TV.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor based in Britain, reported 11 cases of symptoms of suffocation in the city, including five children, following strikes by Syrian warplanes. It did not say what agents may have been used in the attacks.

Neither the rebel group nor the Observatory mentioned any deaths.

Syrian state media denied launching chemical attacks as soon as the reports began circulating.

“Jaish al-Islam terrorists are in a state of collapse and their media outlets are (making) chemical attack fabrications in an exposed and failed attempt to obstruct advances by the Syrian Arab army,” state news agency SANA reported, citing an official source.

The government launched a fierce air and ground assault on Douma, the last rebel-held town in eastern Ghouta, on Friday, killing 48 people in the last 24 hours alone.

State TV showed thick clouds of smoke rising from Douma, where Jaish al-Islam is holding out after insurgents in other parts of eastern Ghouta accepted offers of safe passage to rebel-held areas in the north of the country.

Six civilians were killed on Saturday in mortar shelling of residential neighborhoods of the capital Damascus, and 38 others were injured, Syrian state media reported, accusing Jaish al-Islam of the attacks. The rebel group’s spokesman Birqdar issued a statement denying that accusation. – Reuters