The U.S. does not doubt that chemical weapons were used on Syrian civilians in Eastern Ghouta, and is set to use its “own mechanisms” to investigate the attack, the State Department said Tuesday.
“The United States is convinced and knows that some sort of a chemical weapon was used,” spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters when asked whether the U.S. will wait for an investigation by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
“We do not know their timeline for being able to get in, collect information,” she said, referring to the OPCW. “We have our intelligence, and then they have their information from the ground. So we have different kinds of information.”
Citing the OPCW’s announcement that it will soon gather evidence on the ground, she said Washington sees the group as an “impartial body” able to collect evidence but that the U.S. government also has its own mechanisms.
Assad regime forces struck targets in Eastern Ghouta’s Douma district on Saturday, using a toxic gas which left at least 78 civilians dead, according to Syrian Civil Defense, also known as the White Helmets.
On Monday President Donald Trump vowed to respond to the Assad regime’s latest use of chemical weapons before meeting with his top generals to discuss Washington’s response.
It remains unclear what or when the U.S. will do.
The Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta has been under siege for the last five years, and humanitarian access to the area, which is home to 400,000 people, has been completely cut off.
Over the past eight months, Assad regime forces have intensified their siege, making it nearly impossible for food or medicine to get into the district and leaving thousands of civilians in need.