United States not ruling out Syria strikes after new chemical attacks

A Syrian girl holds an oxygen mask over the face of an infant at a make-shift hospital following a reported gas attack

A Syrian girl holds an oxygen mask over the face of an infant at a make-shift hospital following a reported gas attack Credit AFP

They singled out Russian Federation, echoing comments from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other USA leaders who have said Moscow bears responsibility for the chemical attacks.

The officials reiterated US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's recent accusation that Russia, Mr Assad's ally in Syria's multi-sided civil war, bears some responsibility for failing to enforce the chemical weapons ban. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said three people suffered respiratory problems after a rocket attack.

"We are on the record and you all have seen how we reacted to that, so they would be ill-advised to go back to violating the chemical (weapons) convention", Mattis said.

But the officials stopped short of promising additional military action to halt Syria's use of chemical weapons.

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The senior US officials, speaking to journalists on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said there did not appear to have been any "large use" of banned munitions since April.

"Deterrence is something that you have to continually work at", said the second official.

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.

But while the Trump administration has resolved to punish Syria's use of chemical weapons with military force, a change in tactics from Damascus may complicate things. The scientists said the samples also matched those taken from the site of another alleged chemical attack past year.

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The officials said Syria's most recent alleged chemical weapons attack suggests President Bashar Assad's regime is developing more sophisticated weapons, according to the Associated Press.

But the officials said the USA believes Assad's government sees chemical attacks as an effective way to terrorize rebels and sympathetic populations into fleeing, therefore altering the demographic balance in the Alawite heartland where Assad is trying to consolidate control. "And that use will spread to USA shores".

In a recently released annual report, the White Helmets said that as many as 1,337 civilians had been killed in Eastern Ghouta a year ago amid ongoing attacks by regime forces.

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