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More fighting reported in Syria after alleged chemical attack

August 22, 2013|By Patrick J. McDonnell

BEIRUT — Fresh clashes between Syrian government troops and rebel forces were reported in the outskirts of Damascus on Thursday, a day after alleged chemical attacks outside the capital purportedly killed hundreds.

The official government news agency reported combat east of the capital in several suburbs, including Jobar, Harasta, Douma and Irbin, all considered rebel strongholds. The army has been pushing back rebels in those areas for months.

The government cited “heavy losses” among “terrorists,” the official designation of armed rebels fighting to overthrow the government of President Bashar Assad.

Pro-opposition activists reported government bombardment in several other capital suburbs, including Zamalka, one of the sites of Wednesday’s alleged chemical attack.

The opposition has charged that hundreds of people were killed Wednesday in poison gas bombardments of several districts to the east and south of the capital.

The Syrian government has denied any such attacks. Officials called the allegations a fabrication meant to discredit the Syrian government and scuttle an ongoing United Nations investigation into previous allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria.

Russia, a close ally of Syria, has suggested the attacks may have been staged.

The alleged chemical weapons onslaught, though uncorroborated, has drawn worldwide condemnation. Images loaded onto the Internet of apparent victims, including children, have outraged officials across the globe.

The U.N. has called for a new inquiry into the latest allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria. U.N. officials said they are seeking the consent of the Syrian government to redirect the U.N. team on the ground in Damascus to look into the issues. Senior U.N. officials “are in contact with the Syrian government” about the matter, the U.N. said in a statement.

But there was no immediate word Thursday from the Syrian government about the U.N. request for a new inquiry.

In a television interview, the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the international community should react “with force” if the allegations of a chemical attack were confirmed. He did not elaborate, but ruled out French troops being dispatched to Syria.


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