A Syrian official says that at least 50 civilians were being treated Saturday (local time) following a suspected poison gas attack by Syrian rebel groups on the government-held Aleppo city in the country's north.
It's not clear who carried out the attack, but Syria's state news agency quoted a local commander as blaming "terrorist groups," while Russian Federation accused militants of firing mortar rounds containing chlorine on the city's northwestern districts.
Major-General Igor Konashenkov said Moscow sent advance warning to Ankara, which backs some rebel factions and helped broker a ceasefire in Idlib.
Syrian state media and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor reported that around 100 Syrians were hospitalised with breathing difficulties in the regime-controlled city after an attack allegedly using "toxic gas".
Syrian state news agency SANA quoted a police officer in Aleppo saying the attack hit al-Khalidiya neighborhood, according to the New York Times.
"We cannot know the kinds of gases but we suspected chlorine and treated patients on this basis because of the symptoms", said Zaher Batal, head of the Aleppo Doctors Syndicate.
In addition to difficulty breathing, symptoms included eye inflammation, shivering and fainting.
Russian Federation claimed that the chemical attack was performed through mortars.
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"The criminal regime, under Russian instructions, is trying to accuse the rebels of using toxic substances in Aleppo".
Abdel-Razak tweeted that "These are lies" soon after reports emerged of an attack in Aleppo that injured dozens of people. State TV later said the gas affected two other areas in the city.
The Russian-Turkish deal in September for a demilitarised zone staved off an army offensive against the Idlib region, including nearby parts of Aleppo and Hama provinces.
Abu Omar, a Failaq al-Sham spokesman, accused Damascus of trying to create "a malicious charade" as a pretext to attack rebel towns, Reuters reported.
"The planes of Russia's Aerospace Defense Forces carried out strikes on the detected artillery positions of terrorists in the area, from where the shelling of Aleppo civilians with chemical munitions was conducted late" Saturday, Konashenkov said.
During the more than seven-year war, the rebels and the Syrian government side traded accusations of chemical weapons in the battles. The targeted area is opposition-held and home to extremist groups opposed to the truce such as the al-Qaida-linked Horas al-Din, which has described the deal as a "great conspiracy", and the Ansar al-Din Front.
A joint commission of the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has also accused the Islamic State group of using toxic gases.