One of President Donald Trump's top homeland security advisers said on Sunday the Unites States will not rule out launching a missile attack in response to new reports about a chemical attack on a rebel-held town in eastern Ghouta, Syria.
Trump tweeted early Sunday morning, "Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria. 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!"
Trump quickly followed those two tweets with a third seemingly blaming former-President Obama for Assad's continued use of chemical weapons, "If President Obama had crossed his stated Red Line In The Sand, the Syrian disaster would have ended long ago! Animal Assad would have been history!"
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"I wouldn't take anything off the table," White House Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Adviser Thomas Bossert said in an interview on ABC's "This Week." Trump ordered a missile strike on Syria in early April 2017 after a similar gas attack killed Syrian civilians. The U.S. Nazy fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at Syria airbase from which chemical attack appear to have originated.
"We are looking into the attack at this point," he said, adding that the photos of the incident are "horrible."
A chemical attack on a rebel-held town in eastern Ghouta has killed dozens of people, medical services reported, and Washington said the reports - if confirmed - would demand an immediate international response.
A joint statement by the medical relief organisation Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) and the civil defence service, which operates in rebel-held areas, said 49 people had died in the attack late on Saturday. Others put the toll at 150 or more.
The Russian-backed Syrian state denied government forces had launched any chemical attack as the reports began circulating and said the rebels were collapsing and fabricating news.
Reuters could not independently verify the reports.
The lifeless bodies of around a dozen children, women and men, some of them with foam at the mouth, were shown in one video circulated by activists. "Douma city, April 7 ... there is a strong smell here," a voice can be heard saying.
The U.S. State Department said reports of mass casualties from the attack were "horrifying" and would, if confirmed, "demand an immediate response by the international community".
Britain's Foreign Office also called the reports, if confirmed, "very concerning" and said "an urgent investigation is needed and the international community must respond. We call on the Assad regime and its backers, Russia and Iran, to stop the violence against innocent civilians.”
Russia, however, dismissed the reports. "We decidedly refute this information," Major-General Yuri Yevtushenko, head of the Russian peace and reconciliation centre in Syria, was cited as saying by Interfax news service.