May 22 (UPI) -- The U.S. State Department warned the Bashar al-Assad government in Syria that its military operations were being closely watched, specifically concerning allegations that it used chemical weapons against rebels.
"Unfortunately, we continue to see signs that the Assad regime may be renewing its use of chemical weapons, including an alleged chlorine attack in northwest Syria on the morning of May 19, 2019," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement Tuesday. "We are still gathering information on this incident, but we repeat our warning that if the Assad regime uses chemical weapons, the United States and our allies will respond quickly and appropriately."
Ortagus said the attack was part of a violent campaign waged by Assad and violates a cease-fire that has protected millions in the Idlib area.
"The regime's attacks against the communities of northwest Syria must end," she said, adding that this is the Assad government's second warning following the one made by President Donald Trump in September.
Earlier Tuesday, the Russian Ministry of Defense blamed the fighting in Idlib on Syrian rebels who have a "chemical wing" that is used to carry out "performances" against civilians that are then blamed on the government.
"The terrorists operating in the Idlib de-escalation zone have a significant amount of toxic substances, which the militants equip ammunition for the performances of so-called use of chemical weapons against the civilian population by the government troops," the department said in a statement on its Facebook page.
Ortagus said the United States is aware of the recent allegations and that it is part of "a continuing disinformation campaign by the Assad regime and Russia to create a false narrative that others are to blame for chemical weapons attacks that the Assad regime itself is conducting."
She said Russia and Assad have previously fabricated allegations of chemical attacks by the rebels in order for Assad to justify its "own barbaric chemical weapons attacks."
"The facts, however, are clear: The Assad regime itself has conducted almost all verified chemical weapons attacks that have taken place in Syria -- a conclusion that United Nations has reached over and over again," she said.