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03 February 2018, 09:41 | Colleen Roy
Rebel Syrian area hit by third 'chemical attack' as Assad regime increases pressure on opposition
And they're holding Moscow responsible.
Mattis said that Turkey has "legitimate security interests" in fighting the Kurdish PKK terrorist group before praising the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces for being the "one group that's proven capable" of helping fight ISIS in Syria.
"It will spread if we don't do something", the official warned. "They're trying to fool you".
President Donald Trump's administration is warning Syria that further chemical attacks will be met with a strike like the salvo of 59 cruise missiles that lit up a Syrian air base in April 2017.
The accusation comes a little more than a week after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley publicly denounced a chlorine gas attack that happened in January, pinning it on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. They offered no details of specific attacks, referring only to media reports.
However, a senior official said the Trump administration is hopeful this time that more sanctions and diplomatic pressure will help eliminate Assad's chemical weapon program, Reuters reported.
Russian Federation has already used its veto power in the UN Security Council 10 times to block action against Assad.
USA officials on Thursday said the Syrian military was shifting tactics to try to hide its role in using such weapons. On Thursday, the AP reported that rescue workers in the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Douma described a suspected chlorine gas attack that injured a number of civilians.
Eastern Ghouta is the last remaining rebel stronghold near the capital, Damascus, and has been under a government siege since 2013.
The regime appears to have weaponized chlorine again, Mattis said, but "we are even more concerned about the possibility of sarin use".
Mr Assad's forces have instead "evolved" their chemical weapons and made continued occasional use of them in smaller amounts since the attacks previous year, the officials told reporters in a briefing.
"They think they can get away with it if they keep it under a certain level".
The Syrian army and government have consistently denied using chlorine or other chemical weapons during the war and has said it cooperates with global investigations. The officials wouldn't answer that directly.
Despite Damascus agreeing to destroy its 1,300-tonne stockpile of industrial munition following a US-Russian deal after the Ghouta attack in 2013, United Nations inspectors found evidence of an ongoing chemical weapons programme in the country.
If not? "Our policy is zero tolerance of chemical weapons", the other official said. "Using military force is something that is still considered".
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