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21 April 2017, 02:55 | Terri Saunders
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) chief's conclusion that sarin gas traces were found on victims of the reported April 4 chemical incident in Syria's Idlib exposes the organization, the Russian Defense Ministrysaid Thursday. In response, the United States fired almost 60 missiles at a Syrian air base it suspected of being the launching pad for the attack. Assad was quoted as saying last week that Syria's military gave up all its chemical weapons in 2013 after the agreement made at the time, and would not have used them anyway.
The assessment was confirmed by two other defense officials.
Some local media reports quoted the briefing officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with Israeli military procedure, as putting the amount at up to 3 tonnes.
Israel said it believed Syria retained up to three tonnes of the weapons.
The United Kingdom, as well as some other Western states, blame the attack on the Syrian army.
A similar global outcry after a sarin attack in 2013 resulted in a US and Russian program to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile.
The missile strike was the first direct U.S. military action against Assad's forces since the start of Syria's civil war six years ago and precipitated a downward spiral in ties between Washington and Moscow.
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"The Syrian regime should think long and hard before it again acts so recklessly in violation of worldwide law against the use of chemical weapons", Mattis said, later adding: "If they use chemical weapons, they are going to pay a very, very stiff price".
The aircraft in question reportedly were moved to an airfield close to a base where the majority of Russian air forces helping the Assad regime are located.
It came after a joint UN-OPCW investigation concluded in October that the Syrian air force had dropped chlorine barrel-bombs from helicopters on three opposition-held villages in 2014 and 2015. However, doubts soon emerged over whether all of the regime's armaments or production facilities were declared and destroyed.
UK-based chemical weapons expert Dan Kaszeta toldthe Associated Press that Israel's estimate was conservative, but nonetheless was enough to be highly lethal.
Images from the attack on Khan Sheikhoun on April 4 showed victims limp, with pinpoint eyes and frothing mouths, as emergency responders rushed to strip clothes from bodies and hose away chemical substances.
"One ton of sarin could easily be used to perpetrate an attack on the scale of the 2013 attack", Kaszeta said.
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