Photo Gallery: Syria's Poison Gas Horror

Last week, Syrian President Bashar Assad used chemical weapons to kill hundreds of civilians as part of his bigger plan. Now the international community must decide if it's finally ready to step in -- or if they'll continue to look the other way.
1 / 13

At about 3 a.m. on Wednesday, rockets carrying chemical weapons fell to the ground in several parts of the East Ghouta district east of Damascus, as well as in Darayya and Muadhamiya in the southwestern part of the city. Here, activists inspect the bodies of people they say were killed by poison gas.

2 / 13

"Assad has been extremely calculating with the use of force," former US Army intelligence officer Joseph Holliday wrote in a study for the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War. "He's introducing chemical weapons gradually."

3 / 13

The weapons were deployed in the eastern end of Damascus. A doctor from Irbin and a volunteer from Douma said that it wasn't until the mosque loudspeakers repeatedly announced warnings of a gas attack and residents were told to keep all doors and windows closed that they realized what had happened.

4 / 13

Doctor Abu Akram said he had wanted to document and photograph every dead person, "but we kept getting new patients on Wednesday, while family members were simultaneously picking up the dead." Here, a man holds the body of a child activists say was killed by nerve gas in the Ghouta area.

5 / 13

Syrian President Bashar Assad, shown here, has belatedly given UN inspectors access to the site of the most recent attack, but, according to a senior Obama administration official the offer was "too late to be credible" because the delay had allowed evidence to decay.

Foto: REUTERS/ Sana
6 / 13

The Pentagon has developed intervention scenarios in response to Obama's requests. They range from training and support for the rebels to taking over and securing Assad's chemical weapons arsenals, which would require the deployment of up to 60,000 American troops to the country.

Foto: Jacquelyn Martin/ AP/dpa
7 / 13

Under Islamic religious law, the dead must be buried within a day, but it is almost impossible to simply leave bodies lying in the mid-August heat without electricity and cooling anyway. Many of the dead had already been buried by Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning, often in mass graves. Here, a photo provided by rebel-aligned Shaam News Network and authenticated by AP, showing several bodies being buried in a suburb of Damascus.

Foto: Uncredited/ AP/dpa
8 / 13

Now Obama is realizing the horrific images and numbers are forcing him to act. The two-year uprising has already claimed 100,000 lives. Here, people carry away a body in the Ghouta area.

9 / 13

It is unclear when exactly chemical weapons were used for the first time in the conflict. In December 2012, US officials reported that Syria was now using Scud missiles -- which can easily be fitted with chemical warheads -- in the northern part of the country. Soon afterwards, a day before Christmas, Al Jazeera reported on a gas attack in Homs that claimed seven lives. Here, a man walks inside the damaged historical souk of Homs.

10 / 13

In June, Obama had also promised aid for the rebels in the form of light weapons and ammunition. But in the ensuing months, rebel commanders in northern Syria reported that the deliveries had made it into Turkey but not across the border. Members of the Free Syrian Army are shown taking cover in a building in Aleppo.

11 / 13

Some two million Syrians have fled abroad. Many have even preferred to flee across the Tigris River into Iraq, also shaken by unrest, than be at the mercy of Assad's hate-filled militias at home. Here, a refugee camp in Erbil, northern Iraq.

Foto: Kamal Akrayi/ dpa
12 / 13

What exactly does America want? "Our strategy for the Middle East?" retired General James Mattis, the former supreme commander for the region, asked recently. "There is nothing there." Here, a column of smoke rises in the Jobar neighborhood of Damascus.

Foto: AP/dpa
13 / 13

One of the vehicles belonging to the UN inspectors in Damascus, shown here, was "deliberately shot at" by snipers on Monday, Aug. 26, according to the United Nations. A UN spokesperson said the shooting had taken place in the area between rebel and government control.