Syria chemical attack victims gassed as they slept

Russian claims that a regime airstrike on a “terrorist” ammunition depot caused the deaths of at least 70 people in northern Syria have been rejected, as victims described the aftermath of chemical bombs dropped from planes.

International condemnation mounted on Wednesday over what appeared to be a targeted chemical attack on a rebel-held town in Idlib province, one of the deadliest since the Syrian war began six years ago.

The White House and the UK blamed the regime of President Bashar al-Assad for the outrage, which caused the deaths of at least 10 children, some asleep in their beds when the attack struck at dawn.

The World Health Organization said victims bore the signs of exposure to nerve agents, and Amnesty International said evidence pointed to an “air-launched chemical attack.” International agencies were working to establish the provenance of the agents used in the strike.

Russia claimed the deaths were caused by gas released when a regime airstrike hit a chemical weapons factory on the ground. But victims being treated in a hospital on the Turkish side of the border told a CNN team they saw chemical bombs being dropped from planes.

Key developments

Dozens of victims have been taken to Turkey for treatment.

The attack coincided with a two-day meeting in Brussels on Syria’s future.

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson calls attack a ‘barbaric act.’

Medical experts and US say attack likely result of a nerve agent, like sarin gas.

UN will hold a Security Council emergency meeting later Wednesday.

The Russian defense ministry claimed on its Facebook page that a Syrian airstrike hit “workshops, which produced chemical warfare munitions” in the eastern outskirts of Khan Sheikhoun.

It said that “terrorists” had been transporting the chemical munitions from its largest arsenal to Iraq.

But a chemical weapons expert, Col. Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, told BBC Radio 4 that all signs showed the chemical used was sarin gas and that Russia’s versions of events was “completely unsustainable.”

“I think this is pretty fanciful and no doubt the Russians trying to protect their allies. Axiomatically, if you blow up sarin, you destroy it,” he said.

Hours after the attack, several people were injured when an airstrike hit near a hospital in the same town, where victims from the earlier attack were being treated, the Aleppo Media Center activist group reported.
The Syrian Civil Defense rescue group, known as the White Helmets, said the hospital was knocked out of service.

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