Chemical weapons inspectors head to site of suspected Syrian attack

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8, 2018 file image released by the Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, shows a rescue worker carrying a child following an alleged chemical weapons attack in the rebel-held town of Douma, near Damascus, Syria. The Syrian government said it would facilitate the mission's investigation, which was to begin Saturday.

President Emmanuel Macron said France, the US and Britain will decide how to respond in the coming days.

Following last year's use of the internationally-banned sarin nerve agent in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun, the Trump administration struck Syria's military with dozens of Tomahawk cruise missiles. It's armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles, the weapon of choice in a USA attack one year ago on an airfield in Syria following an alleged sarin gas attack on civilians.

At stake in Syria is the potential for confrontation, if not outright conflict, between the US and Russian Federation, former Cold War foes whose relations have deteriorated in recent years over Moscow's intervention in Ukraine, its interference in the 2016 USA presidential election and its support for Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Saturday's strike, which killed more than 40 people, was nearly certainly carried out by the Assad regime, which is trying to pound into submission some of the last rebel strongholds in the country.

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.

Residents in Damascus, who had lived on edge for years because of mortar shells lobbed from eastern Ghouta, celebrated the news. "Eastern Ghouta was the main source of ... terrorists who from there spread throughout Syria". The government, however, said evacuations from Douma were ongoing and no Syrian government forces had entered the town.

The strikes targeted three areas of Syria: a scientific research center near Damascus, a chemical weapons storage facility west of Homs and a storage facility and command post near Homs. It followed weeks of negotiations mediated by Russian Federation that repeatedly were derailed.

Amid earlier disagreements, a truce collapsed last week and the Syrian government pressed ahead with its offensive.

He says claims of a chemical attack were fabricated and "can't serve as a pretext for any forceful actions".

State news agency RIA Novosti on Wednesday quoted Andrei Krasov, deputy chairman of the State Duma's defense committee, as saying that Russian Federation will treat a US airstrike on Syria "not just as an act of aggression but a war crime of the Western coalition".

More news: Russian President Putin says strike on Syria will exacerbate humanitarian catastrophe

The President will meet with his national security team at the White House on Thursday for further discussions on the U.S. response.

Macron, the French president, said he had "proof" that the Assad government mounted the chemical weapons attack. "That was the first step in this process, but we're continuing to look at a number of options", she said. The Foreign Ministry in Damascus has denounced President Donald Trump's threat to attack the country as "reckless" and a danger to worldwide peace and security. However, Moscow did not fulfil the threat and the channel remained open.

Some residents were defiant.

"That's outside the crystal ball that anybody really has right now", said Young.

He also said, "There is no reason for this".

"We are trying to stop the murder of innocent people but on a strategic level its how do we keep this from escalating out of control, if you get my drift on that", he said. "We were not scared in Aleppo and we are not scared in Damascus".

Media captionThe US president has said "nothing's off the table" - so what options are on the table?

At the time Trump said: "Why can't we just be quiet and, if we attack at all, catch them by surprise?"

Even with all of the fighting with Kim Jong-un and North Korea, at no time did Trump guarantee that missiles were on their way.

"The wild card is the Russian piece", said Murray, who called the Russian air defense in Syria "very formidable".

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