In what would be a deadly new low in the Syrian conflict, both sides are accusing each other of launching a chemical attack near the city of Aleppo. A Reuters photographer visited a hospital where people were suffering from breathing problems. “I saw mostly women and children,” he said. “They said that people were suffocating in the streets and the air smelt strongly of chlorine.” The Syrian government claims the rebels launched a chemical-laden rocket, killing at least 25 people and wounding 86, while the rebels say the regime fired the weapon. President Obama previously warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that the use of chemical weapons would be a “red line.”
Information Minister Omran al-Zoabi said rebels fired "a rocket containing poison gases" at the town of Khan al-Assal, southwest of Aleppo, from the city's southeastern district of Nairab, part of which is rebel-held.
"The substance in the rocket causes unconsciousness, then convulsions, then death," the minister said.
But a senior rebel commander, Qassim Saadeddine, who is also a spokesman for the Higher Military Council in Aleppo, denied this, blaming Assad's forces for the alleged chemical strike.
"We were hearing reports from early this morning about a regime attack on Khan al-Assal, and we believe they fired a Scud with chemical agents," he told Reuters by telephone from Aleppo.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Tuesday was already calling for the U.S. to put American troops on the ground inside Syria to secure the weapons of mass destruction.
Graham told The Cable in an interview Tuesday that whether or not the attack can be confirmed as the first use of chemical weapons in the 24-month Syrian civil war, the United States must devise and implement a plan to secure Syrian chemical weapons sites and deploy U.S. troops to do it if necessary.
"My biggest fear beyond an Iranian nuclear weapons capability is the chemical weapons in Syria falling in the hands of extremists and Americans need to lead on this issue. We need to come up with a plan to secure these weapons sites, either in conjunction with our partners if nothing else by ourselves," Graham said.
Asked if he would support sending U.S. troops inside Syria for the mission, Graham said yes.
"Absolutely, you've got to get on the ground. There is no substitute for securing these weapons," he said. "I don't care what it takes. We need partners in the region. But I'm here to say, if the choice is to send in troops to secure the weapons sites versus allowing chemical weapons to get in the hands of some of the most violent people in the world, I vote to cut this off before it becomes a problem."