Nightly News   |  August 21, 2013

Nerve gas attack in Syria?

The Syrian government denies using chemical weapons, but new images are being held up by Syrian rebels as evidence of what could be the worst chemical weapons attack anywhere since Saddam Hussein gassed Iraqi Kurds in 1988. NBC’s Richard Engel reports.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> our next story is frankly going to be difficult to watch, but the images you're about to see are so important because they're being held up tonight by syrian rebels as evidence of what may be the worst chemical weapons attack anywhere since saddam hussein gassed iraqi kurds in 1988 . if these claims are true, it could mean a new level of horror in an already bloody war now in its third year. joining was the latest is our chief foreign correspondent, richard engle. richard ?

>> reporter: good evening, lester. syrian rebels say hundreds, perhaps well over 1,000 civilians were killed, and again, these images are disturbing. the dead covered the floors of improvised clinics. no fizzable injuries, no blood. they appear to be sleeping. survivors were doused with water to wash off the chemicals rebels say kill sod many. their symptoms, shortness of breath, dilated pupils, and panic. this girl shouts, "i'm alive, i'm still alive." as a man tries to calm her. her parents and sister did not survive. about a third of the dead are children, rebels say, their bodies laid out in rows, killed as they slept in their homes. we spoke by skype to an opposition activist near the attacks.

>> we still having this on earth where we can see how assad is killing those innocent children just because we said that we want freedom, we want our dignity back?

>> reporter: these are some of the least graphic images from dozens of videos released by the syrian opposition and unverified by nbc news. many too disturbing to broadcast.

>> that is disturbing and horrible.

>> reporter: we showed the footage to an independent chemical weapons expert.

>> these pictures are obviously compatible with the well-known symptoms of nerve gas attack.

>> reporter: not one attack, rebels say, but a barrage of surface-to-surface rockets filled with poison gas and fired at at least ten villages outside damascus early this morning. the syrian government denies using chemical weapons , something president obama has warned against.

>> that's a red line for us, and there would be enormous consequences.

>> reporter: but washington never backed up that threat, even after u.s. intelligence said in june that syria had used chemical weapons . inaction, rebels say, that embolden the syrian regime but now go much further. what was never supposed to happen again seems to be happening again and again. today's alleged atrocities took place just a few miles away from u.n. inspectors. they were denied access to the affected areas by the syrian government. the white house is demanding a full investigation.

>> all right, richard . thank you.