The Obama administration has shown graphic videos of Syrians in the aftermath of a chemical attack to a select group of senators in closed-door briefings to make the case that a limited military attack on the country is justified.
A US congressional panel posted videos of Syrian victims Saturday, many of them children, as the White House presses its case for a strike against Damascus.
The 13 graphic videos were shown to members of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday, according to the panel’s website, which says they “explicitly claim to show victims of a chemical or poison gas attack.”
The videos - which the panel said were posted on YouTube by pro-Syrian opposition users - depict scenes of sheer horror, including convulsing children, as well as men sprawled on the floor apparently vomiting and foaming at the mouth.
Warning: This video contains graphic content
One video shows what appear to be dead bodies of all ages and gender lying still side by side. In another, a distressed man holds the apparently lifeless body of a little boy, whom he places on the floor next to an ominously still young girl.
The videos were selected by the US Open Source Centre at the request of Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the committee, to “depict a representative range of YouTube content posted regarding the reported 21 August chemical weapons attacks in the suburbs of Damascus,” the website said.
Washington says more than 1,400 people were killed in the attack, including more than 400 children.
The senators were told by the intelligence community that the videos had been verified, according to CNN, which first aired the graphic material.
However, the broadcaster said it could not independently verify the authenticity of the material and stressed that the videos do not show who is responsible for the attack.
But it said it was able to verify that the US administration is showing the videos to members of Congress as part of its effort to convince lawmakers of the need for a limited military strike on the Syrian regime.
The videos surfaced as President Barack Obama prepares to personally make his case to the American people on the need for action.
Obama is scheduled to be interviewed by three network news anchors, as well as with PBS, CNN and Fox.
The interviews, to air that night, will precede an address by Obama on Tuesday.
Setting the stage Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough will hit the morning television talk shows.
In Congress, meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry, Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel and others senior administration officials will hold a briefing for all members of the House of Representatives on Monday, a White House official said.
That will be followed by a briefing Wednesday for all senators.