World leaders have responded to the claim, by activists in the Syrian Revolution General Commission, that at least 640 people were killed in a nerve gas attack on Syria’s Ghouta region.
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.
The chief of a U.N. inspectors’ team visiting Syria says he wants to look into the claims.
Swedish chemical weapons expert Ake Sellstrom says the high numbers of killed and wounded being reported “sound suspicious.”
He told Swedish broadcaster SVT that this “sounds like something we need to look into.”
Turkey also called on U.N. inspectors to look into Syrian rebel reports and said it was monitoring the situation “with great concern.”
“Light must immediately be shed on these claims and the United Nations mission that was formed to investigate chemical weapons claims in Syria should look into these claims and reveal its findings,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“If these allegations are found to be true, it will be inevitable for the international community to take the necessary stance and give the necessary response to this savagery and crime against humanity,” it said.
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 told Al-Arabiya news channel, condemning the Syrian army’s bombardment of the Ghouta suburbs of Damascus as a “massacre.”
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, 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.