Reports are coming out of Syria today that the government may have launched a chemical attack outside Damascus; as is common in these situations, the reports are murky and the Syrian government has, not surprisingly, denied the accusation.

From the Washington Post:

Syrian activists accused the government Wednesday of launching a massive chemical weapons attack that killed scores of people in the Damascus suburbs and left makeshift hospitals packed with victims gasping for breath.

The death toll from the alleged attack — which the government strongly denied — varied vastly. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 100 people were confirmed killed, but that the number was likely to rise, while the Syrian Opposition Coalition claimed that at least 1,300 died. The opposition Damascus Media Office also put the toll at more than 1,000.

A disturbing video purporting to show some of the victims has been circulating online and has been shown on several news outlets, though there has not yet been verification as to the video’s authenticity. (Note, Washington Post includes the following disclaimer with the video: DISCLAIMER: This video contains disturbing content. It was not immediately possible to confirm whether the people depicted in the video were in fact exposed to chemical weapons).

Another video, also posted at the Washington Post in a separate article, paints an equally disturbing picture of what’s occurring in Syria.

The video, allegedly taken just a few hours after the chemical weapons incident, shows a health worker attempting to comfort a young girl who’d purportedly survived the attack and is clearly in hysterics. It’s not clear whether her behavior is a result of chemical exposure, as some speculate, or of simple terror. She says only, over and over, “I’m alive, I’m alive.”

There’s no blood or death here; this girl’s experience does not reveal the extent of Tuesday’s loss of life or necessarily show us the symptoms of chemical weapons exposure. What it does show is an experience much more common in Syria, of surviving. For all the people who are killing and dying in the country, it’s easy to forget that most Syrians are doing neither but, like both the little girl and the health worker in this video, trying to endure the suffering around them.

A White House spokesman said the United States is “deeply concerned” about the reports of chemical weapons attacks in Syria, according to CBS News.  President Obama has previously said that use of chemical weapons in Syria would be a “red line,” though it’s unclear what the administration would propose as consequences.

The United Nations convened an emergency meeting this afternoon to discuss the allegations of attacks, and are urging for investigators to be dispatched to the location of today’s reports.


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