A monitor has reported that dozens civilians were killed and hundreds injured by a "toxic gas" attack in northwestern Idlib province. The Syrian government had vowed to destroy its stock of chemical weapons.
At least 58 people, eleven of them children, were reportedly killed on Tuesday morning by a "toxic gas" attack in northwest Syria, a monitor said. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that an airstrike on the rebel-held town of Sheikhun was responsible for the civilian deaths.
SOHR, which relies on witness reporting from within Syria and is sometimes accused of a favorable stance towards the opposition forces, said it was trying to determine what the substance was and if it had been dropped by Syrian aircraft or planes belonging to allied Russia.
The Syrian government had promised to destroy its store of chemical weapons in 2013 as part of a deal to avoid US military intervention. But Russia vehemently denied carrying out Tuesday's attack.
Photographs collected by activists showed some of the White Helmets volunteer rescue group hosing down victims with water, and two men foaming at the mouth after the attack.
At least 200 more civilians were injured in the attack. Medical workers in the town told SOHR that victims had been brought in vomiting and fainting after the air raid, and on top of the dead there were dozens of patients suffering respiratory problems as a result.
Rebels demand investigation
Idlib province, where Sheikhun is located, is controlled by the al-Qaeda affiliated Fateh al-Sham Front, formerly known as the Al Nusra Front.
Later on Tuesday, the National Coalition - an opposition group uniting more moderate elements - demanded an independent investigation from the United Nations.
"The National Coalition demands the Security Council convene an emergency session..., open an immediate investigation and take the necessary measures to ensure the officials, perpetrators and supporters are held accountable," the group said in a statement.
The attack came as the European Union was preparing to hold a two-day summit on the Syrian conflict in Brussels. After US President Donald Trump last week walked back from the demand that President Bashar al-Assad step down, EU foreign ministers have said they see no place for the strongman in Syria.
Turmp's suggestion that removing Assad from power might no longer be the top US priority in Syria would represent quite a shift in policy for Washington in the six-year civil war.
es/msh (AFP, Reuters),dw.com