US Defense Sec'y Mattis: Syria still has chemical weapons

Assad, backed by his ally Russian Federation, has strongly denied the allegation that his forces used chemical weapons against the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun on April 4, describing it as a "100% fabrication".

Prior to his visit, a United States defense official said that Mattis hopes to hear directly from Israeli leaders on their concerns and what they expect from the Trump administration.

Speaking after talks with his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman, Mr Mattis said Mr Assad, the Syrian president, had clearly retained chemical weapons in violation of an agreement to get rid of its entire stockpile.

The latest Canadian sanctions "affect 17 high-ranking individuals in the Assad regime and five entities linked to the use of chemical weapons in Syria", the Foreign Ministry said.

The Trump administration says Syrian President Bashar al-Assad ordered the attack.

He said Syria would be "ill-advised" to try to use chemical weapons again, after the alleged attack on 4 April which killed more than 80 people. "There is no longer any doubt", Mattis told reporters.

Liberman lauded the Trump administration for achievements thus far, particularly with regard to the Tomahawk cruise missile strike against Syrian air assets.

Mattis also said there's "no doubt" Syria has moved its warplanes recently.

Mr Netanyahu said the United States and Israel were committed to thwarting the dangers and seizing the common opportunities that had emerged, thanks to a commonality of interests, with some of Israel's Arab neighbours.

Mattis then traveled to Jerusalem to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who welcomed what he said was "a great change in the direction of American policy". Pavlyuchenko said Bordov commanded a reconnaissance company two years ago but he did not know the major's current role in the Syria operation.

Ahead of that disarmament, Assad's government disclosed that it had some 1,300 tons of chemical weapons, including sarin, VX nerve agent and mustard gas.

The entire stockpile was said to have been dismantled and shipped out under worldwide supervision in 2014 and destroyed.

Though Israel has largely stayed on the sidelines of Syria's civil war, there has been frequent spillover of rocket fire, and Israel has occasionally carried out air strikes or returned mortar fire if there is a specific threat.

But doubts began to emerge soon afterwards that not all such armaments or production facilities were declared and destroyed.

The secretary said he's in Israel to discuss "the two dangers [Iran and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] that face Israel and all of the other nations ... that are trying to maintain a stable and peaceful and prosperous region".

  • Jon Douglas