THE US last night warned Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad it will respond "quickly and appropriately" after signs he launched another deadly chemical weapons attack.
A US State Department spokesperson said an investigation is underway after an apparent chlorine gas strike in northwest Syria on Sunday.
The alleged attack would be in violation of a ceasefire that has protected several million civilians in the greater Idlib area – seen by the Syrian regime as a rebel stronghold.
State Department spokeswoman 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 United States and our allies will respond quickly and appropriately."
The chilling statement added: "The regimes attacks against the communities of northwest Syria must end.
"The United States 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 destabilize the region."
The Trump administration has twice bombed Syria over Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons – in April 2017 and April 2018.
In September, a senior US official said there was evidence showing chemical weapons were being prepared by Syrian government forces in Idlib – the last major rebel stronghold in the country.
Cmdr Sean Robertson, a Pentagon spokesman, warned last night: "The Assad regime must not repeat the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
"There should be no doubt as to our determination to act strongly and swiftly should the Assad regime use these weapons again in the future."
The State Department statement also accused Russia and Assad's forces of "a continuing disinformation campaign" blaming others for chemical attacks.
But it added: "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 United Nations has reached over and over again."
Any use of chemical weapons would be met by a very strong response, as we've done twice before
Syria has been known to resort to chemical weapons when fighting intensifies, a US defense source said.
There was no immediate comment from the Syrian government on the US statement.
In March, Syria claimed rebels shelled the government-held town of Hama with poison gas, injuring 21.
In January, US national security adviser John Bolton warned the Syrian government against using chemical weapons again.
He said at the time: "There is absolutely no change in the US position against the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime".
Bolton added that "any use of chemical weapons would be met by a very strong response, as we've done twice before."
It comes amid mounting tension between the US and Syria's allies Iran over its nuclear capabilities.
The Trump administration has ordered a huge deployment of warships and bombers to the region.
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