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The US said on Tuesday that it had observed preparations for a possible chemical weapons attack at a Syrian air base allegedly involved in a sarin attack in April following a warning from the White House that the Syrian regime would “pay a heavy price” for further use of the weapons.

In a bluntly worded statement released late on Monday night, the White House said: “The United States has identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children

The unusual public warning on Monday night appeared to be intended to deter the regime from repeating its use of chemical weapons against rebel-held cities and towns.

It may also have been aimed at the regime’s backers in Moscow and Tehran, who have resolutely backed Assad and denied the regime’s responsibility for chemical weapons use.

Although the focus of US military operations in the region is the defeat of Isis in its two major strongholds, Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria, the Trump administration has showed itself willing to act if the Assad regime carries out a major chemical weapons attack.

US forces in Syria have also been empowered to defend themselves and their allies against attack, which has led to a string of recent clashes with pro-regime forces competing for the same territory. theguardian.com