U.S. warns Syria’s Assad against using chemical weapons

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The United States said late on Monday that it has detected “potential preparations” for a chemical weapons attack in Syria, warning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that he would pay a “heavy price” if an attack takes place.

“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,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said in a statement.

Spicer said the preparations are similar to those allegedly seen before a chemical weapons attack in April, which the United States blamed on pro-regime forces. President Donald Trump, in response to that attack, authorized the launch of dozens of missiles against a Syrian airbase.

“As we have previously stated, the United States is in Syria to eliminate the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria,” Spicer said. “If, however, Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.”

Details about the alleged preparations were not released and there was no immediate response from the Syrian government.

A chemical weapons attack took place in the town of Khan Shaykhun in northwest Syria on April 4, killing at least 92 people. The U.S. and other countries attributed the attack to pro-regime forces, even though the Syrian government denied any involvement. The U.S. bombed an airbase in response.

The United States appears to have increased its involvement in the Syrian conflict in recent weeks, shooting down a Syrian fighter jet and two pro-regime drones. The incidents were condemned by the Syrian government and its ally Russia.

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