White House blames Obama admin for suspected Syria chemical attack

WASHINGTON DC - White House press secretary Sean Spicer said on Tuesday that a suspected chemical attack in a Syrian town was a "consequence of the past administration's weakness and irresolution."

"Today's attack is reprehensible and cannot be ignored by the civilized world," Spicer told reporters. "These heinous actions by the Bashar al Assad regime are a consequence of the past administration's weakness and irresolution. President Obama said in 2012 that he'd establish a red line against the use of chemical weapons and then did nothing. The US stands with our allies across the globe to condemn this intolerable act."

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan at the Department of State, ignored questions from reporters about the alleged chemical attack.

The alleged gas attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in northern Syria killed at least 58 civilians, including 11 children, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a U.K.-based monitoring group.

The attack appeared to involve a gas that caused victims to choke and faint, according to the observatory, the Syria Civil Defense and residents. Warplanes later struck the same town again, hitting a hospital where some of the victims were being treated.

“What moved us most was when we entered a house and saw a whole family -- a father, a mother and four children killed because of the chemical attack,” Abdullah al Hussein, a Syria Civil Defense volunteer, who was at the scene, told ABC News in a voice recording in Arabic. “They had been asleep. They were in their beds. The truth is that what happened today was painful in all meanings of the word.”

He said that many were still asleep when the attack happened. He saw more than 100 injured and at least 20 bodies of children, women and men at one of the hospitals tasked with treating the wounded, he said.

Muneer, a school teacher who lives in Khan Sheikhoun, said he was alone at home when he heard the attack.

“I hid in the corner of the room,” Muneer, who asked that his last name not be published for security concerns, told ABC News via a messaging app in Arabic. He said he lives in the center of the town and the attack took place in the northern part. When he later tried to approach the area that was struck, people told him not to go any further. “They warned me that I would faint if I came close,” he said, “so I stopped walking.”

He said schools were closed today.

“The hospital in Khan Sheikhoun was filled with injured, children, women and men and a smell of chlorine was filling the place,” Mohammad Alshagel, a media activist with the Aleppo Media Center who visited the hospital, told ABC News. “The injured had heavy choking symptoms and some of them died five minutes after arriving even though medical staff tried to help them.” He said the hospital was attacked after he left.

Alshagel said he has witnessed the aftermath of several chemical attacks in Aleppo, but they were not as bad as this one.

“It was a horrible scene. Children were crying, asking for their parents who had died and women were screaming,” he said.

Raed al Saleh, the head of the White Helmets, told ABC News that five rockets also hit the volunteer group’s center in the town, destroying equipment.

Two days ago, an airstrike hit a hospital near Khan Sheikhoun, injuring at least one patient and one nurse, according to the Syrian American Medical Society.

Today’s attack comes after two other recent suspected chemical attacks in Syria. On March 30, barrel bombs containing chemical agents injured 166 civilians and seven medical staff in Hama in western Syria, according to SAMS. On March 25, two people were killed, including Ali Darwish, a specialist orthopedic surgeon, in another chemical attack on a hospital in Hama, said SAMS.

© 2017 ABC News


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