USA accuses Syria of chemical weapons use in East Ghouta

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

They may be developing the new weapons in order to improve their military capability or to escape global accountability, the officials said.

A United Nations report from September determined that Assad's forces had used chemical weapons dozens of times during the civil war, including a deadly toxic gas attack on the town of Khan Shaykhun in April, which killed at least 80 civilians.

Rather, the officials said Assad's forces are using the same chemicals - chlorine and sarin - but in more sophisticated ways, potentially to evade global accountability by making the origins of attacks harder to trace.

The officials also said the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, has continued to use chemical weapons in a much cruder and limited way.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Thursday the United States was "extremely concerned" about reports Syrian forces had carried out another chlorine gas attack this week in the eastern Ghouta area. Syria's chief ally, Russia, has claimed that the reports are false attempts to pressure Syria's government or provocations perpetrated by opposition groups.

Use of such widely deplored weapons comes with great risk for Assad, raising questions about why he would take the chance.




The Assad regime on Thursday attacked a residential suburb of Damascus with chlorine gas, according to the White Helmets, a pro-opposition Syrian civil defense agency. Assad is a member of the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam that forms a minority of Syria's population.

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

Several children were also affected, the group said. US military forces are active both on the ground and in the skies above Syria.

"Russia ultimately bears responsibility for the victims in Eastern Ghouta and countless other Syrians targeted with chemical weapons since Russian Federation became involved in Syria", Mr Tillerson said.

The Britain-based war monitor, which relies on a network of sources on the ground across Syria, said shelling killed another eight civilians, including in Ghouta's main town of Douma. The accounts followed a suspected attack in late January near Damascus that activists and rescue teams said affected almost 20 civilians.

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