Reports of massive chemical attack near Damascus Syria Unverified

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Conflicting reports emerged of recent chemical weapons use in Syria. This comes on the same day that the UN inspectors arrive in Damascus to investigate allegations of use of toxic arms. The casualty figures range from dozens to almost 1,300 deaths. (WARNING: THE ARTICLE CONTAINS GRAPHIC PHOTOS) Initially, Al-Arabiya posted news of 280 victims on Twitter. Later, the news outlet upgraded the figure up to 1,188 victims quoting the Free Syrian Army. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights had a much lower figure, claiming dozens of people were killed, including children. News agencies such as Reuters and AP mostly put the numbers of victims at hundreds, but say that reports can't be independently verified. George Sabra, the president of the Syrian National Council -- Syria's main opposition group -- claimed that some 1,300 people were killed in government forces attacks near Damascus on Wednesday, and alleged that chemical weapons were used. Speaking at a news conference in Istanbul, Sabra also claimed it was "not the first time the regime has used chemical weapons." He added that he considered the Wednesday attack a "turning point" in Assad's military operations, alleging that the chemical were used "for annihilation rather than terror." Meanwhile, an RT Arabic correspondent managed to contact some locals who say they haven't witnessed any "poisonous attack" in the area. However, they point out that gunfire can be heard. Syrian authorities issued a statement saying there is "no truth whatsoever" to reports of chemical weapons use near Damascus. The incident reportedly took place in Ghouta, on the green agricultural belt territory surrounding the Syrian capital. The Ghouta region on the outskirts of Damascus is known for its opposition inclinations and has been the site of past clashes between government forces and the rebels. "Jabhat al-Nusra has had a long-time presence there and the region has borne the brunt of sustained military pressure for months now," Charles Lister, an analyst at IHS Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Center, told Reuters, referring to a hardline Sunni Islamist rebel group allied to al-Qaeda.

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