U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis warned Syria it would be "very unwise" to use gas as a weapon in its bombardment of rebel strongholds in eastern Ghouta.
Mattis said Sunday that "right now" the United States is "getting reports" that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces are using chlorine gas in their three-week advance against the rebels outside the capital, Damascus, that has left nearly 1,000 dead, including 200 children.
The U.S. defense chief acknowledged to reporters traveling with him on a trip to Oman that, "I don't have evidence that I can show you" about gas attacks, but said he was aware of "an awful lot of reports about chlorine gas use or about symptoms that could be resulting from chlorine gas."
Mattis said Syrian troops are "at best, indiscriminately" attacking and "at worst, targeting hospitals. I don't know which it is, whether they're incompetent or whether they're committing illegal acts, or both." Syria has rejected claims that it is using poison gas in its ongoing attacks on eastern Ghouta, which are occurring during the U.N. Security Council demand for a 30-day cease-fire.