Syria: Mattis, Assad still has chemical weapons

Defense Ministers Avigdor Liberman of Israel and James Mattis of the United States in Tel Aviv at a press conference on Friday

President Trump's recent actions in the Middle East are "a welcome change", Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis during a meeting Friday in Jerusalem.

At a news conference in Tel Aviv, Mattis confirmed Syria had moved its combat aircraft.

He referred to the U.S. cruise missile strike in Syria as an important example of the new administration's "forthright deeds" against the use of chemical weapons.

General Mattis accused the Syrian government of violating a 2013 agreement to hand over its chemical weapons to the global community.

The U.S. has concluded with high confidence that the Syrian government bombed the town of Khan Sheikhoun on April 4 with sarin nerve agent, killing some 100 people including 30 children.

Three days later, the United States responded by firing a barrage of 59 cruise missiles at the regime-held Shayrat airbase in Homs. "We made that very clear with our strike".

Israel was also among the first countries to salute Trump for a recent United States strike on a Syrian airbase over an alleged chemical attack on a rebel-held town.

Mattis arrived in Israel on Thursday for a two-day visit.

Before the start of their talks, Netanyahu said he was optimistic about relations between the two countries under the new USA administration.The two countries are working to set a more positive tone after eight years of friction under President Donald Trump's Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama. "It's a violation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions".

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Yesterday, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad accused the United States of blocking the investigations requested by Damascus and Moscow over the chemical attack in Idleb province.

"The coalition campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq is on track and we've accelerated an intensified campaign to surround and isolate the enemy so we [Notes:can] methodically remove its physical caliphate", Mattis said.

Moreover, the Syrian army has dispersed its aircraft across the country following the US missile attack on a Syrian airfield, US Defense Secretary James Mattis said Friday.

The Netanyahu-Mattis talks, according to Israeli officials, will also deal with Iran's deploying proxies in the region, as well as the general situation in Syria and Islamic State.

Mattis said in 2012 that the three biggest threats to American security were, "Iran, Iran, Iran", and he repeated that sentiment at the press conference.

Assad has denied his military's involvement in that attack.

Assad has long said Syria surrendered its chemical weapons in 2013, and he reiterated that most recently in an interview with Agence France-Presse.

The Syrian government has been locked in a six-year civil war against an array of opposition forces.

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