Syria's opposition accused President Bashar al-Assad's forces of gassing many hundreds of people - by one report as many as 1,300 - on Wednesday in what would, if confirmed, be the world's worst chemical weapons attack in decades.
Western and regional countries called for U.N. chemical weapons investigators - who arrived in Damascus just three days ago - to be urgently dispatched to the scene of one of the deadliest incidents of the two-year-old civil war.
Russia, too, urged an "objective" investigation but Assad's biggest foreign ally also heaped skepticism on his enemies' claims. A foreign ministry spokesman in Moscow said the release of gas after U.N. inspectors arrived suggested that it was a rebel "provocation" to discredit Syria's government.
Images, including some by freelance photographers supplied to Reuters, showed scores of bodies including of small children, laid on the floor of a clinic with no visible signs of injuries.
Reuters was not able to verify the cause of their deaths. The Syrian government denied that it had used chemical arms.Seems odd that Assad's forces would resort to using chemical weapons given their recent successes versus the odds it would generate a military response from the West.