‘Gas’ attack kills 58 in rebel-held Syria town

Beirut, April 04: Warplanes carried out a suspected toxic gas attack that killed at least 58 people including several children in a rebel-held town in northwestern Syria on Tuesday, a monitoring group said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said those killed in the town of Khan Sheikhun, Idlib province, had died from the effects of the gas, adding that dozens more suffered respiratory problems and other symptoms.
The Britain-based monitoring group was unable to confirm the nature of the substance and said it was unclear if the planes involved in the attack were Syrian or those of governmentally Russia.
The reported gas attack comes at the start of a two-day conference on Syria’s future hosted in Brussels by the European Union and the United Nations.
The Observatory said medical sources in the town reported symptoms among the affected including fainting, vomiting, and foaming at the mouth.
The victims were mostly civilians, it said and included at least nine children.
Photographs circulated by activists showed members of the volunteer White Helmets rescue group using hoses to wash down the injured, as well as at least two men with white foam around their mouths.
Idlib province is largely controlled by an alliance of rebels including former Al-Qaeda affiliate Fateh al-Sham Front.
It is regularly targeted in strikes by the regime, as well as Russian warplanes, and has also been hit by the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group, usually targeting jihadists.
Syria’s government officially joined the Chemical Weapons Convention and turned over its chemical arsenal in 2013, as part of a deal to avert US military action.
But there have been repeated allegations of chemical weapons use by the government since then, with a UN-led investigation pointing the finger at the regime for at least three chlorine attacks in 2014 and 2015.
The government denies the use of chemical weapons and has in turn accused rebels of using banned weapons.
Tuesday’s attack comes only days after forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad were accused of using chemical weapons in a counter-offensive in neighbouring Hama province.
The opposition accused the government forces of using “toxic substances” in its battle to repel the assault.