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US Sees Signs of Alleged Chemical Attack by Syria, Warns of Quick Response

WASHINGTON – The United States denounced on Tuesday an alleged chemical weapons attack by forces loyal to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The alleged attack took place on May 19 in northwestern Syria, a country that has been ravaged by a civil war since 2011.

“Unfortunately, we continue to see signs that the Assad regime may be renewing its use of chemical weapons, including an alleged chlorine attack in northwest Syria on the morning of May 19, 2019,” the US Department of State spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

Washington said it was still gathering information about the incident, on which it did not provide any details, and reiterated a warning that the United States would act “quickly and appropriately” with its allies if it is proven the Damascus regime has used chemical weapons.

Ortagus said the alleged chemical attack is part of “a violent campaign by the Assad regime that violates the ceasefire that has protected several million civilians in the greater Idlib area.”

“This renewed Syrian regime offensive has targeted the communities of that area, which include a large number of Syrians who were already displaced from violence in others parts of Syria, and has destroyed known health facilities, schools, residences, and internally displaced person camps,” the statement added.

The US insisted that attacks by Syrian authorities on areas in the northwest of the country must cease and stated that “an attack against the Idlib de-escalation zone would be a reckless escalation that threatens to destabilize the region.”

The State Department criticized Moscow for its accusations against the so-called White Helmets, a volunteer organization that carries out rescue work in areas outside the control of the Syrian government.

It considered that the Russian allegations, which claim the White Helmets collaborate with terrorists in Syria, are part of “a continuing disinformation campaign by the Assad regime and Russia to create the false narrative that others are to blame for chemical weapons attacks that the Assad regime itself is conducting.”

The US government claimed that on Nov. 24, 2018, the Syrian and Russian government troops “attempted to fabricate a chemical weapons attack near Aleppo and blame it on opposition forces.”

Yesterday, loyalist Al-Assad forces and opponents clashed inside the Idlib detente area, despite an earlier announcement by the Syrian army of an unilateral cease fire in that area.

Most of Idlib is held by the Levant Liberation Organization, the former Syrian subsidiary of Al-Qaeda, and other Islamist organizations.

In Sept. 2018, Russia and Turkey, both supporters of the rebels, agreed to create a demilitarized zone around the Idlib enclave, but in recent weeks violence there has reignited.

The administration of US President Donald Trump has twice led military strikes involving aircraft and ship-based missiles against Syria in response to alleged chemical attacks by the Damascus government, in April 2017 and again in April 2018.


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