The Province

Dozens hurt in suspected poison gas attack blamed on Syrian rebels


DAMASCUS, Syria — At least 50 civilians were being treated Saturday following a suspected poison gas attack by Syrian rebel groups on government-held Aleppo, according to Syrian state media reports.

Most of those admitted to hospitals had breathing problems and blurred vision, doctors told state TV. One doctor said two were in critical condition, including a child. State TV showed footage of medical profession­als treating men and women on hospital beds.

There was a stench of gas in Aleppo city after projectile­s were fired, said Rami Abdurrahma­n, the head of Britain-based Syrian Observator­y for Human Rights.

Rebel commanders and opposition figures discredite­d the government reports, denying they lobbed gas into Aleppo and accusing Damascus of seeking to undermine an existing ceasefire and efforts to kickstart political talks. Earlier Saturday, government shelling of a rebelheld area in neighbouri­ng Idlib province killed at least seven civilians.

In Aleppo city, local governor Hussein Diab visited the injured at the hospital. He told state TV that 41 people had been admitted and accused rebels of using poisonous gas in the missiles they lobbed at the Aleppo neighbourh­ood.

Health official Haj Taha later said the number of injured was up to 50, adding that symptoms suggest the gas used was chlorine.

Further tests are needed, he said.

The projectile­s landed in the al-Khalidiya neighbourh­ood, and wind caused gas to spread, Aleppo police chief Essam al-Shali told state TV. State TV later said the gas affected two other areas in the city. There are no deaths, al-Shali said.

One patient said a foul smell filled the air after projectile­s were lobbed.

“There are often missiles on the city but this is the first time we smelled such a smell,” the patient said without giving his name.

State TV later said government troops retaliated, hitting the source of the attack. It didn’t elaborate.

A ceasefire in Aleppo and Idlib has been fraying in recent days. Aleppo has come under rebel attack in recent weeks, with missiles falling inside the city. The government has responded with counter attacks on rebel-held areas in the Aleppo countrysid­e.

Earlier Saturday, rescue works and the Britain-based Syrian Observator­y for Human Rights said government shells landed in Jarjanaz, a rebel-held town in Idlib province, hitting students as they were leaving their school, killing eight, including six children.

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