Mattis: Syrian Rebels Have No Chemical Weapons

Mattis: Syrian Rebels Have No Chemical Weapons

Kerry Wise
September 6, 2018

"The United States sends the ball into the corner of Russian Federation and Russia into the corner of the U.S.", he said.

The White House was "closely monitoring the situation in Idlib province, Syria, where millions of innocent civilians are under threat of an imminent Assad regime attack, backed by Russian Federation and Iran", Sanders said.

More than half of Idlib is controlled by militants from Syria's former Al-Qaeda affiliate, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), while much of the rest is held by rebels backed by Turkey. "The Russians and Iranians would be making a grave humanitarian mistake to take part in this potential human tragedy".

"Let us be clear, it remains our firm stance that if President Bashar al-Assad chooses to again use chemical weapons, the United States and its Allies will respond swiftly and appropriately".

His comments come as Syrian troops mass near the northwestern region of Idlib for a major assault that is raising fears of a humanitarian catastrophe on a scale not yet seen in the seven-year-old conflict.

The UN says almost three million people live in Idlib and global concern has risen in recent days over a threatened regime assault to oust rebels and jihadists from the province and surrounding areas.

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Russian Federation has been a key supporter of Assad and complained about militants in Idlib targeting its own facilities.

The verbal clash came as towns and villages in the northern Idlib province, where Syria's rebels are holed up, came under intense airstrikes, killing at least eight people, according to a search and rescue group and a conflict monitoring group. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said they had killed 13 civilians, including children, but no fighters.

On Wednesday, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Idlib was the "subject of increased concern and worry" and the focus of a flurry of diplomacy. It accuses rebels in Idlib of attacking Hmeimim with weaponised drones and insists jihadists in the province must be eliminated.

De Mistura said there were about 10,000 fighters with UN-recognized terrorist organizations now in Idlib. Amid a diplomatic frenzy to try to avoid a full-scale assault on Idlib, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told AFP on Tuesday, "It is important today that the path to negotiations be open and not that toward confrontation". The UN envoy said he did not plan to postpone two rounds of consultations next week with high-level representatives of a range of countries with influence on different sides in the conflict.

"Hundreds of thousands of people could be killed".