TODAY   |  August 21, 2013

Syrian rebels report new series of chemical attacks

Syrian rebels have said a new series ofchemical attacks struck early Wednesday morning. NBC ‘s Richard Engel reports.

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>> with syria this morning. richard engle is there. i know you have been talking to representatives from the rebel group there. what are you hearing about an alleged gas attack by the government?

>> good morning, savannah. if this is confirmed it would be one of the worst atrosties of the war in syria . there was a series of chemical weapons attack this morning starting around 2:00 a.m . at least 10 different towns and villages to the east and north of damascus were hurt by surface to surface rockets fired by the regime and they were tipped with chemical weapons . the death toll according to rebels we spoke to who are in the affected areas more than 1,000. they say that many of those killed were women and children . we have seen videos of lifeless bodies showing no apparent external injuries. according to witnesses in the area, many of the symptoms before death including shortness of breath, constricted pupils and foaming at the mouth.

>> and this civil war has been going on for some time. now recently the regime seemed to be regaining the upper hand but is there anything particular going on right now that might have precipitated this kind of alleged attack?

>> these areas, and by the way, the syrian government strongly denies that it carried out these attacks, that it used any chemical weapons . these areas outside of damascus were incircled by the regime. they were considered important because the rebels were so close to damascus right on the edge of the syrian capitol but the timing about this is also very interesting because un weapon's inspectors are in syria right now, in damascus . in fact, just a few miles away from where the alleged attacks took place. they are there with the specific mission to find out if chemical weapons are being used in this conflict and rebels we have been speaking to are inviting the weapon's inspectors to come to these areas. they say, however, it is difficult to access certain of these towns and villages because there is still gas in the air.

>> richard engle reporting out of syria . we know you'll continue to follow it and keep us posted. thank you.