A child died and at least 13 other people suffered breathing difficulties after a suspected chemical attack on the besieged Syrian rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta, a medic and a monitoring group said.
Two days after the UN security council called for a ceasefire in Syria, the Syrian regime continued a heavy bombardment of the Damascus suburb.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 14 civilians had suffered breathing difficulties consistent with exposure to chlorine gas after a regime regime warplane struck.
One child died and a woman was in a critical condition, said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Observatory, which relies on multiple sources on the ground in Syria for its reports.
Yaqub, a doctor who treated those affected, told AFP he suspected “chemical weapons, probably a chlorine gas attack”. He said a three-year-old had died of asphyxiation.
“Most of the patients have chlorine odour from their clothes and their skin. Many have dyspnea and skin and eye irritations,” he said in English.
Pictures showed the body of a small boy wrapped in a blue shroud. Videos from Eastern Ghouta showed people breathing through respirators as they were treated.
The Syrian American Medical Society, which is active in Eastern Ghouta, said it was still not confirmed whether the boy died from chemical exposure or from an explosion.
Rebel groups accused the Syrian regime of using chlorine gas, but Russia accused the rebels of using “toxic substances” to make it appear as if the regime had used chemical weapons.
The rebels “prepare a provocation, using of toxic substances to accuse government forces of using chemical weapons against the civilian population,” the Russian defence ministry said.
Damascus has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons, although multiple investigations by the UN and other bodies have shown they were responsible for a massive chemical attack in 2013 and other incidents.
Recent reports of regime chemical attacks have prompted France to warn of strikes in Syria, after similar remarks by an official in Washington.
The Observatory reported 21 cases of suffocation in Eastern Ghouta on 22 January. Residents and medical sources said they suspected a chlorine attack.
Meanwhile, the United Nations secretary general demanded the immediate implementation of a 30-day ceasefire in Syria after the UN security council passed a ceasefire resolution on Saturday night.
“Security Council resolutions are only meaningful if they are effectively implemented,” he said. “That is why I expect the resolution to be immediately implemented and sustained.”
Fresh bombardment by the Syrian regime on Monday killed at least 10 civilians, including nine members of a same family, a the Syrian Observatory said.
Air strikes destroyed a building in Douma, the main town in the Eastern Ghouta area east of Damascus, and buried alive an entire family, the group said.
“Nine civilians from a same family were killed in regime air strikes in Douma, after midnight,” said Mr Abdel Rahman. “Some of the bodies are still stuck in the rubble.”