The Syrian Army claimed on Thursday that a United States-led airstrike hit a chemical weapons depot under the control of Islamic State group, killing hundreds of people including civilians. The U.S., however, has rejected the suggestions.
In a statement aired on Syrian state television on Thursday, the army claimed that a coalition attack late Wednesday on the village of Hatla in the eastern Deir al-Zor province hit a chemical weapons depot, which sent toxic chemicals into the air killing “hundreds, including many civilians."
The footage on state television showed dark smoke billowing out from across a cityscape. The Syrian Army says that Wednesday’s attack proved that the Islamic State group and other Islamic militants groups “possessed chemical weapons.”
“This is what Syria has warned of every time terrorist groups used chemical weapons against the civilians and Syrian Arab Armed Forces,” the army said, according to the Syrian Arab News Agency.
The army’s claim, however, is yet to be verified and has been denied by the U.S and coalition forces. “The Syrian claim is incorrect and likely intentional misinformation,” U.S. Air Force Colonel John Dorrian, a spokesman for the coalition, said to Reuters.
“The Russian Defense Ministry has no information confirming reports about the deaths of people and level of destruction as a result of bombardment by planes of the international coalition in the area,” ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said according to Russian outlet TASS.
Konashenkov added that Russia had sent drones to the area to monitor the area.
The Syrian claims come as U.S. Navy warships launched a series of Tomahawk missiles against the Syrian Army last Thursday that killed up to 15 people. The attack on an airbase in the western city of Homs was justified on the claim that the Syrian government of Bashar Assad had carried out a chemical attack on its own citizens which killed around 70 people.
The fallout from the attack has led to a series of finger-pointing between the major players in the conflict. The U.S.-led international coalition, along with a host of other Western countries, has continued to put the blame on Assad. Russia, however, has not accused Assad of an attack, leading to claims from the U.S. and its allies that Moscow knew about the attacks and is part of a cover-up.
“There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the chemical weapons convention and ignored the urging of the U.N. Security Council,” U.S. President Donald Trump said when announced the attack to the media.
The U.S., however, has not presented evidence of Assad or Russia’s culpability in the chemical attack and Russian President Putin branded the attack a "false flag" incident carried out by extremist rebels with the intention of framing Syrian authorities.
In an interview this week with Fox Business, Trump said that Putin was aligning himself with “a truly evil person,” adding that the U.S. approach on Syria “should have been done by the Obama administration a long time before I did it.”Yesterday, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, came together for a tense meeting in Moscow. Lavrov said that the U.S. had failed – like many other times in history – to provide hard evidence that Assad was behind the chemical attack to justify its own assault.