U.S. suspects Syria in new chemical attack, threatens reprisal

Clay Curtis
May 25, 2019

"We do have numerous sources including interviews with those present during the attack that did report that a number of opposition fighters were taken to local hospitals and presented symptoms that were consistent with chemical exposure", State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told reporters.

Ortagus said the alleged attack was part of a violent campaign waged by President Assad and violates a ceasefire that has protected millions in the Idlib area.

The department also pushed back against Russian allegations against the civil defense agency, White Helmets, that blames Moscow for helping run a disinformation campaign to blame others for the chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

"We repeat our warning that if the Assad regime uses chemical weapons, the United States and our allies will respond quickly and appropriately", Ortagus said.

The war monitor, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said at least 100 air strikes hit rebel-held northwest Syria on Wednesday.

Syrian government officials said a power station close to the rebels' last stronghold in the country's northwest has been repaired after insurgents bombed the facility, kicking it off line.

One of the raids knocked out a health facility in Kfar Oweid village, the Observatory said.

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President Donald Trump ordered air strikes and missile attacks in April 2018 after the Syrian regime carried out a chemical weapons attack near Damascus that killed 40 people.

Donald Trump, the United States president, has twice acted in response to a "red line" over chemical weapons once set by his predecessor, Barack Obama.

The State Department statement accused Russian Federation and Assad's forces of "a continuing disinformation campaign.to create the false narrative that others are to blame for chemical weapons attacks".

A ceasefire is needed in Syria's Idlib province, which has seen a recent upsurge in violence, and the United States is working toward a halt to the clashes, which have put tremendous pressure on civilians there, U.S. envoy James Jeffrey said on Wednesday.

"The terrorists operating in the Idlib de-escalation zone, have a significant amount of toxic substances, which the militants equip ammunition for the performances of so-called use of chemical weapons against the civilian population by the government troops", the department said in a statement on its Facebook page.

"This time it was on rebel fighters, but there is nothing to say they won't use chemicals again - next time on civilians - if the United Kingdom and USA doesn't act".

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