By Donovan Longo, Aug 22, 2013 12:02 PM EDT
Syrian activists are accusing the government of launching a deadly chemical weapon attack on their own people. The suburbs surrounding Damascus have been greatly affected, killing more than 200 innocent people as they slept in their beds. The survivors were sent to makeshift hospitals and mosques, where they received treatment and simply attempted to breathe.
Being described as "the town that never woke up" the Damascus suburb of Ain Tarma has been desolated overnight. The suburb that boasts about 1,300 residents is abandoned after the residents were gassed as they slept. The streets are deserted with the remaining survivors fleeing to makeshift treatment centers to recuperate and congregations being held in mosques to find some solace.
Photos and videos have been posted online showing the dead bodies of men, women and children who have no visible wounds. Many factors in this tragedy are still unknown, according to the Washington Post, the opposition puts the death toll in the hundreds, however amidst the chaos some say it was more than a thousand. Additionally the cause of death is still unconfirmed, however, the world is in agreement with one European expert who stated, "something terrible has happened.'' If the use of toxic agents is ruled as the cause of death, the gas attack would be by far the worst reported use of chemical arms in the two-year-old civil war.
Syria has denied reports claiming that they harnessed the use of chemical weapons to kill over 200 civilians.State television quoted a source as saying there was "no truth whatsever" to the reports. Despite the devastation in Ain Tarma and surrounding neighborhoods, President Bashar Assad's forces are reportedly pressing on with their offensive in the rebel-held eastern Damascus suburbs. Despite, the government's strong denial of responsibility, a recent White House report has placed the blame securely on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, referring to "reports that hundreds of Syrian civilians have been killed in an attack by Syrian government forces, including by the use of chemical weapons."
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If the chemical attack on civilians is confirmed, the US and President Obama will face a new obstacle. In 2012, Obama sent a direct warning to Syria that the use of chemical weapons would in turn cross the "red line," implying then that US intervention in Syria's civil war will be imminent.
"We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus," Obama said. "That would change my equation. . . . We're monitoring that situation very carefully. We have put together a range of contingency plans." However, a White House representative could not yet deliver a definitive answer whether the news of a supposed chemical attack would prompt America for action.
French foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has been outspoken with his desire for aiding the Syrian civilians, stating the international community should respond "with force" if the allegations are proven true. The attacks began after U.N. investigators had already arrived in Syria to investigate other incidents in which the US detected the use of chemical weapons. Witnesses the attack began when Russian-made Grad rockets began falling at around 2 a.m. in neighborhoods east of the capital, mostly in the suburbs, where the activists have been successfully repelling government forces, and serves as home to 1,300 innocent civilians.