WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — The White House says it is “deeply concerned” of reports that the Syrian government killed as many as 1,300 people with the use of chemical weapons near Damascus.
In a statement, the White House is requesting the United Nations – which currently has a team in Syria — to investigate the incident.
“If the Syrian government has nothing to hide and is truly committed to an impartial and credible investigation of chemical weapons use in Syria, it will facilitate the UN team’s immediate and unfettered access to this site,” the statement reads. “We have also called for urgent consultations in the UN Security Council to discuss these allegations and to call for the Syrian government to provide immediate access to the UN investigative team.”
According to CBS News, George Sabra of the Syrian National Coalition – a Western-backed Syrian opposition group – said at a news conference that 1,300 people were killed in the attacks near Damascus.
The regime of President Bashar Assad claims that no chemical weapons were used, but that there was an ongoing offensive against “jihadists.”
“We are making a great advance in Jobar, Zamalka, Ghouta and Mouadamieh, which are under the heaviest attack since the start of the two-year conflict,” a Syrian security source told CBS News.
The Associated Press reports that attacks began in the Damascus suburbs around 3 a.m. local time, coinciding with the visit by a 20-member U.N. chemical weapons team.
Video coming out of Syria show bodies — many of them children — lying in makeshift morgues following the possible chemical attacks.
“Their mouths were foaming, their pupils were constricted, and those who were brought in while still alive could not draw their breaths and died subsequently,” an opposition activist told the AP. “The skin around their eyes and noses was grayish.”
Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, an expert in chemical and biological weapons, told CBS News that he believed sarin gas was used in the attack.
“Sarin is 4,000-times more powerful than organophosphates,” he said.
The United States said in June that it had evidence that the Assad regime was using chemical weapons on its own people, crossing a “red line” that President Barack Obama imposed. Officials decided to arm rebel groups but that has yet to happen.
More than 100,000 people have been killed since the civil war in Syria began in March 2011.
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