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Idlib province, Syria, May 20, 2019. Photo: Omar Haj Kadour/AFP/Getty Images

The State Department reportedly uncovered evidence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has continued to use chemical weapons against civilians, per a press release, issuing a warning that the U.S. and its allies would respond "quickly and appropriately" if the violence was verified.

"The United States reiterates its warning, first issued by President Trump in September 2018, that an attack against the Idlib de-escalation zone would be a reckless escalation that threatens to destabilize the region."
— U.S. State Department

Context: It has been nearly a year since President Trump ordered airstrikes in Syria in response to a chemical weapons attack. More recently, Trump announced and quickly walked back a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria, reiterating that his focus is on countering ISIS, rather than the political future of the country, per Axios' World Editor Dave Lawler.

The state of play. The State Department also pointed to false narratives Russian government-run media has been circulating about the White Helmets — a group that rescues civilians during strikes — as part of an attempt to place blame on others for the chemical attacks. These stories are a "pretext in advance of the Assad regime’s own barbaric chemical weapons attacks."

Details: Syrian forces allegedly carried out a chemical attack in Idlib, Syria, on May 19, which, if proven true, violates a ceasefire agreement protecting millions of civilians.

Go deeper

17 mins ago - World

Biden's ambassador nominee: "China is not an Olympian power"

Nick Burns testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden's nominee to serve as ambassador to China delivered a stark assessment of the challenges the U.S. faces in confronting Beijing, but stressed that the rising superpower is "not all-powerful" and the West retains "substantial" advantages.

The big picture: Nicholas Burns, a retired career diplomat and former U.S. ambassador to NATO, used his confirmation hearing Wednesday to echo the growing bipartisan consensus that China poses "the greatest threat to the security of our country and the democratic world" in the 21st century.

Scoop: U.S. and Israel to form team to solve consulate dispute

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (right) meet in Washington. Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. and Israel are planning to form a joint team to hold discreet negotiations on the reopening of the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, Israeli officials say.

Why it matters: The consulate handled relations with the Palestinians for 25 years before being shut down by then President Donald Trump in 2019. Senior officials in Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's government see the consulate issue as a political hot potato that could destabilize their unwieldy coalition.

Nikolas Cruz pleads guilty to Parkland school shooting

Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz at the defense table during jury selection at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Oct. 6, 2021. Photo: Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Nikolas Cruz on Wednesday pleaded guilty on all counts for carrying out the 2018 shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 people dead, including 14 students and three staff members.

Driving the news: Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty at a hearing on Wednesday to 17 murder counts and 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder for carrying out the deadly shooting.