A group of men claiming to be rebel fighters outside Aleppo confirm in a video posted on YouTube the alleged chemical attack on Tuesday came from forces loyal to the Bashar al-Assad regime, which is attempting to cover up a purposeful failed chemical attack, they say.
Their account of a Scud missile that targeted a police academy under rebel control in Khan Al Assal, just outside of Aleppo, is in line with on-the-ground reports from the Syrian Support Group, which raises funds for the Free Syrian Army under a license from the U.S. Treasury Department. Louay Sakka, a spokesman for SSG, tells U.S. News there was a gas attack in Damascus.
In the YouTube video, six men bearing assault rifles and claiming to be "Khan Al Assal Freemen" warn that a "huge humanitarian catastrophe" will follow if the United Nations and other international human rights organizations do not act quickly to stop Assad from further attacks.
"The regime tried to target the liberated police academy with what is thought to be a scud missile, but the missile did not reach its intended target, and fell on the government controlled areas, where Assad forces are positioned," one man said in Arabic, which was translated for U.S. News. "We received a trusted report from Aljameaa hospital that there were some cases of suffocation with phosphorous that the government used in Khan Alassal."
The Syrian Support Group tells U.S. News the victims of the attack were taken to a local university hospital still under the control of the Assad regime.
The U.S. government says reports of the chemical attack could be the regime's attempt to discredit the opposition.
"We have no reason to believe these allegations represent anything more than the regime's continued attempts to discredit the legitimate opposition and distract from its own atrocities committed against the Syrian people," said State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland on Tuesday, adding using chemical weapons "would constitute a red line for the United States."
A Pentagon spokesman says the military is monitoring the situation.
"I have no information at this time to corroborate any claims that chemical weapons have been used in Syria," says Pentagon spokesman Air Force Lt. Col. Jack Miller. "The use of chemical weapons in Syria would be deplorable."
Doctors at Aleppo University Hospital on the ground in Syria believe that the Assad regime launched the attack in Aleppo, SSG tells U.S. News. Initial evidence suggests chemical weapons were used.
The attack included organic phosphate chemicals, a material used in farming that in large doses can be fatal to humans, reports Dr. Maher Nana, a Florida-based general practitioner and co-founder of SSG. He provided U.S. News with direct reports from doctors in Syria. A common antidote to phosphate exposure is atropine. Doctors in Aleppo have enough to treat local victims, Nana says, but they are concerned about other towns that may not have enough atropine.
"All of the victims so far are civilians," Nana says. "They have not reported any regime soldier that has been affected."
They also state regime forces fired chemical bombs on Damascus, causing "nausea, vomiting, headache, violent and hysterical paralysis of the nerves." Three have died so far, they said in an email to Sakka. They sent this video which appears to depict a man undergoing treatment for chemical exposure:
Al Assal rebels claim government forces are blaming the opposition as a pretext to launch what would be perceived as a counter attack on them.