TEL AVIV — Syria retains chemical weapons and has dispersed its warplanes in recent days, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said at a news conference Friday.
The aircraft dispersal suggests possible concerns about further U.S. missile strikes after President Trump ordered strikes on a Syrian air base following a chemical weapons attack in a rebel-held town in Idlib province on April 4 that killed 89 people.
Scientists from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons found “incontrovertible” evidence that the victims were exposed to Sarin or a Sarin-like substance after samples from 10 victims were analyzed.
Mattis would not say how much chemical weaponry Syria has. “The amount of it I don’t want to get into it right now,” he said. “We don’t reveal some of that detail because we don’t want to reveal how we’re finding out. But the bottom line is that I can say authoritatively that they have retained some.”
He said having the weapons is a violation of a United Nations Security Council resolution, and Syria would be “well advised” not to use chemical weapons again.
Mattis spoke alongside Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who declined to comment on news reports that Israel believes Syria holds up to three tons of chemical weapons.
In Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel welcomed the new Trump administration.
“This is a welcome change, a strategic change of American leadership and policy,” Netanyahu said in a brief appearance with Mattis.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes sarin as a human-made chemical warfare agent classified as a nerve agent. Generally odorless and tasteless, it can cause death in minutes.
Contributing: Jane Onyanga-Omara