The White House statement said preparations by the Syrian regime were similar to those undertaken before an April 4 chemical attack that killed dozens of civilians and prompted President Donald Trump to order a cruise missile strike on a Syrian air base.
The White House issued a warning to Syrian President Bashar Assad on Monday night, pledging that his regime would pay a "heavy price" if it carried out another chemical attack this year.
Several US news outlets quoted unamed US military sources as saying they had been taken by surprise by the announcement and had no independent knowledge of chemical weapons preparations.
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Typically, the State Department, the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies would be consulted before the White House issued a declaration sure to reverberate across foreign capitals.
The statement said, "The activities are similar to preparations the regime made before its April 4 chemical weapons attack".
Also, Syrian activists said an airstrike targeting an Islamic State-run jail in eastern Syria killed at least 42 prisoners.
The officials weren't authorized to discuss national security planning publicly and requested anonymity. It remains unclear why the White House released the highly unusual statement and whether intelligence suspect another attack is coming soon.
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The Russian government denounced the USA airstrikes against its ally, with the Kremlin spokesman calling the strikes "aggression against a sovereign state in violation of global law".
Russian Federation has supported the Syrian regime since 2015 with air strikes against what it says are Islamist extremists.
British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon told the BBC on Tuesday morning he would support United States military action in case of a Syria chemical attack. Chemical weapons have killed hundreds of people since the start of the conflict. "We do not believe it is possible to rest the responsibility on the Syrian armed forces", Peskov said. It is far deadlier than some other chemical weapons that USA military and intelligence officials say that the regime has used, such as chlorine.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Tuesday that Washington would continue to provide weapons after the Raqqa battle is over.
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Colvin reported from Washington.