At least 60 people were reportedly killed and more than 1,000 injured in the attack. (AP: Syrian Civil Defence White Helmets)
Russia has vetoed a US proposal to the UN Security Council for an independent investigation into who was responsible for alleged chemical weapons attacks in the Syrian town of Douma.
- US Ambassador to the UN slams Russia for derailing the proposed resolution
- The US, France and Britain have been discussing how to respond to the attack
- Syria and its main ally Russia say there is no evidence that a gas attack took place
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley slammed Russia for abandoning the Syrian people and the Security Council by derailing the proposed resolution.
Russia proposed counter resolutions and backed a visit by UN weapons inspectors instead, but that was seen as a bid to avert US-led airstrikes against Syria.
The White House said Mr Trump would not travel on Friday to the Summit of the Americas in Peru, so that he could focus on the crisis.
France and Britain were also discussing with the Trump administration how to respond to the incident. Both also stressed that who was to blame still needed to be confirmed.
At least 60 people were killed and more than 1,000 injured in the suspected chemical attack on Douma, then still occupied by rebel forces, according to a Syrian relief group.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government and Russia, its main ally, said there was no evidence that a gas attack had taken place and the claim was bogus.
But the incident has thrust Syria’s seven-year-old conflict back to the forefront of international concern and has pitted Washington and Moscow against each other again.
Aggravating the volatile situation, Iran, Mr Assad’s other main ally, threatened to respond to an air strike on a Syrian military base on Monday that Tehran, Damascus and Moscow have blamed on Israel.
In Syria, thousands of militants and their families arrived in rebel-held parts of the country’s north-west on Tuesday after surrendering Douma to government forces.
Both Syria and Russia have urged the OPCW to investigate the chemical weapon allegations. (AP: Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets)
Their evacuation restores Mr Assad’s control over the entire eastern Ghouta — formerly the biggest rebel bastion near Damascus.
Doctors and witnesses have said victims showed symptoms of poisoning, possibly by a nerve agent, and reported the smell of chlorine gas.
Trump due to decide on response
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said there was no threat of the situation in Syria resulting in a military clash between Russia and the United States. TASS news agency quoted him as saying he believed common sense would prevail.
On Monday, Mr Trump told a meeting of military leaders and national security advisers in Washington that he would take a decision on a response quickly, and that the United States had “a lot of options militarily” on Syria.
“We can’t let that happen in our world … especially when we’re able to because of the power of the United States, the power of our country, we’re able to stop it,” Mr Trump said.
Any potential US strike is likely to involve naval assets, given the risk to aircraft from Russian and Syrian air defence systems.
A US Navy guided missile destroyer, the Donald Cook, is in the Mediterranean.
A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a number of other assets could be moved into position “in a short period of time” if needed.
Last year, the United States launched strikes from two Navy destroyers against a Syrian air base.