The US State Department said on Tuesday that it would respond “quickly and appropriately” if it finds that the Syrian regime has recently deployed chemical weapons.
State Department spokesperson, Morgan Ortagus, said: “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. We are still gathering information on this incident but we repeat our warning that if the Assad regime uses chemical weapons, the US and our allies will respond quickly and appropriately.”
A sarin gas attack in April 2017 in the town of Khan Sheikhun killed 83 people, according to the UN, leading President Donald Trump to order a strike of 59 cruise missiles on a Syrian air base.
The statement accused Russia and Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces of “a continuing disinformation campaign … to create the false narrative that others are to blame for chemical weapons attacks”.
The State Department referred to the false narratives Russian government-run media have been circulating about the White Helmets — a group that tries to rescue civilians during strikes — as part of an attempt to place blame on others for chemical attacks. “The facts, however, are clear. The Assad regime itself has conducted almost all verified chemical weapons attacks that have taken place in Syria — a conclusion the UN has reached over and over again,” the statement said.
The Russia Ministry of Defence accused Syrian rebels, including “specialists who have been trained in Raqqa city under the guidance of US intelligence officers,” of planning a “false flag” chemical weapons attack to frame the Syrian regime in Idlib. “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 ministry said.
Ortagus added: “The US reiterates its warning, first issued by President Trump in September 2018, that an attack against the Idlib de-escalation zone would be a reckless escalation that threatens to destabilise the region.”