BEIRUT: A suspected Syrian government chemical attack killed scores of people, including children, in Syria’s north-western province of Idlib on Tuesday, a monitoring group, medics and rescue workers in the rebel-held area said.

The Syrian military denied responsibility and said it would never use chemical weapons.

The head of the health authority in rebel-held Idlib said more than 50 people had been killed and 300 wounded. The Union of Medical Care Organisations, a coalition of international aid agencies that funds hospitals in Syria, said at least 100 people had died.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attack killed at least 58 people and was believed to have been carried out by Syrian government jets. It caused many people to choke, and some to foam at the mouth.

Director Rami Abdulrahman said the assessment that Syrian government warplanes were to blame was based on several factors such as the type of aircraft, including Sukhoi 22 jets, that carried out the raid.

“We deny completely the use of any chemical or toxic material in Khan Sheikhun town today and the army has not used nor will use in any place or time neither in past or in future,” the Syrian army command said in a statement.

The Russian Defence Ministry said its aircraft had not carried out the attack. The UN Security Council was expected to meet on Wednesday to discuss the incident.

Photographs showed people breathing through oxygen masks and wearing protection suits, while others carried the bodies of dead children, and corpses wrapped in blankets lined up on the ground.

Activists in northern Syria circulated pictures on social media showing a man with foam around his mouth, and rescue workers hosing down almost-naked children squirming on the floor.

Published in Dawn, April 5th, 2017

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