• ‘Big price to pay’ for fatal attack, Trump warns Assad
The United Nations Security Council is likely to meet today afternoon over the recent chemical attack in Syria at the request of the United States and several other members, diplomats said yesterday.
“UK, France, US, Poland, Netherlands, Sweden, Kuwait, Peru and Cote d’Ivoire have called an emergency meeting of #UNSC to discuss reports of chemical weapons attack in #Syria. Meeting expected on Monday,” the British mission to the United Nations tweeted.
Meanwhile, Russia also called for a Monday meeting of the U.S. Security Council concerning “international threats to peace and security,” diplomats said yesterday. The precise topic of what the Russians wished to discuss was not immediately clear.
However, the request came after President Donald Trump took to Twitter yesterday, where he said there would be a “big price to pay” for the chemical attack against a besieged rebel-held town in Syria where medical aid groups reported dozens of people were killed by poison gas.
The Assad government, in a statement posted on the state-run news agency SANA, denied responsibility.
A joint statement by the medical relief organization Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) and the civil defense service, which operates in rebel-held areas, said 49 people had died in the attack late on Saturday in the town of Douma. U.S. and other officials said they were working yesterdayto verify details of the attack.
A top White House aide, asked about the possibility of a U.S. missile strike in response, said, “I wouldn’t take anything off the table.” Just over a year ago, Trump ordered dozens of cruise missiles to be fired at a Syrian air base after declaring there was no doubt Assad had “choked out the lives of helpless” civilians in an attack that used banned gases.
White House advisers said at the time that images of hurt children helped spur the president to launch that air strike, and television new shows yesterday aired similar depictions of suffering young Syrians.
The U.S. State Department said reports of mass casualties from an alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma were “horrifying” and would, if confirmed, “demand an immediate response by the international community”. Volunteer rescue force the White Helmets shared graphic videos on social media showing people washing themselves after the attack. It says the number dead is likely to rise.
“Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria,” Trump tweeted. “Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price to pay. Open area immediately for medical help and verification. Another humanitarian disaster for no reason whatsoever. SICK!”
Saturday’s attack took place in a rebel-held town near Damascus amid a resumed offensive by Syrian government forces after the collapse of a truce. Syrian activists, rescuers and medics said a poison gas attack in Douma killed at least 40 people, with families found suffocated in their houses and shelters. The reports could not immediately be independently verified.
The developments come as Trump has moved to dramatically scale back U.S. goals in Syria, pushing for a quick military withdrawal despite resistance from many of his national security advisers.