Syria Launches Gas Attack in Damascus Suburb, Claim Activists

First responders known as While Helmets, or Syrian Civil Defense, says the attack hit a neighborhood in the Douma district early on Monday

A man is seen at a medical center in Douma, Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria January 22, 2018
REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

Syrian activists and rescue teams say the Syrian government has launched an attack with suspected poisonous gas that has affected nearly 20 civilians in a rebel-held suburb near the capital, Damascus.

The team of first responders known as While Helmets, or Syrian Civil Defense, says the attack hit a neighborhood in the Douma district early on Monday.

It says the rescuers evacuated more than 20 civilians, most of them women and children from the area, which they say was hit with suspected chlorine attack. The Ghouta Media Center, an activist-operated media, also claims the attack involved chlorine gas. Activists say a foul smell followed a series of bombings that hit the Douma neighborhood.

Such claims are not new but they are difficult to verify because of lack of chemical labs and independent testers. A U.N. inquiry panel had previously blamed the government for a number of chlorine and sarin attacks in Syria.

The Easter Ghouta suburb of Damascus has been under intensive attack, and the U.N. says government forces are holding 400,000 people under siege there.