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Mother, two daughters said killed in Syria chemical attack

Medical officials in Afrin say others injured in bombing are suffering hallucinations, vomiting, nose bleeding and irritation to the eyes

A photo distributed by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights purportedly depicting the remains of a chemical bomb dropped on a rebel-controlled neighborhood in Aleppo, Syria, Saturday, April 13 (photo credit: Courtesy)
A photo distributed by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights purportedly depicting the remains of a chemical bomb dropped on a rebel-controlled neighborhood in Aleppo, Syria, Saturday, April 13 (photo credit: Courtesy)

A woman and her two young children were killed by chemical weapons in Aleppo, Syria, human rights activists said Saturday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights cited eye witnesses who said regime helicopters dropped the bombs on a house in a rebel-controlled neighborhood, killing the three family members and injuring 16 others.

The injured were transferred to a hospital in Afrin, where medical officials reported that they suffered from hallucinations, severe vomiting, nose bleeding and severe irritation to the eyes. One of the casualties was said to first have been blinded by the poisonous gas.

The Syrian Observatory called on the United Nations and the Red Cross to “immediately send committees for treating the injuries and discovering the nature of the gases that have been reportedly used in al-Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood.”

The Observatory distributed photos taken by opposition activists of remnants of what it said were the bombs.

It also posted photos of a dead woman and two children, aged 1 and 2. None of the three had any visible injuries.

Meanwhile, a soil sample smuggled out of Syria in a secret British operation appeared to provide the first forensic evidence of chemical weapons being used in the ongoing civil war, The Times of London reported Saturday.

The sample, said to be taken from a neighborhood on the outskirts of Damascus, was delivered to the UK Ministry of Defense’s chemical and biological research establishment at Porton Down in Wiltshire, where it was identified as containing traces of “some kind of chemical weapon.” Though experts could not ascertain which weaponized chemical it was, they did rule out tear gas or another crowd dispersal agent.

“There have been some reports that it was just a strong riot-control agent but this is not the case — it’s something else, although it can’t definitively be said to be Sarin nerve agent,” one source told The Times.

The sample could not indicate whether the use of the chemical was widespread or whether it was fired by forces loyal to President Bashar Assad or rebels.

Sources said that the evidence, while significant, might not be the “smoking gun” that would give the international community proof that Assad had crossed “the red line” set by US President Barack Obama.

Obama said in 2012 that the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government would prompt direct action from the United States.

The US, Israel, and Jordan are particularly concerned about the fate of Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons, which is believed to be divided among several storage sites throughout the country.

In addition to the possibility that Assad may use the weapons as a desperate measure to stay in power, there are fears that some of the weapons may find their way into the hands of terror groups in Syria or Lebanon.

On Monday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon urged the Syrian government to accept an expanded UN probe into alleged chemical weapons use, saying he had concluded that an alleged attack in Homs in December warrants investigation.

Syria rejected the expanded investigation, which it had originally sought to look into alleged use of chemical weapons by rebels in March on the village of Khan al-Assal. The rebels blame regime forces.

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