Syrian forces bombarded rebel-held suburbs in Damascus on Thursday, Reuters reported activists as saying, after the opposition accused the army of gassing hundreds in a chemical weapons attack in the Ghouta district of the capital  on Wednesday.
Speaking from Ghouta, activist Khaled Amer told Reuters that explosions from rockets hitting Zamalka were being heard. In Jobar, a Damascus neighborhood only three kilometers from the historic center of the ancient capital, explosions were heard at an army fortification and another compound housing tanks, apparently from a rebel attack on the facilities.
Fadi al-Shami of the Tahrir al-Sham Brigade, which operates in the eastern Ghouta area, said scattered fighting was taking place along the Jobar-Zamalka axis and that opposition forces have moved closer to loyalist lines, partly to be in safer positions in case of another chemical attack.
The assault could be considered the world’s most lethal chemical weapons attack since 1988 when thousands of Kurds were gassed in Halabcha, a town in the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan in Iraq, by Saddam Hussein’s forces.
The chemical assault prompted meeting of the U.N. Security Council in New York.
While Western and regional countries called for U.N. chemical weapons investigators , who arrived in Damascus four days ago, to be urgently dispatched to the scene, Syria’s two main allies, Iran and Russia denied such allegations against Assad’s regime.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Thursday the Syrian government could not have been behind a possible chemical weapon attack as Assad’s forces had the upper hand in the fighting, Agence France-Presse reported.
“If the use of chemical weapons is true, it has definitely been carried out by terrorist ... groups, because they have proved in action that they refrain from no crime,” Iran’s Press TV quoted Zarif as telling his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu, in a telephone conversation.
Meanwhile, Russia on Wednesday described the Syrian opposition claims of the Ghouta assault as “premeditated provocation.”