Russia pounds Syrian rebel areas after ‘toxic gas attack’ injures dozens
- Moscow accused insurgents of bombarding Aleppo with shells filled with chlorine gas, poisoning around 100 people
Russia on Sunday said it had launched strikes on Syrian “terrorist” groups it accused of carrying out a chlorine attack the previous day.
“Air strikes were carried out by Russian air force planes,” defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in comments reported by TASS state news agency.
Russia’s defence ministry spokesman said earlier that Syrian rebel fighters used chemical weapons containing chlorine in an attack on Saturday on the government-controlled city of Aleppo.
Russia carried out the strikes after identifying the attackers’ positions and finding evidence they could use such weapons again, Konashenkov said.
“As a result of the strikes, all of the rebel fighter targets were destroyed,” he added.
The shells caused dozens of people breathing problems on Saturday night in Aleppo.
State news agency SANA said on Sunday 107 people were injured in Aleppo after militants hit three districts with projectiles containing gases that caused choking.
The rebels denied using chemical weapons and accused the Damascus government of trying to frame them.
The Russian defence ministry said the attack was launched from territory that former al-Qaeda militants control in the rebel stronghold of Idlib.
Russia also said it would talk to Turkey, which backs some rebel factions and has brokered a ceasefire with Moscow in the Idlib region.
“The [shells] contain toxic gases that led to choking among civilians,” Aleppo police chief Issam al-Shilli told state media. “They were taken to al-Razi hospital and Aleppo University Hospital for treatment as a result of the irritating substance they inhaled.”
Pictures and footage on SANA showed medical workers carrying patients on stretchers and helping them with oxygen masks.
“We can not know the kinds of gases but we suspected chlorine and treated patients on this basis because of the symptoms,” said Zaher Batal, head of the Aleppo Doctors Syndicate.
Batal said symptoms included difficulty breathing, eye inflammation, shivering and fainting. Hospitals had discharged many patients.
Batal called it the first gas attack in Aleppo city in the conflict, which has raged for more than seven years.
Abdel-Salam Abdel-Razak, an official from the Nour el-Din al-Zinki insurgent faction, insisted the rebels did not own chemical weapons or have the capacity to produce them.
“The criminal regime, under Russian instructions, is trying to accuse the rebels of using toxic substances in Aleppo. This is purely a lie,” he wrote on Twitter.
Agence France-Presse, Reuters