Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may be preparing a chemical weapons attack that would result in the “mass murder” of civilians, the White House said today, warning the regime would pay a “heavy price” if it goes ahead.
The White House said the preparations were similar to those undertaken by the Assad regime ahead of an apparent chemical attack on a rebel-held town. Washington launched a strike against a Syrian airbase in response.
“The United States has identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children,” spokesman Sean Spicer said in a statement.
“The activities are similar to preparations the regime made before its April 4, 2017 chemical weapons attack.”
Assad, backed by his ally Russia, has strongly denied the allegation that his forces used chemical weapons against the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun, describing it as a “100 percent fabrication”.
He has said repeatedly that his forces turned over all chemical weapons stockpiles in 2013, under a deal brokered by Russia to avoid threatened US military action.
The agreement was later enshrined in a United Nations Security Council resolution.
But US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis previously warned that there was “no doubt” that Syria had in fact retained some chemical weapons. An Israeli military assessment also found that Assad’s regime was still in possession of “a few tonnes” of chemical weapons.