Editor's note: The following story contains disturbing images.
Syrian opposition groups claim that President Bashar Assad’s forces used “poisonous gas” to attack rebel-held suburbs of Damascus, killing dozens, possibly hundreds of Syrians including children early Wednesday morning
The Associated Press is quoting two Syrian opposition groups, including the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights which reported intense artillery shelling after midnight of the suburbs of Zamalka, Arbeen and Ein Tarma.
Almost a year ago to the day -- August 20, 2012 -- President Barack Obama said any chemical weapons use by Syria was a "red line" that would change the “calculus” regarding U.S. involvement in the ongoing conflict in which more than 100,000 have reportedly been killed.
In the hours after the reported attack, vastly different casualty figures were being reported.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said ''rockets with poisonous gas heads" killed "tens of people." The Local Coordination Committees put the number at hundreds killed or injured.
Accurate figures are often not obtainable for hours or days after reported events in Syria, as media coverage is severely restricted by both the government and the dangerous conditions.
Ynet reports that Syrian state television quoted a source who said there is "no truth whatsoever" to the reports, adding that the allegations are aimed at distracting a U.N. chemical weapons investigation team presently in the country.
TheBlaze is unable to verify the opposition groups’ claims.
Opposition activists have loaded at least half a dozen videos to YouTube purporting to show men, women and child victims of the reported attacks. The videos show the victims shaking violently, with glassy eyes, frothing at the mouth, and gasping for air indicating the use of a nerve agent.
Adults and children who appear to be severely ill are shown in the videos inside inadequately equipped makeshift hospitals as medical workers try to help them. Desperate cries of “Allahu Akbar” are heard by those taking the videos as the gruesome scenes are revealed.
One video shows adults and children on the floor as first aid workers pour water on their heads, while a man in the background is heard shouting repeatedly, “Oh Allah! Children!”
TheBlaze is unable to confirm the veracity of the videos several of which have been posted on other news sites including Israel National News, Ynet and the Times of Israel.
In another disturbing video, children are seen being wrapped in white sheets, then added to rows of what appear to be dozens of dead bodies (we've chosen not to embed the video, but you can watch it by clicking this link):
A U.N. chemical weapons investigation team led by Swedish expert Ake Sellstrom arrived in Damascus Sunday to investigate three other sites where chemical weapons attacks were reported to have previously occurred. Opposition groups want the 20-member team to visit the site of the latest alleged attacks.
Syria is believed to hold one of the world’s largest stockpiles of chemical weapons which are reported to include mustard gas and sarin.
The Syrian government has in the past denied opposition group claims that it has used chemical weapons and in fact has accused Islamist extremists of themselves employing chemical weapons.
This story has been update to reflect when the attack is said to have happened.