BEIRUT, April 30 (RIA Novosti) – Militants in Syria have used chemical weapons against civilians with the aim of discrediting forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad, Syrian state-run TV said on Tuesday.
“Terrorists gathered together residents of the city of Saraqib at the city’s southern gates and released a powder of unknown origin amongst them, causing asphyxiation, tremors and other breathing problems,” a Syrian official said on air.
The official also said those injured by the chemicals had been taken to hospitals in Turkey in order to use the incident as the basis for accusing government forces of using chemical weapons.
Both sides in the two-year-old civil war in Syria have accused each other of using chemical weapons in recent months.
Damascus has refused to let UN chemical weapons inspectors enter the country.
The White House said in a letter to lawmakers last week that intelligence gathered by the United States, with the help of opposition forces in Syria, shows “with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria.”
US President Barack Obama has called the use of chemical weapons in the conflict a “red line” for potential American intervention. The White House letter said the attacks very likely originated with Assad’s forces.
At least 13 people were killed in an explosion in the center of the Syrian capital of Damascus earlier on Tuesday, state TV and activists reported.
The United Nations says almost 70,000 people have died in the two years since civil war broke out in Syria.