At least 1,300 people have been killed in a nerve gas attack on Syria’s Ghouta region, leading opposition figure George Sabra said on Wednesday.
In response, the opposition Syrian National Coalition called for an urgent U.N. Security Council meeting on the subject.
“I call on the Security Council to convene urgently,” National Coalition leader Ahmed al-Jarba added to Al-Arabiya news channel, condemning the Syrian army’s bombardment of the Ghouta suburbs of Damascus as a “massacre.”
Meanwhile, The Arab League called Wednesday on U.N. chemical weapons inspectors now inside Syria to immediately visit the site of the incident.
Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi urged the inspectors in a statement to “go immediately to Eastern Ghouta to see the reality of the situation and investigate the circumstances of this crime.”
Britain said on Wednesday it would raise a reported chemical weapons attack by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at the United Nations Security Council and called on Damascus to give U.N. inspectors access to the site, Reuters reported.
“I am deeply concerned by reports that hundreds of people, including children, have been killed in airstrikes and a chemical weapons attack on rebel-held areas near Damascus,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement.
France also called for action by the U.N., during a cabinet session Hollande “announced his intention to ask the U.N. to visit the site of the attack,” government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem told reporters on Wednesday. “This information obviously requires verification and confirmation,” she added.
Activists at the Syrian Revolutionary Command Council said regime fighter planes were flying over the area after the bombardment, accusing the forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad of using chemical agents.
The attack was on rebel-held areas of eastern Damascus.
“Regime forces ... stepped up military operations in the Eastern Ghouta and Western Ghouta zones of the Damascus region with aircraft and rocket launchers, causing several dozen dead and wounded,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told AFP news agency.
The intensive bombing on the outskirts of the capital could be heard by residents of Damascus, where a grey cloud capped the sky.
The Britain-based Observatory, which relies on a vast network of activists on the ground and medics, said the army operation was aimed at the recapture of Madhamiyat el-Sham, an area southwest of Damascus.
The Local Coordination Committees (LCC), a network of activists reported hundreds of casualties in the “brutal use of toxic gas by the criminal regime in parts of Western Ghouta.”
According to Reuters news agency, the reported use of the chemical agents could not be immediately verified. The news coincides with a visit to Damascus by a United Nations team of chemical weapons experts.
In an interview with Al Arabiya, Syrian National Coalition chief Ahmad Jarba called on the U.N. investigators to travel to Ghouta, “the site of the massacre.”
Activists from the grassroots Local Coordination Committee reported at least 30 bodies had been brought to one field hospital in Kafr Batna neighborhood a few miles east of central Damascus, according to Reuters.
Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said dozens of people were killed, including children, in fierce bombardment.
Activists at the Local Coordinating Committees said Mouadamiya, southwest of the capital, came under the heaviest attack since the start of the two-year conflict.
Meanwhile, Syrian authorities denied charges that the army used chemical weapons in the attacks.
“Reports on the use of chemical weapons in (the suburbs of) Ghouta are totally false,” state news agency SANA said.
It dismissed as “unfounded” the reports from opposition activists, and said satellite news channels carrying the reports "are implicated in the shedding of Syrian blood and support terrorism.”
“It’s an attempt to prevent the U.N. commission of inquiry from carrying out its mission,” the statement added.
(With Reuters and AFP)