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Syrian rebels call on world to put words to action


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The deadliest was on the village of Khan al-Assal near the northern city of Aleppo, where at least 31 people were killed in March.

The village is controlled by the government, and the regime accused rebels of firing a missile carrying chemical agents.

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The opposition contends it was regime fire. Aleppo-based activist Mohammed Saeed said the army appeared to have hit government troops by mistake, inflicting casualties among them and then blaming the opposition. Neither side has offered evidence to back their claims.

In another alleged chemical attack, a government air raid on April 13 on the contested Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood in Aleppo killed at least four people and wounded more than a dozen others. Activists say doctors treating the wounded said many showed symptoms of inhaling a toxic gas, including severe vomiting and irritation to the nose and eyes.

Eyewitnesses speaking in a video allegedly taken a day after the attack and posted online by activists reported that an explosion left several people unconscious and others reporting aches and dizziness.

"There was a smell, so we went out and I felt dizzy and my eyes turned red," a young boy said.

Another video showed several people on stretchers at a hospital, some twitching and foaming at the mouth and nose.

The videos were consistent with AP reporting of an attack in the area on April 13, although it was not known if the symptoms resembled those triggered by a chemical weapons attack.

A defense analyst who viewed the video of the victims lying on stretchers after the attack said that, while it was impossible to verify that a nerve agent caused their symptoms, they appeared to be the result of something other than traditional weaponry.

"What you’re immediately struck by is this is not your normal ordnance ... that it seems of a different type," said Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.


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"Now whether that automatically guarantees that it is a specific nerve agent, I wouldn’t go so far as to say based on my knowledge. But it does have the effect, it does have the appearance of being something caused by something besides traditional explosives or penetrating metal," O’Hanlon said.

Activists reported two other alleged chemical attacks, including one in December in the central city of Homs in which they said six rebels died after inhaling white smoke pouring from shells fired on the area.

Videos of the aftermath of that attack showed men in hospital beds coughing and struggling to breathe as doctors placed oxygen masks on their faces.

"The smell was like hydrochloric acid. People started choking and I wasn’t able to breath," a man identified as a rebel said in a video posted online after the attack by activists.

The video appeared genuine and corresponded to AP reporting of violence in Homs in December, although it was impossible to verify if the symptoms were triggered by a chemical weapons attack.

The Britain-based Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of activists on the ground, said the group has documented the two attacks in Aleppo province, but did not have proof of the other two.

A Syrian government official denied the government carried out any chemical attacks, saying Assad’s military "did not and will not use chemical weapons even if it had them." The army, he said, can reach any area in Syria it wants without them.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give official statements.

A Syrian lawmaker, Sharif Shehadeh, echoed that assertion, saying the Syrian army "can win the war with traditional weapons" and has no need for chemical weapons.

Syria’s official policy is to neither confirm nor deny it has chemical weapons.

Shehadeh likened the allegations to the false accusations that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction that U.S. policymakers used to justify the 2003 invasion.

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