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Pentagon backs White House statement of possible chemical prep in Syria

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    June 27 (UPI) — The Pentagon said Tuesday that possible chemical weapons activity has been observed at an airbase in Syria, where a gas attack was purportedly launched from in April — and prompted a retaliatory U.S. missile strike.

    Capt. Jeff Davis, a Defense Department spokesman, told reporters Tuesday that preparations activity has been seen at the Al Shayrat airfield in west-central Syria — and that it’s possibly a sign that President Bashar Assad is planning a chemical strike.

    Davis said the information has been collected over the last few days, but has gotten “more compelling” in the past 24 hours.

    “We have observed activities at Shayrat Air Base that suggest possible intent by the Syrian regime to use chemical weapons again,” another Pentagon spokesman, Adrian Rankine-Galloway, told Voice of America. “These activities are similar to what we observed prior to the regime[‘s] chemical weapons attack against Khan Sheikhoun in April.”

    The sarin gas attack in April killed and injured hundreds of Syrian civilians, including women and children. That event drew a retaliatory strike of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles on the airfield ordered by President Donald Trump.

    “The continued brutality of the Assad regime and his use of chemical weapons presents a clear threat to regional stability and security, as well as the national security interests of the United States and our allies,” Rankine-Galloway added.

    Assad has long denied suggestions that his regime possesses chemical weapons.

    Tuesday’s news came one day after the White House made a similar statement about detecting possible chemical weapons preparations at the Al Shayrat field.

    “The United States is in Syria to eliminate the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said. “If, however, Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.”

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    The Syrian government, though, has denied the allegations that it is preparing chemical weapons for use — calling the White House’s remarks a provocation.

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