Russia accuses Syrian rebels of using poison gas

Russian defense ministry says seven people died in an attack by Syrian rebels using weapons loaded with a "poisonous agent".

Ben Ariel ,

Syrian rebel during clashes near Aleppo
Syrian rebel during clashes near Aleppo

The Russian defense ministry on Wednesday said that seven people died in an attack by Syrian rebels in the city of Aleppo using weapons loaded with a "poisonous agent", AFP reports.

Russian Lieutenant-General Sergei Chvarkov was cited by Russia's TASS news agency as saying that the Nureddin al-Zenki rebel group on Tuesday launched weapons packed with an unnamed "poisonous agent" from an opposition-held neighborhood to a government-controlled area of Aleppo.

Chvarkov, the head of Russia's reconciliation center in Syria, said that "as a result of this terrorist attack, seven people died and 23 were evacuated to hospitals in Aleppo with breathing problems and airway burns."

He said the Russian authorities have informed the United States, which backs the rebels, of the attack.

Syrian state media said on Tuesday that five people were killed and that eight others suffered injuries induced by suffocation after rebels fired rockets containing poison gases.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the toll from the rocket attack at six dead, saying the casualties were in fact soldiers.

Speaking to AFP, Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman could not confirm that any kind of gas had in fact been used.

The Russian claim came a day after the Observatory reported 24 people suffered breathing difficulties in rebel-held Saraqeb, a town 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of Aleppo, after a barrel bomb attack.

Residents said chlorine gas had been used in the attack, but the monitor could not confirm this.

Reports in the past indicated that jihadist groups in Syria had used chemical weapons, specifically mustard agent, though those attacks were attributed to the Islamic State (ISIS).

American intelligence officials have said they “knew” ISIS had carried out chemical attacks in both Syria and Iraq, adding the jihadists used such weaponry “on at least four separate occasions on both sides of the border.”