World leaders have condemned the alleged use of chemical weapons in the ongoing war in Syria.
Warning: Video contains disturbing images
Pope Francis called it an “unacceptable massacre” of innocent civilians.
Western countries including the United States blamed Syrian government forces for the attack, which choked scores of people to death in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province, a rebel-held area of northern Syria hit by government airstrikes. The Syrian army has denied any role.
“We look on horrified by the recent events in Syria,” Pope Francis told tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly general audience.
Expressing his “firm deploration of the unacceptable massacre that took place yesterday,” the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics said he was praying for “the defenceless victims, including many children.”
Francis appealed to “the consciences of those who hold political power, both at the local and international levels so that these tragedies end.”
Russia said on Wednesday contamination in the area was the result of gas leaking from a rebel chemical weapons depot after it was hit by Syrian government airstrikes.
Francis also condemned the bombing on Tuesday of the metro in St. Petersburg, Russia, which killed 14 people and wounded about 50 others.
The UN Syria Commission also condemned the attack
The commission said in a statement that “preliminary information indicates a number of civilian casualties, including children.”
“Reports suggesting that this was a chemical weapons attack are extremely concerning. The commission is currently investigating circumstances surrounding this attack, including the alleged use of chemical weapons and reports of subsequent attack on a medical facility where a number of injured persons were receiving treatment.”
While the opposition accused the Syrian air force of being behind the attack, a senior military officer, on condition of anonymity, said the rebels were the ones who used toxic gas against civilians to frame the Syrian army.
Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has named Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as the culprit in the attack. He is a “murderer,” Erdogan said on Wednesday.
Erdogan, while speaking at a campaign stop in Bursa, western Turkey, denounced a “world which remains silent”.
“The images of the dead children were heartbreaking. As a father, I am saddened,” Erdogan said.
He has been a staunch backer of the Syrian opposition.
In recent months, Turkey has toned down some of its rhetoric on Syria, amid closer relations with Russia.
In 2016, Turkey tried to work with Russia and Iran on implementing a ceasefire.
Turkey said its findings indicate that the attack which killed scores of people including children in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib was a chemical attack.
Health Minister Recep Akdag told reporters in Turkey’s northeastern province of Erzurum in comments broadcast live that around 30 people had been brought across the border to Turkish hospitals for treatment as of Tuesday.
He did not give details of the findings.
The U.S., Britain and France on Tuesday proposed a UN. Security Council resolution condemning the attack, which they have blamed on Syrian government forces.
French President Francois Hollande has called for sanctions against al-Assad’s regime.
“What France has demanded is that there be a Security Council resolution in the coming hours to establish an investigation, and on foot of that investigation there should be sanctions imposed against the Syrian regime,” Hollande said.
Al-Assad’s allies “must today be held accountable,” Hollande adds, accusing the Syrian leader’s supporters of being “accomplices to war crimes.”
The UN Security Council is meeting in New York to discuss a resolution regarding the incident, France is one of the permanent members of the council.
The U.S. President Donald Trump said a Syrian regime chemical attack against innocent civilians was “an affront to humanity by the Assad regime that cannot be tolerated’’.
“The U.S stands with our allies across the globe to condemn this horrific attack and all other horrific attacks for that matter,’’ Trump said after talks with Jordanian King Abdullah.