Published: Tue, April 17, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Trump holds Syria, Russia 'responsible' for chemical attack

Trump holds Syria, Russia 'responsible' for chemical attack

The meeting will take place in the wake of Trump's tweet warning Russian Federation to "get ready" for "nice and new and smart'" missiles that "will be coming" to Syria.

Trump and other Western leaders have vowed a quick and forceful response to Saturday's alleged gas attack, which rescue workers say killed more than 40 people in the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Douma, reports AFP.

US President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter earlier that Russian Federation should be ready to shoot down missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russian Federation, because they will be coming, nice and new and "smart!"

In a US military action a year ago in response to a sarin gas attack, the Pentagon said missiles took out almost 20 percent of the Syrian air force.

Both Trump and his defence secretary Jim Mattis abruptly cancelled upcoming travel plans Tuesday, as the USS Donald Cook - a guided-missile destroyer - moved to within striking range of Syria.

Russian Federation is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's most powerful ally in the years-long civil war against rebel groups.

Mattis also ignored a question about whether he was concerned about telegraphing United States military moves in Syria, a question appearing to refer to Trump's earlier tweet on Wednesday.

President Donald Trump has put off a final decision on possible military strikes against Syria.

In London, British Prime Minister Theresa May held an emergency cabinet meeting to discuss support for us action against the Syrian regime.

Asked in a TV interview whether France would join strikes on Syria, he said, "We will need to take decisions in due course, when we judge it to be most useful and effective", according to Agence France Presse. It will probably become obvious that the Americans will not attack seriously when further conciliatory statements come from both the United States of America and Russian Federation.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Joseph Dunford, said the USA "specifically identified" targets to "mitigate the risk of Russian forces being involved" and that the normal deconfliction line was used in the run up to the strike to ensure clearance of airspace. The White House said he would consult further with allies.

Western powers are thought to be preparing for strikes but Syria's ally Russian Federation opposes such action, the BBC reported on Friday. Trump wrote on Twitter.

Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, director of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, said the allied airstrikes "took out the heart" of Assad's chemical weapons arsenal.

Trump's national security team huddled at the White House on Wednesday to discuss the response to Syria.

Assad has been blamed for previous attacks by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and UN-backed war crimes investigators.

Dozens of Douma inhabitants died and hundreds were injured in the attack, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

"On a strategic level, it's how do we keep this from escalating out of control, if you get my drift on that", he said.

In his tweet about timing, Trump also claimed success in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria and elsewhere, but said he was not getting enough credit.

"We also selected targets that would minimize the risks to innocent civilians", Mattis said.

However, the USA does hope French and British aircraft as well as ships will be part of the strikes as both nations continue to weigh the possibility of a joint response.

The U.S. military fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the Mediterranean Sea, but the strike had little effect as the air base was up and running in just 24 hours.

In the UK, Cabinet ministers said that it was "highly likely" the Assad regime was responsible for the attack and said the use of chemical weapons must not "go unchallenged". Wednesday's statement is also notable because Trump has criticized his predecessors for publicly telegraphing U.S. military action. The Kremlin said a crisis communications link with the United States, created to avoid an accidental clash over Syria, was in use.

At the same time Mrs May is under pressure to give Parliament the chance to vote before committing United Kingdom forces to any new action in Syria, amid fears it could draw the West into direct conflict with Assad's main backer, Russia.

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