The Syrian government has denied allegations that it used chemical weapons against its own people yesterday. If confirmed, the attack, which killed hundreds of civilians, would be the worst of its kind anywhere in decades. At least 35 nations are calling for the United Nations to investigate, NBC's Richard Engel reports.
The international community must respond with “a reaction with force” if allegations that the Syrian government carried out a deadly chemical attack were confirmed, France said Wednesday.
Following the White House’s lead, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius urged Syrian President Bashar Assad to allow an immediate and transparent U.N. investigation of the incident, which some activists and rebel fighters claim killed 1,200 people.
The Syrian government denies using chemical weapons, but new images are being held up by Syrian rebels as evidence of what could be the worst chemical weapons attack anywhere since Saddam Hussein gassed Iraqi Kurds in 1988. NBC's Richard Engel reports.
He told French broadcaster BFMTV that “there would have to be a reaction with force from the international community" if Assad force's gassed civilians.
However, Fabius added: "But there is no question of sending troops on the ground."
He said that if the United Nations Security Council could not make a decision, one would have to be taken “in other ways,” although he did not elaborate on what those might be.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu also said Thursday that "all red lines" had been crossed in Syria and criticized international inaction.
"All red lines have been crossed but still the U.N. Security Council has not even been able to take a decision. This is a responsibility for the sides who still set these red lines and for all of us," Davutoglu told reporters in Berlin.
Bassam Khabieh / Reuters
Affected by what activists say was a gas attack, children breathe through oxygen masks in the Damascus suburb of Saqba on Wednesday.
Despite condemnation from the international community, Syrian activists said Thursday that Assad’s forces were pressing ahead with their assault on the rebel-held suburbs of eastern Damascus where the chemical attack is alleged to have taken place.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it had no word on casualties in Thursday's bombing of Ghouta.
The Syrian government denied as "absolutely baseless" allegations it used chemical-tipped weapons in artillery barrages, after videos apparently showing the graphic and disturbing aftermath of the alleged attacks were posted to social media.
Bassam Khabieh / Reuters
A man holds the body of a dead child among bodies activists say were killed by nerve gas in the Ghouta area of Damascus' Douma neighborhood on Wednesday.
The clips, that showed children choking and vomiting, while adults writhed in agony could not be independently verified.
Syrian state television said the videos were a deliberate attempt to distract United Nations chemical weapons experts who arrived in the country on Monday.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Wednesday that the United States does not have independent confirmation that chemical weapons were used.
“We are hopeful that the Assad regime will follow through on what they have claimed previously, that they are interested in a credible investigation that gets to the bottom of reports that chemical weapons have been used,” Earnest said.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
A look back at the conflict that has overtaken the country.
- Exodus: Thousands of Syrian refugees escape into Iraq
- Analysis: Who's backing who as Syria's civil war threatens to spread
- White House: Syria's Assad is 'one of the worst tyrants' of modern era
This story was originally published on Thu Aug 22, 2013 6:12 AM EDT