Dozens have died from a suspected chemical attack in Syria

The Idlib Media Center says dozens of people died of suffocation while the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group put the death toll at 35 on Tuesday.

There was no comment from the government in Damascus in the immediate aftermath of the attack, which activists said was the worst since the 2013 toxic gas attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta that killed hundreds of civilians.

The Syrian activists claimed the attack was caused by an airstrike carried out either by Syrian government or Russian warplanes. Damascus blamed it on rebels.

Ayrault said "chemical weapons" had been used in the attack and that it was "more proof of the savagery that the Syrian people have been subjected to for so many years".

The first raids took place near a bakery near the northern entrance of Khan Sheikhoun, Majd said.

But that hasn't meant that Syrian government forces have stopped carrying out chemical attacks.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the attack was "monstrous" and added, "I have called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council".

The Syrian Observatory (SOHR) quoted medics as saying that they had been treating people with symptoms including fainting, vomiting and foaming at the mouth.

Dr. AbdulHai Tennari, a pulmonologist who treated dozens of patients in the Tuesday attack, said it appeared to be more serious than a chlorine attack.

EU's diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said the regime of Bashar al Assad bears "primary responsibility" for the attack.

The Russian Defence Ministry said on Tuesday that Russian planes had not carried out air strikes on Idlib.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the suspected attack, Turkish presidential sources said.

The two leaders also have emphasised the importance of the maintenance of an ongoing ceasefire in Syria.

Idlib province contains the largest populated area controlled by the anti-Assad rebels - both nationalist Free Syrian Army groups and Islamist factions including the former al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front.

Idlib's population has ballooned, with thousands of fighters and civilians shuttled out of Aleppo city and areas around Damascus that the government has retaken in recent months as Assad has gained the upper hand in the war.

US air strikes since January have also hit several areas in the rural province where jihadists have a powerful presence.

Global law prohibits chemical attacks.

In a report in October previous year, the inquiry said that government forces used chemical weapons at least three times in 2014-2015 and that Islamic State used mustard gas in 2015.

In the wake of the 2013 attack, President Bashar Assad agreed to a Russia-sponsored deal to destroy his chemical arsenal and joined the Chemical Weapons Convention.

  • Leroy Wright