Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a television interview today that there is a "high probability" that chemical weapons have been used in Syria.
"I have a high probability to believe that chemical weapons were used. We need that final verification, but given everything we know over the last year and a half, I, Mike Rogers, Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, come to the conclusion that either they are positioned for use and ready to do that, or in fact have been used. Both of those scenarios I think we need to step up in the world community to prevent a humanitarian disaster that we haven't seen since Halabja twenty-five years ago in Iraq where they killed 30,000 people with chemical weapons" (http://bit.ly/15ZpEH9).
Allegations came from both sides today following a rocket attack near the northern Syrian city of Aleppo in which at least 26 people were killed.
Video news reports from Syrian state television hospitals in Aleppo show the wounded civilians being treated, but there is no clear evidence of wounds indicative of chemical weapons' use.
A Reuters photographer on the scene said he saw "mostly women and children" with no physical wounds and were having problems breathing. He also reported a strong "chlorine smell" in the air (http://reut.rs/WAJrtM).
The Syrian government immediately claimed that the rebels used chemical weapons in the attack. Russian officials' statements today also claim that it was the rebels who used chemical weapons.
Syrian information minister Omran al-Zoubi, speaking to the pro-government Al-Ikhbariya TV station. Syria's state-run news agency, SANA, said the rocket, fired from Nairab district in Aleppo into Khan al-Assal village on Tuesday, contained "poisonous gases."
Faisal Meqdad, Syria's deputy foreign minister, is sending a letter to the U.N. Security Council "calling on it to handle its responsibilities and clarify a limit to these crimes of terrorism and those that support it inside Syrian Arab Republic" He also warned that the conflict could spread beyond the borders of Syria. "This is rather a starting point from which it will spread to the entire region, if not the entire world," he said (http://reut.rs/WAJrtM).
The White House stated that they are evaluating the allegations on both sides but were not ready to say that chemical weapons were in fact used.
"We are looking carefully at allegations of ... chemical weapons use, we are evaluating them," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters. "We have no evidence to substantiate the charge that the opposition has used chemical weapons," he said.
"We are deeply skeptical of a regime that has lost all credibility and we would also warn the regime against making these kinds of charges as any kind of pretext or cover for its use of chemical weapons" Carney continued (http://reut.rs/WBnBWZ).
If confirmed this would be the first time chemicals have been used in the two-year long Syrian Civil War that has already claimed nearly 70,000 lives.