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UPDATE: Trump Considering Response To Syria Attack

Moscow and Damascus say Israeli F-15s hit the Tiyas air base in central Syria, killing 14 people following a reported chlorine gas attack in the last rebel-held stronghold. Israel won’t comment

This image released early Sunday by the Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets shows a child receiving oxygen through respirators following an alleged poison gas attack in the rebel-held town of Douma, near Damascus, Syria.

 

The White House says President Donald Trump is focused on responding to the apparent use of chemical weapons in Syria.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says Saturday’s attack, which killed at least 40 people, is “consistent” with President Bashar Assad’s “established pattern of chemical weapons use.”

Sanders says Trump is “confident” in the intelligence related to the attack but she will not specifically say if the U.S. government has determined that Assad’s government was behind the attack.

Sanders is reiterating that Russia and Iran “also bear responsibility for these acts.”

The White House says the U.S. is not conducting any airstrikes in Syria. Trump has said he’ll make a decision on the U.S. response within 24 to 48 hours.

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President Donald Trump has condemned the “heinous” suspected poison gas attack in Syria and said he’ll make a decision on the U.S. response within 24 to 48 hours.

Speaking in the White House Cabinet Room Monday, Trump vowed to find out who is responsible for the attack that reportedly killed at least 40 people.

Trump said during a Cabinet meeting with reporters that, “If it’s Russia, if it’s Syria, if it’s Iran, if it’s all of them together, we’ll figure it out.”

Opposition activists said 40 people died in the chemical attack late Saturday in the suburbs of the Syrian capital and blamed it on the Syrian government, which is closely allied with Russia.

Syria has blamed Israel for a missile attack on a central air base early Monday that reportedly killed 14 people, including three Iranians.

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Amid international outcry over an alleged poison gas attack in Syria over the weekend, Damascus said one of its air bases had come under attack, first blaming the U.S., but later Israel.

Meanwhile, President Trump says the White House will be making a decision on Syria in the next day or two, saying the reported attack was “atrocious” and “can’t be allowed to happen.”

“If it’s the Russians, if it’s Syria, if it’s Iran, if it’s all of them together, we’ll figure it out,” the president said during his Cabinet meeting, according to pool reports.

Trump spoke hours after Syria and Russia accused Israel of carrying out the predawn raid on the Tiyas air base — also known as T-4, outside Palmyra in central Syria. Syria called the attack “Israeli aggression.”

Initially, Syria had said the U.S. “likely” carried out the airstrike but then quickly shifted the blame to Israel. The Pentagon said it was not conducting military operations in the area.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said Israeli F-15s fired eight missiles at the air base and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says 14 people were killed in the attack. Moscow, an ally of the Syrian regime, said no Russians were wounded in the attack.

Israeli officials have declined to comment, but Israel conducted a similar airstrike on the base on Feb. 10.

Meanwhile, NPR’s Ruth Sherlock reports from Beirut that Jaish al-Islam, the last rebel group left in the eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus, appears to have agreed to a surrender deal with the regime and its ally, Russia.

“Buses are taking fighters and their families to the northern town of Jarablous, which is in rebel hands. But in a twist from past evacuations, we’re told that fighters can stay in Douma if they choose to, though they must give up their weapons,” Ruth says.

President Trump tweeted on Sunday that there would be a “big price to pay” for the Syrian chemical attack in Douma, the last section of the Eastern Ghouta suburbs near Damascus that Syrian rebels still hold. That attack killed dozens of people.

In an unprecedented move for Trump, he singled out Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, for backing the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The United Nations Security Council also planned to hold an emergency meeting on the chemical attack on Monday, but with Russia holding a veto over any action, it was unlikely that anything substantive would emerge.

Damascus and Moscow have called the alleged chemical attack a fabrication despite independently confirmed reports that the Syrian regime used deadly Sarin gas in 2013 and again last year.

In the latest alleged attack, doctors said people arriving at hospitals in Syria following the attack showed symptoms of chlorine gas poisoning. Chlorine gas was first used as a battlefield weapon in World War I.

“Hoaxes of attacks using chlorine or other poisonous substances by Syrian government forces are continuing to emerge. Another such hoax that has supposedly taken place is the alleged chemical attack in Douma yesterday,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement over the weekend.

“It is necessary to warn once again that military intervention under far-fetched and fabricated pretexts in Syria, where the Russian servicemen are deployed at the request of the legitimate government, is absolutely unacceptable and might lead to very severe consequences,” the statement said.

As NPR’s Alexis Diao wrote on Sunday, “Photos circulating on social media show lifeless bodies piled in basements. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring agency, says that at least 80 people have died, but these reports cannot be independently verified.”

A joint statement released Sunday by the Syrian Civil Defense and the Syrian American Medical Society, which supports clinics that serve rebels, said “more than 500 cases — the majority of whom are women and children … were brought to local medical centers with symptoms indicative of exposure to a chemical agent,” including difficulty breathing, skin discoloration, foaming of the mouth, eye burns and a chlorine-like odor.

“One of the injured was declared dead on arrival. Other patients were treated with humidified oxygen and bronchodilators, after which their condition improved,” the statement said. “In several cases involving more severe exposure to the chemical agents, medical staff put patients on a ventilator, including four children. Six casualties were reported at the center, one of whom was a woman who had convulsions and pinpoint pupils.”

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows a man receiving treatment at a hospital in Damascus, Syria, Saturday, April. 7, 2018. State TV said Army of Islam fighters pelted several neighborhoods in Damascus with mortar shells killing six civilians and wounding more than 30. (SANA via AP)

 

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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