The Syrian regime, embroiled in a more than two-year-old conflict with rebel fighters, has used chemical weapons "in a number of incidents," according to Israeli officials.
President Bashar al-Assad remains in control of Damascus following a bloody civil war that began in March 2011. Reports circulated on March 19 of this year that the regime had used chemical weapons against its citizens in strikes in Damascus and rebel-held Aleppo. These attacks remain unconfirmed pending an investigation by a U.N. inspection team, which the Assad regime has blocked from entering the country.
The Obama administration has repeatedly stated that the use of chemical weapons would cross a "red line" for the U.S. and would be a "game changer," but has not named the specific consequences. The U.N. has also decried their use.
"To the best of our professional understanding, the regime has made use of deadly chemical weapons against the rebels in a number of incidents in the past," said Israeli Brig. Gen. Itai Brun at a security conference in Jerusalem on Tuesday, according to the BBC.
Israeli military intelligence has photographic evidence of casualties who were foaming at the mouth and had constricted pupils, he said, indicating they had been exposed to chemical weapons.
"Which chemical weapons? Apparently sarin. The regime is also using chemical weapons that neutralise and are not fatal," BBC reports Brun as saying.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Monday the U.S. is still determining the extent of the supposed chemical attacks.
"Currently, our intelligence agencies are assessing what happened and what did not happen," he said while speaking at a joint press conference in Tel Aviv with Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon.
"I'm not going to discuss contingency options and what would change and what wouldn't change here. But suffice to say, the president, I think, has made it very clear and my statements have supported what the president said," he added.
Hagel traveled from Israel to Jordan on Tuesday as a part of his first major tour throughout the Middle East.
Jordan has been a key partner for the U.S. throughout the protracted fighting that has displaced hundreds of thousands of Syrians into neighboring countries, including Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon.
"The United States and Jordan share mutual concerns about the ongoing crisis in Syria and continue to consult closely on a number of issues including chemical weapons and the demands posed by the influx of Syrian refugees fleeing the violence," said Pentagon spokesman George Little following a meeting between Hagel and Prince Feisal bin Al Hussein and Jordanian armed forces Gen. Mashal al-Zaben, chairman of the Jordanian joint chiefs of staff.
The U.S. has a few hundred troops in Jordan to help train local forces in quelling the threat from Syria's chemical weapons stockpile. Hagel announced last week the U.S. would send an Army headquarters unit to establish a more permanent and stable presence there.
America has given roughly $1.2 million to the Jordanian military to help with these efforts, and to assist the roughly 500,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan.