The world has looked on in horror as graphic images emerged showing the aftermath of a dawn poison gas attack in the suburbs of Damascus that wiped out 1,300 people as they lay sleeping in their beds.
Syrian activists accuse President Bashar al-Assad’s forces of launching the nerve gas attack in what would be by far the worst reported use of poison gas in the two-year-old civil war.
Activists said rockets with chemical agents hit the Damascus suburbs of Ain Tarma, Zamalka and Jobar before dawn.
While these pictures of dead children are graphic, disturbing and undoubtedly the worst so far to have emerged from the conflict, MailOnline has made the decision to publish them in order to raise awareness of the plight of innocent people in a war that shows no sign of ending.
The accounts could not be verified independently and were denied by Syrian state television, which said they were disseminated deliberately to distract a team of United Nations chemical weapons experts that arrived three days ago.
Syria’s Information Minister called the activists’ claim a ‘disillusioned and fabricated one whose objective is to deviate and mislead’ the UN mission.
An undignified end: This image grab taken from a video uploaded on YouTube allegedly shows Syrians covering a mass grave containing bodies of victims of the attack. The atrocity seems all too familiar to the children and young men standing around the grave site
Al Jazeera’s Nisreen El-Shamayleh, reporting from neighbouring Jordan, said there were videos allegedly showing both children and adults in field hospitals, some of them suffocating, coughing and sweating.
Meanwhile, fighting in strife-hit country has fuelled a mass exodus of about 35,000 refugees into Iraq and risks exploding into a full-blown side conflict as Kurdish militias battled against al-Qaida-linked fighters in the northeast.
A U.N. team is in Syria investigating allegations that both rebels and army forces used poison gas in the past, one of the main disputes in international diplomacy over Syria.
The European Union condemned the suspected use of chemical weapons by Syrian government forces Wednesday as ‘totally unacceptable’, demanding an immediate investigation.
EU foreign affairs head Catherine Ashton said charges by Syria’s main opposition group that the chemical attack ‘should be immediately and thoroughly investigated.’
A UN mission in Syria to probe previous allegations of chemical weapons use ‘must be allowed full and unhindered access to all sites,’ Ashton said, according to a spokesperson.
‘The EU reiterates that any use of chemical weapons, by any side in Syria, would be totally unacceptable,’ she said.
The authorities and all other parties in Syria ‘need to provide all necessary support to and cooperation with the mission’s operations,’ Ashton said as she gathered EU foreign ministers for a meeting on the crisis in Egypt.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, speaking in Brussels, said if proven the use of chemical weapons would ‘not only be a massacre, but also an unprecedented atrocity’.
Fabius said however that the accusations from the Syrian opposition were ‘not yet verified’.
The White House says it’s ‘deeply concerned’ about reports that chemical weapons were used by Syria’s government against civilians.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest says the U.S. strongly condemns any use of chemical weapons and says the Obama administration is urgently working to gather information. Earnest says the U.S. is asking the U.N. to investigate and wants a Security Council debate.
Syria must allow the UN inspectors immediate access to investigate claims that chemical weapons were used in the attack, William Hague has demanded.
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