Syria's main transport artery, the M5 highway, links Damascus with Aleppo. Image: iStock

Washington said Tuesday it suspected the Syrian regime’s forces carried out a fresh chemical attack Sunday and threatened reprisals if it is confirmed.

The US State Department said it was assessing indications that the regime used chemical weapons on Sunday during its offensive in Idlib, the main remaining jihadist bastion.

“We are still gathering information on this incident, but we repeat our warning that if the Assad regime uses chemical weapons, the United States and our allies will respond quickly and appropriately,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

She also denounced Russia, the key ally of Damascus, for what she called a “disinformation campaign” as it tries to blame other parties for chemical attacks.

“The Assad regime’s culpability in horrific chemical weapons attacks is undeniable,” Ortagus said.

Russia and Turkey, the key ally of the rebels, in September reached an agreement that nominally protects Idlib amid fears for the safety of some three million people in the northwestern region.

However, Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, has seized a large part of the province and adjoining areas, provoking a regime offensive that has included strikes by Syrian and Russian airplanes.

Ortagus said the offensive has “destroyed known health facilities, schools, residences and internally displaced person camps.”

She added, “The regime’s attacks against the communities of northwest Syria must end.

“The United States reiterates its warning, first issued by President Trump in September 2018, that an attack against the Idlib de-escalation zone would be a reckless escalation that threatens to destabilize the region.”

– with reporting by AFP

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