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Suspected chlorine attack hits Syria's Eastern Ghouta after UN orders probe into regime chemical warfare

The enclave's 400,000 residents have been living under siege since 2013 [Twitter/@SyriaCivilDef]

Date of publication: 6 March, 2018

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At least 30 people in Syria's Eastern Ghouta have been treated after suffering symptoms consistent with exposure to chlorine gas, the Syrian Civil Defence reported.

At least 30 people in Syria's Eastern Ghouta have been treated after suffering symptoms consistent with exposure to chlorine gas, the Syrian Civil Defence reported.

The volunteer rescuers, known as the "White Helmets", said on Monday that the suspected chemical attack took place in the town of Hammuriyeh hours after an international aid convoy entered the besieged enclave.

They added that it was the eighth suspected chlorine attack on rebel-held Eastern Ghouta in the past two months.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor reported that 18 people suffered breathing difficulties following a strike by a military aircraft in Hammuriyeh, without being able to specify the cause of the illnesses.

Last month, a child died and at least 13 other people suffered breathing difficulties in a suspected chemical attack in the village of al-Shifuniyah.

The attack came after the UN Human Rights Council on Monday ordered investigators to examine the latest violence in Syria.

The council condemned "the indiscriminate use of heavy weapons and aerial bombardments against civilians, and the alleged use of chemical weapons in Eastern Ghouta".

The Kremlin responded on Tuesday, condemning what it called unfounded allegations of the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government, insisting that the country's stockpile was destroyed under international supervision.

"The provocations are continuing that spawn such insinuations and unfounded accusations against the Syrian leadership," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

Damascus and its key ally Moscow face growing pressure after reports of suspected chlorine use in the battered Eastern Ghouta, where Syria's army is carrying out a ground and air assault.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has called on the Security Council to create a new inquiry to determine who is behind chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had ruled that the Syrian regime carried out a sarin gas attack in April 2017 and also carried out several chlorine attacks.

In total more than 780 civilians - including 170 children - have been killed in Eastern Ghouta since 18 February.

The enclave's 400,000 residents have been living under siege since 2013, facing severe food and medicine shortages even before the latest onslaught.

Aid deliveries on Monday had to be cut short amid continued fighting.

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