Syria’s government forces dumped chlorine on an unknown number of civilians last spring in a brazen violation of an international chemical weapons ban, U.S. authorities announced Thursday.
The May 19 attack was carried out in Latakia, a province of the northwestern Syrian city of Idlib, where Preside Bashar Assad’s regime has killed more than 1,000 innocent people and displaced hundreds of thousands more, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a news conference at the United Nations.
The attack would be the first confirmed violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention — which the Middle East nation joined in 2013 — since the U.S. and several Western allies conducted a retaliatory military strike following Syria’s deadly chemical attack against its own citizens last year.
“It is also the latest instance in a long pattern of Assad’s chemical weapons attacks that have killed or wounded thousands of Syrians,” Pompeo told reporters, accusing the regime of using chemical weapons every year since 2013.
“For more than eight years, the regime of Bashar al-Assad has waged a war against the Syrian people, resulting in the deaths of more than a half a million people and displacement of 11 million more,” Pompeo said. “The Assad regime is responsible for innumerable atrocities, some of which rise to the level of war crimes and crimes against humanity. These atrocities include the use of chemical weapons, killings, torture, enforced disappearance, and other inhumane acts.”
Ambassador James Jeffrey, who serves as a special representative for Syria engagement, told reporters that that “a number of individuals" were injured in the attack, but no one was killed.
In response to the findings, Pompeo said the U.S. would “continue to pressure the insidious Assad regime” and donate $4.5 million to the Netherlands-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The Department of Treasury, meanwhile, would designate Russian entities for supporting Assad’s regime, Pompeo said.