US says it appears Syria planning another chemical weapons attack

The strike put Washington in confrontation with Russia, which has advisers in Syria aiding its close ally Assad.

A Syrian man receives treatment at a small hospital in the town of Maaret al-Noman following a suspected toxic gas attack in Khan Sheikhun, a nearby rebel-held town in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province, on 4 April 2017. Picture: AFP.

WASHINGTON – The White House said on Monday it appears the Syrian government is preparing for another chemical weapons attack and it warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad he and his military would “pay a heavy price” if it conducts such an attack.

The White House statement said preparations by Syria were similar to those undertaken before an April 4 chemical attack that killed dozens of civilians and prompted President Donald Trump to order a cruise missile strike on a Syrian air base.

Trump ordered the strike on the Shayrat airfield in Syria in April in reaction to what Washington said was a poison gas attack by Assad’s government that killed at least 70 people in the rebel-held territory. Syria denied it carried out the attack.

The strike put Washington in a confrontation with Russia, which has advisers in Syria aiding its close ally Assad.

US officials at the time called the intervention a “one-off” intended to deter future chemical weapons attacks and not an expansion of the US role in the Syrian war.