At least 50 Syrian civilians are being treated following a suspected gas attack in the government-held city of Aleppo that state media has blamed on rebels.
Most of those admitted to hospitals on Saturday in the northern region of the war-torn country had breathing problems and blurred vision, doctors told state TV. One doctor said two were in critical condition, including a child. State TV showed footage of medical professionals treating men and women on hospital beds.
There was a stench of gas in Aleppo after projectiles were fired, said Rami Abdurrahman, the head of Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
In Aleppo, the local governor Hussein Diab visited the injured at the hospital and told state TV that 41 people had been admitted. He accused rebels of using poisonous gas in the missiles they lobbed at the Aleppo neighbourhood of al-Khalidiya.
Health official Haj Taha later said the number of injured was up to 50, adding that symptoms suggested the gas used was chlorine. Further tests were needed, he said.
State TV later said government troops retaliated, hitting the source of the attack. It didn’t elaborate.
Rebel commanders and opposition figures discredited the government reports, denying they lobbed gas into Aleppo.
The opposition didn’t have chemical weapons or the means to handle them, rebel commander Abdel-Salam Abdel-Razek said. On Twitter, he accused the government of staging the attack to frame the rebels. Rebel spokesman Musafa Sejari said the government was seeking to undermine the ceasefire.
Fighting is continuing in various parts of the country. In the north-west, a ceasefire in Aleppo and neighbouring Idlib has been fraying in recent days.
On Saturday, Syrian regime shelling killed nine civilians, including seven children, in Idlib province – the last major rebel bastion in the country. A teacher and four schoolchildren were among the victims after the shelling hit near a school, the Observatory said.
Meanwhile, in the eastern province of Deir ez-Zor, on the Iraqi border, counterattacks by the Islamic State group have killed at least 47 US-backed fighters over two days. The Observatory said the jihadists had launched “three separate assaults” on Saturday on Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.
The fighting on Saturday alone killed 29 SDF fighters, according to the Observatory, while 39 IS fighters were killed over the same period.