JERUSALEM – US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said on Friday that the Syrian regime had kept its chemical weapons and recommended that it not use them anymore.
During an official visit to Israel, Mattis said that there was no doubt President Bashar al-Assad’s regime had kept chemical weapons, after a high-ranking Israeli officer informed that Damascus still had tons stowed away.
“The bottom line is there can be no doubt in the international community’s mind that Syria has retained chemical weapons in violation of its agreement and its statement that it had removed them all,” he said, speaking alongside Israeli defense minister Avigdor Lieberman.
On April 4, an alleged chemical attack hit an opposition-held village in Syria, killing at least 80 people.
The US, who suspected the Syrian regime was behind the attack, retaliated by bombing an airbase held by Assad’s forces.
“(The use of chemical weapons) is a violation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions, and it’s going to have to be taken up diplomatically, and they’d be ill-advised to try to use any again. We’ve made that very clear with our strike,” Mattis said on Friday.
In August 2013, two opposition-held areas near Damascus were hit with sarin gas by forces loyal to Assad, killing between 281-1,729 people in a chemical attack believed to have been the worst since the Iran-Iraq war.
In September that year, the UNSC unanimously adopted a resolution that the Syrian regime had until 2014 to destroy its chemical weapons arsenal.