Syria rebels, government confirm poison gas attack

Updated 16 April 2014
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Syria rebels, government confirm poison gas attack

BEIRUT: The Syrian government and rebel forces say poison gas has been used in a central village, injuring scores of people, while blaming each other for the attack.
Syrian state television and medical sources in central Hama province swapped accusations Saturday over the attack that reportedly caused “suffocation and poisoning” of residents.
The main Western-backed opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, says dozens of people were hurt in a poison gas attack Friday in the village of Kfar Zeita.
State-run Syrian television on Saturday blamed members of the Nusra Front for using chlorine gas at Kfar Zeita, killing two people and injuring more than 100.
In August, a chemical attack near the capital, Damascus, killed hundreds of people. The US and its allies blamed the Syrian government for that attack, which nearly sparked Western airstrikes against President Bashar Assad’s forces. Damascus denied the charges and accused rebels of staging the incident.
Medics quoted by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights NGO said people choking from poisoning had been hospitalized after air raids with barrel bombs Friday on the town of Kafr Zita.
“Regime planes bombed Kafr Zita with explosive barrels that produced thick smoke and odours and led to cases of suffocation and poisoning,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.
But state television reported that Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front had released chlorine gas in a deadly attack on the town.
“There is information that the terrorist Al-Nusra Front released toxic chorine... leading to the death of two people and causing more than 100 people to suffer from suffocation,” it said.
“There is information that Al-Nusra Front is preparing to hit Wadi Deif in Idlib province and Morek in Hama province with toxic chorine or sarin,” the state broadcaster added.
There was no independent verification of either of the claims, which come after a chemical weapons attack outside Damascus last year.
The opposition and much of the international community blamed that attack, which reportedly killed as many as 1,400 people, on the Syrian regime.
The regime denied responsibility, in turn blaming rebels, but agreed under threat of US military action to turn over its chemical weapons stockpile for destruction.


Largest mass grave of 3,500 people found outside Raqqa city in Syria

There are some 2,500-3,000 bodies estimated there, plus between 900 and 1,100 bodies in the individual graves. (AFP)
Updated 2 min 23 sec ago
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Largest mass grave of 3,500 people found outside Raqqa city in Syria

  • First responders learned of the burial site in the Al-Fukheikha suburb last month

 RAQQA: Two feet deep, below a plot of farmland outside the Syrian city of Raqqa, lies a large and deadly legacy of Daesh: A mass grave holding an estimated 3,500 people.

First responders learned of the burial site in the Al-Fukheikha suburb last month, more than a year after US-backed forces captured Raqqa from Daesh and as they closed in on the group’s final redoubt of Baghouz further south.

The belated discovery is the biggest example yet of how the violence Daesh sowed will be harvested for years to come, diggers and activists said.

Several dozen mounds of dirt line one side of the Al-Fukheikha plot, marking the more than 120 bodies already dug up by the Rapid Response Division of Raqqa’s civil defense service.

“These are individual graves, but behind us, by the trees, are the mass graves of those executed by Daesh,” said Asaad Mohammad, the 56-year-old forensic assistant at the site.

“There are some 2,500-3,000 bodies estimated there, plus between 900 and 1,100 bodies in the individual graves, so at least 3,500 total,” he said.

Eight other mass graves have already been identified around the northern Syrian city, including one nicknamed “Panorama,” from which more than 900 bodies had been exhumed.

Earlier this week, diggers in flimsy medical masks excavated a small bundle wrapped in greying, damp cloth.