Syrian Government Forces Bombard Area Of Alleged Chemical Attack

Syrian government forces have continued to bombard a Damascus suburb that opposition groups say was hit with a deadly chemical weapon attack on August 21.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said mortar and rocket attacks resumed east of the capital on August 22.

Syrian opposition activists put the death toll from the alleged chemical attack at anywhere from 136 to some 1,300.

President Bashar al-Assad's government denied a chemical attack took place.

On August 21, the UN Security Council backed an impartial and prompt investigation of the reported attack but did not say whether it should be done by UN chemical weapons inspectors who are currently in Syria.

On August 22, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu expressed frustration at the inaction of the Security Council.

"All red lines have been crossed but still the UN Security Council has not even been able to make a decision," he said. "This is the responsibility of the countries who are still setting these red lines and of all of us."

According to reports, Russia and China have opposed calling for an immediate UN-led probe. In the past, China and Russia have blocked UN Security Council resolutions calling for sanctions against Syria. Russia has been a long-time backer of the Assad regime, selling it advanced weapons systems.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told French radio and television that, in the absence of UN-approved action, it might be time for individual countries to consider a military response.

"If [the use of chemical weapons] is proven, the position of France is that there must be a reaction. What do I mean by saying a reaction? It is not to send soldiers into there, but a reaction -- of course, of international condemnation -- but a reaction which could take the form -- I don't want to be more precise -- of force."

Syrian Information Minister Omran Zoabi denied any involvement in the attack by the government, instead accusing rebel forces of "fabricating" the incident following successful operations by government troops.

"Everything that has been said is absurd, primitive, illogical, and fabricated," he said. "What we say is what we mean: There is no use of [chemical weapons] at all, at least not by the Syrian Army or the Syrian state, and it's easy to prove."

Video and other images distributed by opposition supporters -- whose authenticity could not be independently confirmed -- showed scores of victims, including many children. The victims did not have visible wounds or other injuries.

Some experts said sarin gas may have been involved. But it was not immediately known what toxic substances may have been used.

Russia has questioned the circumstances of the incident, suggesting it could have been a rebel "provocation.”

The UN team currently in Syria has a mandate to investigate allegations of previous chemical weapons use in the conflict.

Both sides have accused each other of using the weapons during their 30-month conflict.
With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters