The Syrian regime forces have used some sort of lethal gas against opposition fighters in the besieged al-Khalidya and other areas in the central city of Homs, Al Arabiya television quoted activists as saying Monday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told AFP that at least six rebels were killed after inhaling “odorless gas and white smoke” emanating from bombs deployed by regime forces in clashes with opposition fighters.
While the activists couldn’t verify the type of toxic gases used, they said it was close to the deadly sarin that can cause extreme suffocation, nerve paralysis and temporary blindness.
According to the Observatory’s director, Rami Abdel Rahman, “these are not chemical weapons, but we do not know whether they are internationally prohibited.”
Russia, one of the few staunch allies of Syria, downplayed fears of chemical weapons being deployed.
“I do not believe Syria would use chemical weapons,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told English-language television channel RT. “It would be a political suicide for the government if it does.”
Medical doctors and nurses were not able to rescue the injured due scarcity of medical supplies, the opposition Syrian Revolutionary Council said.
Early December, NBC News reported that the Syrian military has loaded precursor chemicals for the deadly nerve gas sarin into aerial bombs and is awaiting final orders from President Bashar al-Assad.
U.S. officials told NBC News that the loaded aerial bombs could be dropped onto the Syrian people from dozens of fighter jets.
While the U.S. officials said that sarin bombs had not yet been loaded onto planes and that Assad had not yet issued a final order to deploy them, if confirmed, the move would mark a step further in Syria’s progression toward possibly using chemical weapons.
The opposition National Coalition, meanwhile, accused Damascus of committing a “massacre” of dozens of civilians in the bombing of a bakery -- an allegation fended off by the Assad regime.
On Monday, activists said at least 15 civilians were killed after Syrian regime forces bombed another bakery in Talbisa, Homs.
More than 44,000 people are estimated to have been killed since the eruption in March 2011.