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>> A desperate scramble to save lives after an alleged chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held town in Syria, in which 49 people are said to have died. Reports of mass casualties prompted US President Donald Trump to warn that there will be a big price to pay, and point the finger of blame at Syrian allies Russia and Iran.
The Syrian-American Medical Society, which operates 139 medical facilities facilities in Syria, said a chlorine bomb had hit a hospital in Duma, the largest urban center in eastern Ghouta, near the capital, Damascus. The medical relief organization said a second attack with mixed agents had hit a nearby building. One video circulated by activists shows the lifeless bodies of around a dozen men, women, and children, some with foam at their mouths.
The US State Department said reports out of Douma are horrifying. Last year, the US launched a cruise missile strike on a Syrian Air Base in response to a sarin gas attack in northwestern Syrian, which was blamed on Assad. Reuters has not been able to independently verify the reports and the Syrian state denies launching the chemical attack.
It's been carrying out a fierce campaign to capture Eastern Ghouta, the last major rebel held area near the capital. President Bashar Al-Assad has won back control of nearly all of the area, leaving just Douma in rebel hands. After a lull of a few days, government forces began bombarding the city on Friday.
Syrian state media said the attack had been fabricated by Jaish al-Islam, the rebel group in Douma, to quote, obstruct the advances by the Syrian Arab army. Early on Sunday, state media reported that Jaish had asked to open negotiations with the Syrian government. There was no immediate comment from the rebel group.