Syria and Russia deny carrying out ‘toxic gas’ attack in rebel-held Idlib

A child victim of the alleged "gas attack" in Idlib, Syria on 4 April 2017.

The Syrian military has denied carrying out what is thought to be a chemical attack in rebel-held Idlib’s Khan Sheikhoun town on Tuesday morning, which resulted in the death of at least 58 people, including a dozen children.

A military source strongly denied the claims that Syrian jets had carried out the horrific attack, Reuters reported.

Russia has also made a statement on the issue saying it had not carried out any air strikes near northwester town Khan Sheikhoun.

France has called for an emergency UN meeting on what commentators are calling a “massacre.”

Describing the attack, Mounzer Khalil, the head of Idlib’s health authority said, “This morning, at 6:30 a.m., warplanes targeted Khan Sheikhoun with gases, believed to be sarin and chlorine.”

Images of people frothing at the mouth and suffocating were shared widely on social media. According to AFP a hospital treating victims was also bombed.

The Syrian government has been accused of using chemical weapons before but has vehemently denied them. Instead it has accused rebel groups of using chemical agents, most notably in Ghouta in 2013.

In a report in October last year the UN said that government forces had used chemical weapons at least three times in 2014-2015 and that Islamic State used mustard gas in 2015, said Reuters.

Some have questioned the timing of the attack and the involvement of the White Helmets, a controversial group that has used staged footage of alleged Syrian government attacks in the past.

The Bashar al-Assad government has gained the upper hand against rebels recently after victory over opposition groups in Aleppo in December 2016 led to a deal with Turkey and the withdrawal of rebels to Idlib, their final stronghold.

Statements by US officials last week that “ousting Assad” was no longer a priority was also seen as a sign that the Syrian president had cemented his position in any future peace deal.