BEIRUT (Reuters) – Shelling by insurgents wounded more than 100 people in a suspected toxic gas attack in Syria’s Aleppo, which a health official described as the first such assault in the city.
A woman breathes through an oxygen mask after what the Syrian state media said was a suspected toxic gas attack in Aleppo, Syria November 24, 2018. SANA/Handout via REUTERS
The shells caused dozens of people breathing problems on Saturday night in Aleppo, while government shelling killed nine people in a village in Idlib, a monitoring group said.
State news agency SANA said on Sunday 107 people were injured in Aleppo after militants hit three districts with projectiles containing gases that caused choking.
It marks the highest such casualty toll in Aleppo since government forces and their allies clawed back the city from rebels nearly two years ago.
Rebel officials denied using chemical weapons and accused the Damascus government of trying to frame them.
Moscow, a key Damascus ally, accused insurgents on Sunday of bombarding Aleppo with shells filled with chlorine gas, poisoning 46 people, including eight children.
The Russian defense ministry said the attack was launched from territory that former al-Qaeda militants control in the rebel stronghold of Idlib.
Russia also said it would talk to Turkey, which backs some rebel factions and has brokered a ceasefire with Moscow in the Idlib region.
“The explosive (shells) contain toxic gases that led to choking among civilians,” Aleppo police chief Issam al-Shilli told state media.
“They were taken to al-Razi hospital and Aleppo University Hospital for treatment as a result of the irritating substance they inhaled.”
Pictures and footage on SANA showed medical workers carrying patients on stretchers and helping them with oxygen masks.
“We can not know the kinds of gases but we suspected chlorine and treated patients on this basis because of the symptoms,” Zaher Batal, the head of the Aleppo Doctors Syndicate, told Reuters.
Batal said symptoms included difficulty breathing, eye inflammation, shivering and fainting. Hospitals had discharged many patients.
Batal called it the first such gas attack in Aleppo city in the conflict, which has raged for more than seven years.
Abdel-Salam Abdel-Razak, an official from the Nour el-Din al-Zinki insurgent faction, said rebels did not own chemical weapons or have the capacity to produce them.
“The criminal regime, under Russian instructions, is trying to accuse the rebels of using toxic substances in Aleppo. This is purely a lie,” he wrote on Twitter.
Reporting by Ellen Francis; Additional reporting by Ahmed Tolba in Cairo, Kinda Makieh in Damascus, and Andrew Osborn in Moscow; Editing by Mark Potter