Pentagon head warns Syrian forces on use of chemical weapons


Associated Press

MUSCAT, Oman

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Sunday warned the Syrian government not to use chemical weapons in its civil war and said the Trump administration has made it clear that it would be “very unwise” to use gas in attacks.

Mattis told reporters traveling with him to the Mideast that he was disturbed by reports of civilian casualties from bombings by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces.

“Right now we’re getting reports – I don’t have evidence that I can show you – but I’m aware of the reports of chlorine gas use,” he said before arriving Sunday in Oman.

The U.S. responded militarily last year to reported Syrian government use of sarin gas, and Mattis was asked whether the administration is now considering retaliating for chlorine gas use.

He said the latest reports of Syrian government forces killing civilians in eastern Ghouta show that troops are “at best indiscriminately” attacking and “at worst targeting hospitals. I don’t know which it is, whether they’re incompetent or whether they’re committing illegal acts or both.”

In Washington, CIA director Mike Pompeo noted President Donald Trump said he won’t tolerate chemical weapons attacks, but has not yet made a decision about the latest reports.

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