US warns Assad may be using chemical weapons again in Syria

US warns Assad may be using chemical weapons again in Syria
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The Trump administration said this week it has seen signs that Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad may have renewed his use of chemical weapons in Syria’s years-long civil war, warning of a quick U.S. response if such an action is confirmed.

The State Department said Tuesday it has seen indications of a possible chlorine gas attack in northwest Syria on Sunday morning, adding it is still reviewing evidence. The agency warned that the U.S. and allies will “respond quickly and appropriately” if they find that chemical weapons were used. 

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“The May 19 alleged attack in northwest Syria is part of a violent campaign by the Assad regime that violates a ceasefire that has protected several million civilians in the greater Idlib area,” the State Department said in a statement

“The regime’s attacks against the communities of northwest Syria must end. The United States reiterates its warning, first issued by President TrumpDonald John TrumpSupreme Court comes to Trump's aid on immigration Trump is failing on trade policy Trump holds call with Netanyahu to discuss possible US-Israel defense treaty MORE in September 2018, that an attack against the Idlib de-escalation zone would be a reckless escalation that threatens to destabilize the region.” 

Idlib, a city in northwestern Syria, is home to thousands of anti-government fighters and has been pounded by air strikes as Damascus seeks to regain control over all Syrian territory.

However, James Jeffrey, the State Department’s special envoy for Syria, emphasized Wednesday to the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the agency has not confirmed the reports of chemical weapons use.

The State Department went on to bash disinformation campaigns from Assad and his allies in Russia who have blamed other groups for past chemical strikes after the Russian Ministry of Defense said U.S.-trained rebels were responsible for what they said was a “false flag” attack.

“[T]he Assad regime itself has conducted almost all verified chemical weapons attacks that have taken place in Syria—a conclusion the United Nations has reached over and over again,” the State Department said. “The Assad regime’s culpability in horrific chemical weapons attacks is undeniable.”

The U.S., with its European allies, have struck Syria twice in retaliation for chemical attacks on civilians, once in April 2017 and again in April 2018. 

The Syrian civil war has dragged on for eight years since it began in 2011, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians and forcing millions of Syrians to flee violence.