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UN Probes Reports Of Fresh Chemical Attacks On Rebel-Held Syrian Towns

A Syrian boy holds an oxygen mask over the face of an infant at a make-shift hospital following a reported gas attack on the rebel-held town of Douma on the outskirts of the capital, Damascus, on January 22.

United Nations war crimes experts say they are investigating numerous reports of alleged chemical attacks against civilians in rebel-held towns of Syria.

The announcement on February 6 by the UN Commission of Inquiry on human rights in Syria said it had received "multiple reports -- which it is now investigating -- that bombs allegedly containing weaponized chlorine have been used" in the town of Saraqeb in the northwestern province of Idlib and the Douma in the Eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus.

Residents in both rebel-held towns have accused Syrian forces of using the chemical weapons in recent weeks.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s Russian-backed government denies that its forces use chemical weapons.

But the UN commission last September officially blamed Damascus for a chemical attack that killed more than five people in the town of Khan Sheikhun in Idlib earlier in 2017.

The UN also has determined that Syria’s government carried out chlorine gas attacks in 2014 and 2015.

The United States on February 5 said there was “obvious evidence” of multiple chlorine gas attacks in Syria in recent weeks, including in the opposition-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta where an estimate 400,000 people live under a siege by government forces.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AFP