Several people have suffered symptoms consistent with exposure to chlorine gas in the rebel-held eastern Ghouta district near Damascus, and one child was killed, the health authorities in the opposition-held area say.
Victims, ambulance drivers and others smelled chlorine after “an enormous explosion” in eastern Ghouta in the area of al-Shayfouniya, said the statement issued by the local branch of the opposition Syrian Interim Government’s Ministry of Health.
“At least 18 victims were treated with oxygen-nebulising sessions.”
The Syrian army could not immediately be reached for comment. The Syrian government has consistently denied using chemical weapons in the war that will soon enter its eighth year.
The Russian defence ministry, which backs the Syrian government in the war, on Sunday accused rebels of preparing to use toxic agents in eastern Ghouta so they could later accuse Damascus of employing chemical weapons.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based organisation that reports on the war, confirmed a child had died from suffocation in eastern Ghouta but said it could not confirm if poison gas had been used.
Video circulated on social media networks purporting to show the aftermath of the attack depicted a child’s corpse wrapped in a blue shroud, and several bare-chested men and young boys appearing to struggle for breath, with some holding nebulisers to their mouths and noses.
Eastern Ghouta, the last major rebel stronghold near Damascus, has been targeted in a fierce government offensive that got underway last week.
The UN Security Council has demanded a 30-day truce across Syria.