News / Middle East

    Syrian Govt., Rebels Accuse Each Other on Chemical Weapons

    In this photo taken on a government organized tour, canisters and other material that the Syrian military says it uncovered in a raid on a rebel hideout are lined up, in the Jobar neighborhood of Damascus, Aug. 24, 2013.
    In this photo taken on a government organized tour, canisters and other material that the Syrian military says it uncovered in a raid on a rebel hideout are lined up, in the Jobar neighborhood of Damascus, Aug. 24, 2013.
    Edward Yeranian
    The international medical aid group Doctors Without Borders says 3,600 people have been treated for symptoms consistent with a chemical weapons attack in Syria.  The group says 355 people died, but it can't determine who was behind the attack.  Syria's rebel movement is blaming government forces while the government blames the rebels.

    Syrian state TV has accused rebel forces of carrying out a chemical weapons attack saying chemical weapons were found in tunnels captured from rebel forces. Government media claim the rebels used the weapons “as their last card” because they were “under pressure from a government offensive.”

    The government report also showed gas masks it claimed were captured in the rebel-held district of Joubar, along with chemicals it alleged were "made in Saudi Arabia." The TV went on to say that 30 government soldiers were wounded in Wednesday's attack, but gave no proof.

    Free Syrian Army Commander Selim Idriss, denied the charges.  He said the government launched the attack on rebel held suburbs “in retaliation for an assassination attempt” against Syrian President Bashar al Assad at the end of Ramadan.

    The rebel commander says Assad met with his security chiefs to plan the recent rocket attack following the attack on Assad's motorcade on August 8. He claims that one of Assad's top generals was wounded in that attack.

    Idriss went on to argue that Assad ordered a plan to be drawn up to attack Damascus' eastern suburbs with chemical weapons, since those responsible for the attempt on his life were based there. He also claims there is irrefutable proof that government forces were behind the attack.

    He names two government officers behind the alleged attack, claiming that the rockets used to carry it out were fired from (government-held) Mazzeh Airport. He also claims that foreign governments have irrefutable evidence of who fired the rockets from satellite images.

    U.N. disarmament chief Angela Kane arrived in Damascus several hours before the volley of accusations. Her mission, according to U.N. officials, is to convince Syrian leaders to allow weapons inspectors present in the capital to visit the sites of the alleged chemical attacks.

    Syrian state TV quoted Information Minister Omran Zohbi as saying that the government was “cooperating with the weapons inspectors very closely.” U.S. President Barack Obama has called on top U.S. military officials to look into a potential military response to the alleged attacks.

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