Syria Opposition: U.N. Must Probe Kafr Zeita Poison Gas Claims

Syria’s opposition coalition called on the United Nations to investigate claims of poison gas attacks by government forces Sunday after activists said civilians were attacked in Kafr Zeita, a rebel-held village in Hama province some 125 miles north of Damascus.

The Syrian Coalition said reports from the area on Friday suggested “scores of civilians, including children, show symptoms including asphyxiation, involuntary salivating, and frothing at the mouth.”

“Assad has repeatedly defied the international community,” the group said in a statement. “He failed to meet international obligations, including handing over chemical weapons.”

What exactly happened Friday in Kfar Zeita remains unclear and likely won't be known for some time. Claims by both sides of the deadly civil war are almost impossible to verify. It took United Nations weapons inspectors months to say it was likely some chemical weapons attacks happened last year, including an August attack that killed hundreds and nearly sparked Western airstrikes against President Bashar Assad's forces.

A child crying in a still taken from amateur video recorded in Kfar Zeita on Friday. Syrian government media and rebel forces said that poison gas had been used in the village on Friday, injuring scores of people, while blaming each other for the attack. The video was provided by Shams News Network, an anti-Assad group. Shams News Network via AP

Online videos posted by rebel activists from Kfar Zeita echoed earlier images that sparked a world outcry, showing pale-faced men, women and children gasping for breath at a field hospital.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an activist group that relies on a network of on-the-ground volunteers, said the gas attack happened during air raids that left heavy smoke over the area, Reuters reported. It reported that people suffered from suffocation and breathing problems after the attack, but gave no further details.

In Washington, the State Department said Friday that the U.S. had no information to corroborate recent claims of a gas attack. Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said she would not speculate on any U.S. response if the reports were found to be accurate.

Reuters contributed to this report.

- Alastair Jamieson and Charlene Gubash