Multiple activist groups out of Syria are claiming that dozens of people, including at least ten children, were killed in a suspected chemical attack carried out in the city of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib, Syria on Tuesday morning.
At least 200 more have been reportedly injured as a result of “poisonous gas” released via airstrike at 6:30AM local time. According to reports, the deaths came as the result of asphyxiation caused by exposure to an unknown gas or chemical agent. Less than five minutes later, at least three more strikes occurred in the same city, but that did not seem to involve the same agent.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that they attack is believed to have been carried out by jets belonging to the Syrian Army, though officials within the Syrian government have already begun to strongly deny any involvement. Witnesses claimed to see the dead foaming from the mouths as they struggled to breath. The ten children were all below the age of eight years old.
Mounzer Khalil, head of Idlib’s health authority claimed the strikes were carried out against rebels in Khan Sheikhoun and utilized sarin and chlorine gas. Per his accounts, the death toll is currently higher than fifty people, with at least three hundred injured.
“Most of the hospitals in Idlib province are now overflowing with wounded people,” Khalil told a news conference in Idlib.
The Observatory, a British based war monitoring group, claim that the death toll is currently at 58, and that subsequent strikes targeted medical facilities where victims were seeking treatment for the gas attack. The civil defense, commonly referred to as White Hats, who have often un-reported ties to extremism, claimed that one of the medical centers struck belonged to them.
The Syrian government has already begun denying allegations of the use of chemical weapons, which is not without historic precedent. A Sarin gas attack killed hundreds of civilians in Ghouta near the capital in August of 2013 – and although the Syrian government blamed the rebels, it was eventually uncovered via UN investigation that the government themselves had been responsible for the gross violation of human rights.
The Syrian Army “has not and does not use them, not in the past and not in the future, because it does not have them in the first place,” a statement from the government claimed Tuesday morning.
France has called an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council as a result of reports coming in from Syria. Turkey, which backs rebel forces within Syria, has already made claims that this attack could weaken Russian support for Assad, and destabilize the entire region.
“A new and particularly serious chemical attack took place this morning in Idlib province. The first information suggests a large number of victims, including children. I condemn this disgusting act,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said in a statement prior to the meeting.
Pictures have begun to surface from the scene of rescue workers wearing oxygen masks and wearing protective suits, carrying the bodies of the children caught in the poisonous gas. Activists out of Northern Syria promptly began sharing images on social media of at least one victim foaming from the mouth and rescue workers attempting to hose down surviving children as they writhe on the floor. The validity of these photographs has yet to be confirmed, however.
Syrian jets also conducted strikes in the town of Salqin on Tuesday morning, killing at least eight more people.
Emergency workers are currently attempting to evacuate the wounded to Turkey, and reports indicate they have already begun receiving victims who are being treated for symptoms in keeping with claims of a chemical attack.
Featured image courtesy of CBS News