Trump's national security team meets on Syria

Elias Hubbard
April 15, 2018

A suspected chemical weapons attack Saturday in a Damascus suburb killed at least 40 people, many of them children. Moscow warned against any strikes and threatened to retaliate.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, based in the Netherlands, announced it was sending a fact-finding team to the site of the attack outside Damascus, and it was due to arrive Saturday. The medics, however, said none of the patients had any symptoms of chemical poisoning, according to the statements.

The deconfliction hotline was established in 2016 between USA central command in Qatar and its Russian equivalent in Syria. He didn't elaborate or name the state.

A fact-finding team of inspectors from the worldwide chemical weapons watchdog was in Damascus and had been expected to head to the town of Douma on Saturday, scene of the suspected chemical weapons attack that killed more than 40 people.

French President Emanuel Macron has called for a "strong, united and resolute" response.

According to a statement by the French presidency, Macron called for dialogue between France and Russian Federation to "continue and intensify" to bring peace and stability to Syria.

Trump on Monday warned of a quick, forceful response once responsibility for the attack was established.

Mattis said options would be discussed with Trump at a meeting of his National Security Council on Thursday afternoon.

Meanwhile Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said the Government must seek the support of Parliament if it was to join any action against the Assad regime.

It was not immediately clear whether Trump meant the allied military operation would extend beyond an initial nighttime round of missile strikes. Defense Secretary Mattis, however, indicated that evidence of what happened was still being studied.

"If Russian or Iranian troops are harmed by the USA attacks, that would broaden the scope of the conflict - perhaps sparking retaliation against the U.S.in other countries, " he said.

Lavrov noted that Russian and US militaries have a hotline to prevent incidents, adding that it's not clear if it would be sufficient amid mounting tensions.

"Until we have a more long-term strategy, until we have some idea where we're going in Syria and the Middle East, it seems unwise, to me, to start launching missiles", said Smith, D-Wash.

The delayed United States response is in stark contrast to last year's Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack, of which U.S. intelligence agencies had video and other evidence of certain aspects of the actual attack, which involved the use of sarin gas.

But President Bashar al-Assad's government - which receives military backing from Russian Federation - denies being behind any chemical attack. This is not the first such attack on civilians during the civil war.

"Assad must be held to account and the world must clearly demonstrate that chemical weapons are unacceptable anytime, anywhere, and in any context", he said.

Britain's government weighed the possibility of military action against Syria on Thursday, agreeing the "need to take action" despite polls showing the public remains wary of military intervention.

Lavrov said Russian Federation expects the OPCW team to quickly visit the site. Real estate agent Ahmad Abdul-Rahman said he had brought his wife and three sons from his hometown of Aleppo, where there are no significant military targets, to Damascus to be together in case of an attack.

FILE - This Sunday, April 8, 2018 file image made from video released by the Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, shows medical workers treating toddlers following an alleged poison gas attack in the opposition-held town of Douma, near Damascus, Syria.

"The raised state flag over a building in the town of Douma has heralded the control over this location and therefore over the whole of eastern Ghouta", Major-General Yuri Yevtushenko, head of the Russian Peace and Reconciliation Centre in Syria, was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.

Eastern Ghouta had been the biggest rebel stronghold near Damascus, but insurgent groups there surrendered after a series of ferocious government assaults aided by Russian Federation under a massive bombardment.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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