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Tuesday
Mar192013

Syrian Regime and Rebels Accuse Each Other of Chemical Use

Scott Peterson/Getty Images(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- Both the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and the rebels fighting it accused each other on Tuesday of using chemicals in the latest fighting of the two-year civil war.

The regime accused the rebels of firing a rocket with “chemical materials” into an area outside the city of Aleppo, while the rebels said there had been deaths and injuries in a regime attack in eastern Damascus.

Twenty-five civilians were killed and 86 were wounded in the rebels’ Aleppo attack, Syrian state-run media SANA said.  Photos posted online showed men, women and children apparently unconscious on hospital beds. 

The regime blamed “terrorists” -- its catch-all term for rebel fighters -- who “launched a rocket containing chemical materials.”  Most of the wounded, SANA reported, were in critical condition.

The watchdog group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed on their Facebook page that a rocket killed 26 people but made no mention of any chemical elements.

Meanwhile, opposition activists circulated a video allegedly from eastern Damascus showing young men with respirators on their faces, one covered with a white substance.

The Obama administration and its allies have warned that any regime use of chemical weapons would cross a “red line,” prompting an undefined response.  The regime hasn’t admitted to having chemical weapons but officials have said they wouldn’t be used against Syrians.

A defector who worked in Syria’s chemical weapons program told ABC News in December that the arsenal includes the highly deadly nerve agents VX and Sarin, as well as mustard gas, confirming what foreign intelligence agencies believed.

Rebel groups have previously accused the regime of using chemical weapons, but the rebels weren’t believed to have any chemical stockpile themselves.

There have been reports of the Syrian army moving its chemical components and the U.S. alleged to have intelligence that some of the components had indeed been mixed.  But there has been no hard evidence of the use of the deadliest elements in Syria’s chemical arsenal.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio