White House pledges to 'respond swiftly' if Assad uses chemical weapons again

White House pledges to 'respond swiftly' if Assad uses chemical weapons again

Asked if he saw indications of the Syrian regime preparing to use chemical weapons in Idlib, Mattis said, "I think the best answer to that is, we are very alert".

The entire council is scheduled to meet Friday to discuss the crisis, while at the same time, the presidents of Turkey, Russia and Iran are planning to hold a summit in Tehran.

The opposition forces that are now in Idlib have expressed their hope that Turkey, their main ally, will prevent the attack from Russian Federation and Al-Assad.

"Millions of innocent people in Idlib province are now under the threat of imminent attack from the Assad regime, backed by Iran and Russian Federation, under the pretense of targeting ISIS".

Idlib, Syria's last major rebel stronghold, is held by a complex array of anti-regime fighters, many of whom have been blacklisted as "terrorists" by world powers.

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The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on sources in Syria for its reports, said at least nine civilians - including five children from the same family - were killed in the raids, while 10 people were wounded.

"The strike was conducted on terrorist stockpiles located outside residential areas, where unmanned aerial vehicles were stored, Konashenkov said".

Part of the motivation for this change is uncertainty about whether Russian Federation is willing or able to help get Iran - which along with Russian Federation is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's closest ally - out of the country.

Idlib had been deemed a de-escalation zone, an area where Syrians are safe from air strikes.

"That Russia is seeking to plant false lies about chemical weapons use suggests that Moscow is seeking to deflect from its own culpability when these heinous weapons are used", Commander Sean Robertson, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement.

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Turkish newspaper Sabah Gazetesi leaked highlights of the Turkish proposal on Idlib, indicating that Erdogan will propose a plan that would see Turkish forces on the ground who are already manning checkpoints around Idlib oversee the dissolution of 12 armed groups, including the former al Qaeda-affiliated group HTS. "There is lots of evidence that chemical weapons are being prepared".

"We will find out to some degree tomorrow if the Russians are willing to come to a compromise with the Turks", U.S. envoy Jeffrey told Reuters on Thursday.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, said Wednesday that he hoped to use the meeting to reach a deal and prevent an all-out attack on the border province.

However since clearing the rest of Syria of opposition groups, Idlib remains the last remaining bastion of opposition against President Bashar Al-Assad's regime.

According to the UN, Idlib is home to about 2.9 million civilians, including 1.4 million displaced from other parts of Syria.

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