UN chemical weapons experts in Syria
UN chemical weapons experts in SyriaReuters

The State Department said on Thursday that the US has received numerous reports that appear consistent with chemical exposure after an attack by Syrian government forces in northwest Syria, but it has made no definitive conclusion as to whether they used chemical weapons.

“We do have numerous sources including interviews with those present during the attack that did report that a number of opposition fighters were taken to local hospitals and presented symptoms that were consistent with chemical exposure,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told reporters, according to Reuters.

On Tuesday, the State Department said there were signs that the Syrian government may be using chemical weapons, including what it called an alleged chlorine attack on Sunday in northwest Syria. The department warned that Washington and its allies would respond “quickly and appropriately” if this were proven.

“We know of course that this is a pattern of behavior, unfortunately, by the Assad regime, but we don’t have any definitive conclusions yet as we continue to investigate,” Ortagus said Thursday.

Rebels fighting on the mountainous western edge of Syria’s last big rebel enclave of Idlib said on Sunday that the army had shelled them with poison gas, leading some to suffer choking symptoms. They said they had not documented the attack because they were under bombardment when it occurred.

Ortagus said Thursday the location of the alleged attack was “at the front lines, so it does make access to that site limited.”

Western powers, led by the United States, have in the past blamed the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad for carrying out attacks on civilians using chemical weapons.

The Syrian regime repeatedly denies having any connection to chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

In March, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) determined that chlorine was used in a deadly attack on the Syrian town of Douma in 2018, though it did not say who was responsible for the attack.

Syria agreed to destroy its chemical weapons in 2013 under a deal brokered by Moscow and Washington, but the OPCW has since found chlorine has been "systematically and repeatedly" used as a weapon.

Such chemical attacks in 2017 and 2018 led the US to launch punitive strikes against Syrian forces.