ALEPPO (SYRIA), -- A suspected chlorine gas attack on rebel-held neighborhood in the Syrian city of Aleppo has caused dozens of cases of suffocation, rescue workers and a monitoring group said.
The Syrian Civil Defense, a rescue workers' organization that operates in rebel-held areas, said government helicopters on Tuesday had dropped barrel bombs containing chlorine on the Sukari neighborhood in eastern Aleppo.
The Syrian government has denied previous accusations it used chemical weapons during the five-year-old civil war. The Syrian army could not be immediately reached for comment on the latest allegations.
The Civil Defense said on its Facebook page that 80 people had suffocated. It reported no deaths. It posted a video showing wheezing children doused in water using oxygen masks to breathe.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks Syrian violence using sources on the ground, said medical sources had reported 70 cases of suffocation.
A United Nations and Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons inquiry last month found that Syrian government forces were responsible for two toxic gas attacks in 2014 and 2015 involving chlorine.
The Civil Defense accused the government of two other suspected chlorine gas attacks in August. The United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria said it was investigating an August incident.
"Unimaginable crimes are occurring in Aleppo ... pro-government aerial bombardments cause mass civilian casualties," Commission Chairman Paulo Pinheiro told reporters in Geneva. "In government-held areas, indiscriminate ground shelling (by) armed groups ... is also killing scores of civilians," he added.
Aleppo has been one of the areas hardest hit by escalating violence in recent months.
Government forces put eastern Aleppo under siege on Sunday for a second time since July after advancing against rebels on the city's outskirts. The city has long been divided between government and opposition areas of control.
On related dvelopment, an Iraqi Shiite militia fighting in Syria on the government's side has sent more than 1,000 extra fighters to southern parts of Aleppo over the past two days to reinforce its positions, the group's spokesman Hashim al-Moussawi said.
The group, Harakat al-Nujaba, is fighting alongside the Syrian army, the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, Iranian forces, and other militias against insurgents battling to topple President Bashar al-Assad.
An advance by pro-government forces on Sunday to the south of the city resulted in the encirclement of the opposition-held half of the city.
Moussawi said extra fighters were sent to reinforce areas captured from Sunni Islamist groups.
"More than 1,000 fighters from Harakat al-Nujaba's elite forces were sent to Aleppo to help hold the ground," he said.
Syria's military could not immediately be reached for comment.
Source: Nam News Network