USA wrestles with Russian Federation in Syria for settling scores among powers

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With punitive U.S. military action seemingly imminent, Russian Federation scrambled to deflect blame from Syria's Bashar al-Assad and, according to a monitor group, regime forces evacuated key defense buildings in Damascus. Some stocked up on food and prepared underground shelters while others taunted the US president to go through with his threats.

A joint military operation, possibly with France rather than the the lead, could send a message of worldwide unity about enforcing the prohibitions on chemical weapons and counter Syria's political and military support from Russian Federation and Iran.

Activists and medics say dozens of people died when government aircraft dropped bombs filled with toxic chemicals on Douma on Saturday.

Both Syria and Russian Federation have said reports of the attack were fabricated by rebels and rescue workers in Douma and have accused the United States of seeking to use it as a pretext to attack the government.

Mattis also promised communication to the U.S. congressional leadership prior to any attack on Syria.

Unanimously, experts who spoke with Business Insider agreed the United States and Russian Federation had a heavy interest in avoiding war between the two of them. Local activists say the main leaders of the group that held it have left, following an agreement between Russian Federation and the rebels. "Even if the USA delivers a strike, this won't change the power balance in Syria", the MP said. "We will not leave our houses and our army is ready to retaliate".

He later warned that missiles "will be coming" at Syria, cautioning the Kremlin on social media against shooting them down.

"Smart rockets should be aimed at terrorists, rather than the legitimate government, which has for several years been fighting global terrorism on its territory", she said in a Facebook post. Others said they have readied underground basements for cover. If Trump decides to proceed quickly, the most likely partner would be France, rather than Britain, because of concerns about obtaining permission from Parliament, said the official.

The Syrian pound lost almost 10 percent of its value on prospects of an American attack, going from about 430 Syrian pounds to the dollar last week to 469 Wednesday. The Syrian government has denied the allegations.

There was no immediate comment from Syrian officials.

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Many residents were preparing to take what should be some of the last buses leaving the region to head to parts of northern Syria still under rebel control.

Additionally, Bohl said Syria's suspected chemical weapons facilities were far enough away from Russian bases that they could be hit without upsetting Russian forces.

On Wednesday he said the missiles were "coming", but on Thursday he tweeted that he had "never said when".

"The more the United States engages in Syria, the angrier certain Syrians are going to be at the United States", he said.

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.

The Syrian military has also been repositioning some air assets to avoid possible missile strikes, United States officials told Reuters.

"The situation is pretty bad, but it shouldn't be overdramatized", Alexei Malashenko, a leading Russian expert on Syria said in televised remarks.

The US National Security Council is scheduled to meet on Thursday, while UK Prime Minister Theresa May has called a cabinet meeting, a BBC report said.

Trump's bellicose tweets came in response to a warning from Russia's ambassador to Beirut, who took to a television network run by the armed group Hezbollah to declare that any USA missiles would be shot down "as well as the sources they were fired from".

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