Soldiers in Syria reportedly 'suffocated' while seizing chemicals, weapons in Damascus suburb

Sunday, August 25, 2013

According to state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), during a battle with rebels yesterday the Syrian army seized a stockpile of chemicals, canisters, weapons and gear located in a warehouse tunnel in Jobar, a suburb of Damascus. In a post on the social networking website Twitter, SANA claims some soldiers involved in the battle were exposed to some kind of chemical agent and in some cases "suffocated," but the number of those killed, if any, was not reported.

"Army heroes are entering the tunnels of the terrorists and saw chemical agents", said SANA, as quoted by Al-Alam News Network. "It is believed that the terrorists have used chemical weapons in the area", quoted by CNN. The Syrian government often labels members of the Free Syrian Army and other rebels as "terrorists."

SANA says government forces were fighting rebels and pushed into Jobar where they seized the items in a warehouse. In a video by SANA and published by RT News, at least one of those items, a box labeled "coverall - CW protective," was made in the United States. Antidotes for chemical agents allegedly from the "The Qatari-German Company for Pharmaceutical Industries" and materials from Saudi Arabia were also among the items seized. Pictures also show grenades, rockets and what appear to be several other unknown chemical agents. Government forces say the stockpile belonged to rebels and opposition forces.

The country's largest opposition group, The Syrian National Coalition (CNFROS), released a statement denying the use of chemical weapons in both today's and Wednesday's battles. They deny even possessing chemical weapons saying the "information disclosed by the regime [is] false" and the accusations attempt "to disguise and conceal his [Assad's] repeated and systematic crimes against Syrian civilians."

The seizure comes just days after government forces were accused of carrying out a large-scale chemical attack in the Ghouta region of Damascus on Wednesday. Reports say anywhere between 100 and 1,300 people were killed in the attack. Prior to today's incident and after Wednesday's alleged chemical attack, government forces heavily bombed the area.

The fighting comes as United Nations observers arrived to investigate claims of chemical weapons use elsewhere in the nation. According to one report, government forces have retaken control of Jobar.