A man reacts at a site hit by what activists said was an air raid by forces loyal to the regime, in the Duma neighbourhood of Damascus yesterday.
DAMASCUS: The regime in war-torn Syria came under intense pressure yesterday to allow UN inspectors to probe an alleged chemical weapons attack near Damascus which the opposition says killed more than 1,300 people.
Footage distributed by activists showing unconscious children, people foaming around the mouth and doctors apparently giving them oxygen to help them breathe has triggered revulsion around the world.
The UN formally asked Syria to authorise UN experts to probe the allegations, and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon decided to send a special envoy to Damascus. French President Francois Hollande denounced the “likely” use of chemical weapons, while a US official told the Wall Street Journal there were “strong indications” the regime used them. But Damascus denied it unleashed chemical weapons, at a time when a UN team is in Syria to inspect other such attacks. It would be “political suicide” to go ahead with such an attack, a senior Syrian security source said.
The opposition National Coalition said more than 1,300 people were killed by poisonous gases in a rebel-held town southwest of the capital. An activist said he helped bury dozens of civilians overnight and their bodies were “pale blue”. “They died of suffocation,” Abu Ahmad said from Moadamiyet Al Sham, a town which reportedly bore the brunt of the alleged chemical attacks.
A UN spokesman said: “The secretary-general now calls for the mission, presently in Damascus, to be granted permission and access to swiftly investigate the incident which occurred on the morning of August 21. “A formal request is being sent by the UN to the government of Syria. He expects to receive a positive response without delay.” Ban would also send to Damascus at an undisclosed time Angela Kane, the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs. There has been no immediate independent confirmation of the attack. But with specialised software, an analysis of one of the most striking pictures showing the bodies of children revealed the picture was not manipulated and was taken, as presented, on August 21.
Former US Army Chemical Corps officer Dan Kaszeta said: “It would be relatively hard to fake” the amount of video footage that has surfaced. The US, which has warned the use of chemical weapons could prompt military intervention, has demanded inspectors be given access to collect evidence. Agencies