The U.S. Promises Forceful Response to Chemical Attack
U.S. president Donald Trump on Monday vowed to “forcefully” respond to an alleged poison gas attack that targeted the Eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus over the weekend, Reuters reported.
Trump did not specify when or exactly how the U.S. would respond to Saturday’s suspected attack on the town of Douma, but he said that Washington had “a lot of options militarily.”
The president said he will make a decision quickly on how the U.S. will respond to the attack. Unidentified U.S. officials told Reuters that Washington was considering a “multinational military response.”
U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told the United Nations Security Council that the U.S. “will respond” whether the security council takes action or not.
The threats by U.S. officials come two days after a suspected poison gas attack killed more than 40 people in Douma. Assessments by the U.S. have been unable to confirm which materials were used in the attack and who exactly was behind it.
The Syrian government has denied responsibility, but activists and the international community have held Syrian president Bashar al-Assad responsible. “Sadly, these actions are consistent with Assad’s established pattern of chemical weapons use,” White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders said in a statement on Monday.
Meanwhile, Moscow warned the United States on Monday of “grave repercussions” if it carries out an attack against Syrian government forces.
Russia said that experts from its military radiological, biological and chemical unit found no traces of a poison gas attack in Douma. “There was no chemical weapons attack,” Russian U.N. ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told the U.N. Security Council.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said it has opened an investigation to establish whether chemical weapons were used.
Russia Claims Thousands Have Been Evacuated From Douma
The Russian military said on Monday that more than 3,000 rebels and their relatives have left the last opposition-held pocket in Douma, Eastern Ghouta, the Associated Press reported.
The evacuations are part of a Russian-mediated deal brokered on Sunday between the Jaish al-Islam rebel group and the Syrian government. Under the agreement, the Syrian government grants rebels safe exit to northern Syria in return for the release of hundreds of hostages and prisoners held by the group. The deal also grants an offer of reconciliation for those rebels who wish to stay in Douma.
The complete evacuation of Jaish al-Islam fighters will transfer control of the Eastern Ghouta suburbs to the Syrian government. It will also mark the end of a seven-week-long offensive that has killed at least 1,600 people.
Iran Threatens to Respond to Missile Attack on Syrian Base
An aide to Iran’s supreme leader said on Tuesday that a missile attack on a Syrian base that killed a number of Iranians would “not remain without response,” Reuters reported.
Ali Akbar Velayati’s comments come hours after Iran’s Tasnim agency reported that seven Iranians had been killed in a missile attack on the T4 base in Homs province early Monday.
Earlier reports said that four Iranians had been killed during the missile attack, including a colonel and a member of the Revolutionary Guard’s aerospace force. A total of 14 people were believed to have been killed by the missile attack.
Russia and the Syrian government have blamed Israel for the strikes, but Tel Aviv has neither confirmed nor denied. Speaking on arrival in the Syrian capital Damascus on Tuesday, Velayati described the missile attack as “Israel’s crime.”
Dmitry Peskov, a spokesperson for Russian president Vladimir Putin, said on Monday that Israel had not notified Moscow of the airstrike in advance, even though there may have been Russian military advisers at the base, according to the Associated Press. This is “a cause for concern for us,” he was quoted as saying.
Monday’s airstrike was the second this year on the T4 airbase, one of the Syrian army’s largest bases. The facility is allegedly also used by Iranian and Iranian-allied militias. Israel hit the base in February, after it said it was the launching pad for an Iranian drone that violated Israeli airspace.
- CNN: Why Would Israel Launch Strikes on Syria?
- The New York Times: In Syria, Trump Faces the Limits of Bluster
- NPR: 5 Questions About Syria and Chemical Weapons
- Foreign Policy: For a Second Strike on Syria, Trump Will Have to Go Big
- The New Yorker: A Survivor Describes the Chemical Attack in Syria