Syrian regime said to strike civilians with 'toxic gas'


US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Friday the Syrian government had repeatedly used chlorine as a weapon.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry has rejected the U.S. claims about the Syrian government using chemical weapons in the war as "lies".

"We have other reports from the battlefield from people who claim it's been used", Mattis said, adding the United States now had no proof to back the claims.

Such allegations were timed to undermine the efforts to resolve the Syrian war through a peaceful settlement between the Syrians without foreign interventions, it noted.

"The foreign ministry condemns the false claims by the United States that the Syrian government used chemical weapons in Eastern Ghouta", a foreign ministry source said, cited by Syrian state news agency SANA.

Mattis told reporters the Syrian government had committed multiple attacks using chlorine gas.

A deadly sarin attack on another rebel-held area in April 2017 prompted President Donald Trump to order a USA missile strike on the Shayrat airbase, from which the Syrian operation is said to have been launched.

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said at the time the USA had "very high confidence" that the chemical agent used in that deadly attack was sarin nerve gas.

However, Russia described the OPCW report as "very biased" arguing the report failed to address the question of who was responsible for the use of the chemical substance.

The attack comes a day after Syria's former al-Qaeda affiliate claimed responsibility for the downing of a Russian warplane as it flew low over Saraqeb in northern Syria, apparently using a surface-to-air missile.

"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.

The officials say it's "highly likely" that Syria kept a stockpile of weapons.

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