US concludes Syria used chemical weapons in May attack

US concludes Syria used chemical weapons in May attack
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The United States has concluded the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad carried out a chlorine attack in May, Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoCountries reach agreement in Berlin on Libya cease-fire push, arms embargo Trump Jr.: If 'weaker' Republicans only call for certain witnesses, 'they don't deserve to be in office' House Democrats may call new impeachment witnesses if Senate doesn't MORE said Thursday.

Pompeo’s announcement marks the first confirmed instance of chemical weapons use in Syria since a U.S. military strike in 2018 in response to chemical attack.

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“Today I am announcing that the United States has concluded the Assad regime used chlorine as a chemical weapon on May 19 in an attack in Latakia province, Syria,” Pompeo told reporters in New York.

“This attack is part of the Assad regime’s ongoing violent campaign in Idlib, which has killed more than 1,000 innocent Syrians and displaced hundreds of thousands more,” Pompeo added. “It is also the latest instance of a long pattern of Assad’s chemical weapons attacks that have killed or wounded thousands of Syrians.”

The State Department had said in May that it had received reports of chemical weapons use, but that it was still gathering information on the incident.

The Syrian government has denied using chemical weapons.

The United States has twice struck Syria in response to chemical weapons attacks. The first came in April 2017, when the U.S. military struck a Syrian airfield in response to a sarin gas attack in Idlib.

Then in April 2018, the U.S. military struck sites associated with Assad’s chemical weapons program in retaliation for a chemical attack in a Damascus suburb.

On Thursday, Pompeo said the United States “would not allow these attacks to go unchallenged.”

But when pressed on how the United States would respond, Pompeo demurred.

“I don’t want to get out in front of the responses that we will take,” he said.

Pompeo did differentiate between the May attack and those for which the United States launched retaliatory strikes, saying “this is different in some sense in that it was chlorine.”

“But know that President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rails against impeachment in speech to Texas farmers Trump administration planning to crack down on 'birth tourism': report George Conway on Trump adding Dershowitz, Starr to legal team: 'Hard to see how either could help' MORE has been pretty vigorous in protecting the world from the use of chemical weapons,” Pompeo said. “The Syrian regime should know and the world should appreciate the fact that we’re going to do everything we can reasonably do to prevent this kind of thing from happening again, which starts with identifying both what took place and who should properly be held accountable for that.”

Pompeo also announced Thursday sanctions against Russian entities for facilitating the delivery of jet fuel to Russian forces operating in Syria. Russia’s military is backing Assad in the 8-year-old civil war.