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Kurdish Officials: Rebels May Have Used Chemicals in Aleppo

A woman walks in the rain in front of a checkpoint in the rebel held area of Aleppo's Seif al-Dawla district, Syria, March 28, 2016. Both rebels and government forces have been accused of using chemical weapons.

Kurdish health officials say civilians and fighters wounded in this week’s shelling of Kurdish forces by Syrian rebels are showing signs of chemical weapons injuries.

“We received four people yesterday who had serious wounds,” Welat Memo, a physician with the Kurdish Red Crescent told VOA from Aleppo. “We can’t tell what’s been used against them, but they’re vomiting and having difficulty in breathing."

The symptoms are consistent with the use of chlorine gases, the Red Crescent said.

More than 100 civilians were killed and 650 people were wounded in attacks from Islamist rebel groups against a Kurdish district in Syria’s Aleppo.

Despite a nationwide ceasefire that was brokered by the U.S. and Russia at the end of February, the rebels have unleashed attacks in the Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood in Aleppo. They say they are targeting Kurdish forces in the area.

Unlawful weapon use

A rebel spokesman reached in Syria declined to comment to VOA. But in a statement released Thursday by the rebel Army of Islam, the main group involved in the fighting said that an unauthorized weapon was used against civilians.

“One of our commanders has unlawfully used a type of weapon that is not included in our list,” a statement posted on the group’s Twitter account read.

The Islamist group didn’t say what type of weapon was used but it said the commander has been referred to an internal martial court.

A spokesperson for the rebel group, Islam Alloush, posted a tweet on his official account saying modified Russian-made Grad rockets used by the rebels are not prohibited internationally.

Allegations of chemical weapons’ use in Syria’s civil war indicate their increasing use. Syrian government forces, Islamic State militants and rebels have been accused of using them, international groups say.

The U.S.-led Western coalition and international monitoring groups are investigating at least a half-dozen reports of chemical weapons’ use in recent months.

The United Nations says it is working with Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to investigate reports.