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‘Chemical’ Massacre in Idlib Defies the World | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A man carries the body of a dead child, after what rescue workers described as a suspected gas attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in rebel-held Idlib, Syria April 4, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah

Beirut, London- Warplanes releasing toxic gas targeted Tuesday the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib, northwestern Syria, massacring dozens of people and injuring hundreds.

Many pointed their fingers at the Syrian regime, which denied any responsibility for the attack and described the massacre as “fabricated fake accusations” by the armed fighters.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attack, believed to have been carried out by Syrian regime or Russian jets, killed at least 58 people, including 11 children at ages below 8.

The Observatory added that warplanes continued to bomb the town following the attack, which took place near a medical center where the victims of the first aggression were being treated. The attack also caused many people to choke and some to foam at the mouth, the Observatory added.

A high-ranking Syrian opposition official told Asharq Al-Awsat that the “gas used during Tuesday’s massacre had never been used before.”

Director of Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs (LISA) Sami Nader said: “This crime will constitute a turning point in the Syrian developments because it has embarrassed the Russians on the issue of chemicals.”

Meanwhile, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces said “the attack killed more than 100 people, including 25 children and 15 women, and injured 400 others.”

A military source at the Free Syrian Army told Asharq Al-Awsat that the attack targeted a popular market in the center of Khan Sheikhoun.

“The attack only targeted civilians in order to push the residents of Idlib and its suburbs to migrate outside the Syrian border,” the source asserted.

While UN war crimes investigators are looking into the alleged chemical weapons attack on the Syrian town in Idlib, the Security Council is expected to hold a meeting on Wednesday to discuss the matter.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said it is seriously concerned about the attack. It said its Fact Finding Mission (FFM) is in the process of gathering and analyzing information from all available sources.

Several countries also condemned the attack. The White House considered it as “unacceptable” while US President Donald Trump said: “These heinous actions by the Bashar Assad regime are a consequence of the past administration’s weakness and irresolution.”

For his part, French President Francois Hollande directly blamed Syrian regime forces for the attack, while High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini said the regime of Assad bears “primary responsibility.”

Commenting on what happened in Khan Sheikhoun, UN special envoy for Syria Staffa de Mistura said: “This was horrific…I’m sure there will be a Security Council meeting on this, for clear identification of responsibilities, accountability.”