Arab media and opposition activists reported Monday that Bashar Assad's regime has used chemical weapons for the first time since fighting began in Syria.
According to an Al-Jazeera report, activists in the Al-Bayada neighborhood in Homs, which is under rebel control, claimed they have been targeted with gas by government forces. The opposition said in a separate statement that jet fighters dropped bombs containing 'poisonous material' on Homs.
According to the reports, six or seven people were killed in the attack and dozens wounded. A video posted by Al-Jazeera shows a man being treated with a respirator after allegedly being wounded by nerve gas.
Residents reported those wounded suffered from nausea, delirium and breathing difficulties, but said they do not know what type of gas was used. The opposition also claimed that four people were left blind and four other paralyzed. "The situation is very bad," one of the rebels told Al-Jazeera. "We don't have enough gas masks, we do not know what gas this is, but doctors say it resembles sarin."
In the past few weeks, the U.S. and other Western countries have claimed that intelligence reports appear to show Assad's regime moving chemical weapons and preparing them for use as the regime gradually loses control over the country. The West has warned Assad that use of chemical weapons would constitute a "red line" and would have international ramifications. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned of U.S. action in such a scenario.
Last week, Russia's foreign minister said the Syrian government has consolidated its chemical weapons in one or two locations amid a rebel onslaught.
Sergey Lavrov says Russia, which has military advisers training Syria's military, has kept close watch over its chemical arsenal. He said the Syrian government has moved them from many arsenals to just "one or two centers" to properly safeguard them.
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