At least 58 people have been killed and dozens more wounded in a suspected chemical attack this morning on a opposition-held town in north western Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported.
Khan Sheikhun in Idlib province was bombed by Syrian government or Russian jets; victims of the attack were said to be suffering from severe breathing difficulties and other symptoms that are consistent with chemical weapons. Aircraft then fired rockets at local clinics treating some of the survivors, said medics and opposition activists.
According to a doctor at a hospital in Idlib, more than 200 people were wounded.
We alone received over 20 victims and most of them are children, and two of them in the ICU are extremely critical. There are a lot of injured and most of these who were near the epicentre of the attack are either dead or in intensive care.
The Syrian government has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons. If confirmed, this would be one of the deadliest chemical attacks in Syria since the civil war began six years ago. Following the attack, graphic images of dead children appeared on social media.
Idlib is one of the last opposition-controlled territories in Syria. It has been subjected to relentless aerial bombardment, despite a supposed ceasefire brokered earlier this year by Russia and Turkey that was aimed at paving the way for political negotiations.
The main Syrian opposition alliance, the National Coalition, accused President Bashar Al-Assad’s government of being behind the attack and called on the UN Security Council to order an immediate investigation.
Human Rights Watch has also accused government helicopters of dropping bombs containing chlorine on opposition-held areas of Aleppo on at least eight occasions between 17 November and 13 December, during the final stages of the battle for the city. Those attacks killed at least nine civilians.