AMMAN (Reuters) – Syrian activists accused President Bashar al-Assad’s forces of launching a nerve gas attack on rebel-held districts near Damascus on Wednesday that they said killed more than 200 people.
Activists said rockets with chemical agents hit the suburbs of Ain Tarma, Zamalka and Jobar in the Ghouta region.
Bayan Baker, a nurse at Douma Emergency Collection facility, said the death toll from the attack, collated from medical centers in the region, was 213.
“Many of the casualties are women and children. They arrived with their pupil dilated, cold limbs and foam in their mouths. The doctors say these are typical symptoms of nerve gas victims,” she said.
One photo purportedly taken by activists in Douma showed the bodies of at least 16 children and three adults, one wearing combat fatigues, laid at the floor of a room in a medical facility where the bodies were collected.
There was no immediate comment from Syrian authorities, who have denied using chemical weapons during the country’s two-year conflict, and have accused rebels of using them, which the rebels deny.
The incident took place during the visit to Damascus of a U.N. chemical weapons team investigating the possible use of chemical agents in Syria.
The United States and European countries say they believe Assad’s government has used poison gas including the nerve agent Sarin in the past, which Washington called a “red line” that justified international military aid to the rebels.
Khaled Omar of the opposition local council in Ain Tarma said he saw at least 80 bodies at the Hajjah Hospital in Ain Tarma and at a makeshift clinic at Tatbiqiya School in the nearby district of Saqba.
“The attack took place at around 3:00 AM (0000 GMT / 8:00 p.m. Tuesday EDT). Most of those killed were in their homes,” Omar said.
(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis, Amman newsroom; Editing by Peter Graff)