US military leaders have said the Syrian government used chemical weapons on a military convoy in an apparent attack that was “unprevious and unprecedented”.
US Vice Admiral Mark Welsh, the military’s director of the strategic communications, told reporters on Thursday that the Syrian military convoy had crossed the Turkish border into Syria and was carrying chemical weapons, but added that the attack “was unexpected and unprecedented” by Syria.
He said the attack was “not only a war crime” but also a violation of international law.
The attack on the convoy, which was accompanied by the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian army, occurred on Monday and resulted in the death of two senior military officers.
The US and its allies blamed the Syrian regime, but Syrian officials denied the charges.
They have denied the use or delivery of chemical munitions and blamed the rebels, which have seized the border towns of Deir Ezzor and Idlib in recent months.
A senior US intelligence official told Reuters that the military convoy was carrying an arsenal of chemical agents, including chlorine gas and nerve agents.
It is unclear how the chemicals were delivered.
“There’s a long history of chemical attacks and there’s a lot of evidence of that,” Welsh said.
The incident comes amid mounting pressure on the Obama administration to act.
Washington and its European allies are demanding that the Assad regime halt its use of chlorine and other nerve agents against its own people.
Washington has also imposed new sanctions on the Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad, and his associates.
“It’s time for the Obama Administration to move away from the brink and to start taking concrete steps to end the Syrian civil war,” Welsh added.
The Syrian opposition has accused the Syrian state of ordering the attack on Monday in a move to escalate the crisis.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“This is the kind of thing that happens in wars.
The use of such weapons would not be acceptable, and the international community must stand against this barbaric act and its consequences,” Welsh, a retired general, said.
Syria’s opposition has long denied involvement in the attack.
It said the convoy was travelling from Turkey to Idlib, where rebel fighters have taken over the northern city of Deerli and have seized a military base.
The rebels, known as Jaysh al-Islam, deny any role in the incident and accuse Damascus of using chemical weapons in previous chemical attacks.
In July last year, Syrian state television showed images of a Syrian army helicopter and a helicopter with the words “chemical attack” written on it in red ink.