French newspaper Le Monde reported Monday that the Syrian army is using chemical weapons against rebel forces in the outskirts of Damascus, quoting two of its journalists who were in the area in April and May.
The journalists "witnessed over several consecutive days" the use of explosive chemical weapons and their effects on rebel fighters in the village of Jobar on the outskirts of the capital, reporter Jean-Philippe Remy wrote.
Photographer Laurent Van der Stockt reported that on April 13 he saw fighters "suffocating and vomiting" in the area after an apparent attack using chemical weapons.
Le Monde said the photographer also suffered blurred vision and breathing problems for four days after the attack.
The journalists said they had gathered witness accounts of the use of chemical weapons in a large area around Damascus.
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"In two months spent in the area of the Syrian capital, we encountered similar cases across a much larger region," Le Monde wrote.
"The seriousness of the cases, their increasing frequency and the tactic of using such weapons show that not simply tear gas is being used, but another class of products that are much more toxic."
One doctor in a rebel-held area told the newspaper that the weapons caused breathing difficulties, headaches and nausea, and could cause death if victims were not treated.
"The gases are used on the front on an ad hoc basis, avoiding widespread use that would easily provide irrefutable evidence," Remy wrote.
A top UN envoy said Wednesday there are "mounting reports" of the use of chemical weapons in Syria and called on Damascus to let in UN investigators.