Aftermath of Idlib chemical attack
Aftermath of Idlib chemical attack Reuters

The U.S. on Monday imposed new sanctions on Syria in response to the recent chemical weapons attack in Idlib.

The new sanctions, announced by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, freeze assets and prevent U.S. entities from doing business with more than 200 employees of a Syrian government agency tasked with producing non-conventional weapons, according to The Hill.

Mnuchin said the measures show “we will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons by any actor and we intend to hold the Assad regime accountable for its unacceptable behavior.”

Monday’s action, one of the largest in Treasury’s history, targets 271 employees of Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC).

The affected individuals “have expertise in chemistry and related disciplines and/or have worked in support of SSRC’s chemical weapons program since at least 2012,” the Treasury Department said, according to The Hill.

Mnuchin said the sanctions target “the scientific support center for Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad’s horrific chemical weapons attack.”

“We take Syria’s disregard for innocent human life very seriously, and will relentlessly pursue and shut down the financial networks of all individuals involved with the production of chemical weapons used to commit these atrocities,” Mnuchin added.

The attack on Khan Sheikhun in the Idlib province, which killed 86, was found by British and Turkish scientists to have involved both sarin - a nerve gas - and chlorine.

Western governments have accused Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s government of being behind the attack, but Assad has repeatedly denied his government has any chemical weapons after agreeing to give them up to international monitors in 2013.

Assad claimed earlier this month that the attack was fabricated by the United States, insisting the Syrian army had already relinquished its chemical weapons reservoir.

The sanctions follow a cruise missile strike ordered by President Donald Trump against a Syrian airbase where the chemical attack was believed to have originated.

The Syrian government surrendered its chemical weapons arsenal to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) international watchdog, though since that time the OPCW has determined that civilians in Syria may have been exposed to chemicals.

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