An aid group has suggested that a Syrian “toxic gas” attack may have killed 355 people on Wednesday. The group, Doctors Without Borders, explained that three hospitals it supports received about 3,600 patients with “neurotoxic symptoms” in less than three hours.
The news comes as Syrian state media accused rebels of carrying out the reported attack against government troops. But of those killed, 54 were children, 83 were women, and several others were fighters.
Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights accused the government of carrying out the attack, reports USA Today. In an announcement, the group said the dead “fell in the massacre committed by the Syrian regime.”
Death tolls have varied in the aftermath of the apparent attack and there is no way to verify them 100 percent. Syrian anti-government activists reported between 322 and 1,300 dead.
Doctors Without Borders was not able to confirm that the symptoms were related to a chemical attack. However, Dr. Bard Janssens, MSF director of operations, commented that the symptoms reported by the hospitals “strongly indicate mass exposure to a neurotoxic agent.”
The release from the air group comes as US naval forces moved closer to Syria, notes ABC News. President Barack Obama is expected to consider a military response to the use of chemical weapons in the bitterly divided country.
In the past, the US president has called the use of chemical weapons in Syria a red line for US involvement. It is believed that the party responsible for the attack is the Syrian government, led by President Bashar Assad.
While US officials have revealed that the Navy sent a fourth warship armed with ballistic missiles toward the Mediterranean Sea, Syria’s Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi dismissed the idea that the US could launch an attack. He explained that a move like that would only trigger more violence in the region.
Al-Zoubi explained, “The basic repercussion would be a ball of fire that would burn not only Syria but the whole Middle East.” He also blamed the Syrian rebels for the gas attack, saying, “The rockets were fired from their positions and fell on civilians. They are responsible.”
The Information Minister added that the government has proof the rebels are responsible. However, he declined to elaborate on what proof they had. It is unclear what the United States will do in response to the reported chemical weapons attack in Syria.
[Update: A previous version of this story suggested that Doctors Without Borders had confirmed a chemical weapons attack in Syria. While the group has said their hospitals reported patients with “neurotoxic symptoms,” the attack has not been confirmed.]
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