Washington, DC– Strikes carried out by the Syrian government on a rebel-held town in the northern Idlib province of Syria have left as many as 58 dead, including nine children.  It is suspected that the nerve agent sarin was used.

“IDC condemns in the strongest terms the brutal violence and tactics of torture being used by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime with the support of Russian and Iranian forces against civilians in Syria,” said IDC Executive Director Philippe Nassif.

This is not the first time the Assad regime has used chemical weapons on civilians. A 2016 UN investigation concluded that Syrian government forces used chlorine gas as a weapon at least twice in the past few years, despite Assad’s denials. The most infamous incident came in Ghouta, just outside of Damascus in August 2013 where hundreds of civilians were killed due to a chemical weapon attack by the Syrian Army.

“Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must be told in no uncertain terms that the U.S. will not tolerate these kinds of attacks on innocent civilians,” said Nassif.

Syrian forces have launched heavy attacks in recent months across Idlib province–the stronghold of what remains of the armed opposition–where hundreds of thousands of civilians remain.  Millions of noncombatant civilians remain in mortal danger in Syria and in untenable conditions in the surrounding region.

“IDC also applauds the Trump administration’s plans to establish safe zones in Syria, where people would be protected from Bashar al-Assad’s regime and ISIS and the suffering and displacement of millions of Syrian refugees across the Middle East alleviated,” Nassif added.

The attack was reported as diplomats from 70 countries gathered in Brussels for a European Union conference concerning Syria’s urgently-needed reconstruction.

“IDC urges those states with the means, particularly Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates, to contribute materially to the reconstruction of Syria and to the safe relocation of refugees from Lebanon, Jordan, and elsewhere into safe zones called for by Secretary Tillerson,” said IDC Senior Advisor Andrew Doran.

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