More than 100 injured in Aleppo in the suspected rebel gas attack

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BEIRUT (Reuters) – More than 100 people were injured in an alleged toxic gas attack in Aleppo, Syria, late Saturday night, when a health official said he was the first such assault in the city.

A woman breathes through an oxygen mask after what the Syrian state media said was an alleged toxic gas attack in Aleppo, Syria, on November 24, 2018. SANA / Dispensa via REUTERS

The Syrian government and its ally Russia have accused the rebels attack, accusations that rebel officials have denied.

The shells have spread a strong smell and have caused dozens of people with respiratory problems in Aleppo, which is under government control, said a monitoring group.

The Syrian Human Rights Observatory also said war planes hit the rebel territory in northwest Sunday for the first time since Russia and Turkey agreed a buffer zone in September.

The SANA state press agency said today 107 people were injured, including children, after militants hit three Aleppo districts with bullets containing choking gas.

It marks the highest number of victims of this kind in Aleppo since the government forces and their allies have recovered the city from the rebels almost two years ago.

The defense ministry of Russia has accused the rebels on Sunday of firing bullets filled with chlorine gas in Aleppo from the rebel stronghold of Idlib.

Moscow, Syrian President's chief ally Bashar al-Assad, said he would speak with Turkey, which supports some rebel factions and helped broker a ceasefire in the Idlib region.

"We can not know the type of gas, but we suspected chlorine and the treatment of patients on this basis because of the symptoms," Zaher Batal, head of the pharmacist union in Aleppo, told Reuters.

Patients suffered breathing difficulties, eye inflammation, chills and fainting, he said. The hospitals had downloaded many people during the night.

Batal said this was the first gas attack against civilians in the city of Aleppo since the conflict broke out more than seven years ago.

BARS AND OXYGEN MASKS

"The explosives (projectiles) contain toxic gases that have led to suffocating among civilians," said Aleppo police chief Issam al-Shilli to the state media.

Images and footage on SANA showed health workers transporting patients on stretchers and helping them with oxygen masks.

The state media said that the army hit the militants near the city, but did not elaborate. The Syrian Foreign Ministry has called on the United States Security Council to condemn and punish the attack.

Abdel-Salam Abdel-Razak, an official of the rebel faction of Nour el-Din al-Zinki, said that the rebels do not possess chemical weapons or have the capacity to produce them.

"The criminal regime, according to Russian instructions, is trying to accuse the rebels of using toxic substances to Aleppo.This is purely a lie," he tweeted.

Abu Omar, a spokesman for Failaq al-Sham, accused Damascus of trying to create "a mischievous charade" as a pretext to attack rebel cities.

The UK-based observatory said the bombing in Aleppo wounded 94 people, while the government bombing at the start of Saturday had killed two women and seven children in a village of Idlib.

The Russian-Turkish agreement in September had dismissed the offensive planned by the army against the Idlib region, including the nearby parts of the provinces of Aleppo and Hama.

Presentation (3 images)

The dominant force among a host of factions dominating Idlib is Tahrir al-Sham, an Islamist alliance led by fighters formerly linked to al-Qaeda.

A recent U.N.-OPCW survey found that the Syrian government used the nerve agent sarin in an April 2017 attack and also used chlorine several times. He also accused militants of the Islamic state for the use of mustard gas.

The Assad government has repeatedly denied the use of chemical weapons in the war.

Report by Ellen Francis in Beirut, Ahmed Tolba in Cairo, Kinda Makieh in Damascus and Andrew Osborn in Moscow; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle and Raissa Kasolowsky

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