Photo Credit: Wikimedia
A US F-16

Senior U.S. military officials say both the Joint Chiefs of Staff and CENTCOM – America’s military force in the Middle East – are preparing a raft of options for carrying out strikes against the Syrian government in retaliation for the deaths of scores of Syrian women and children due to another deadly chemical attack, according to a report by i24TV news, quoting U.S. military sources. The options and target list are to be presented to the president and his national security team within the next few hours.

WARNING: GRAPHIC VIDEO

Advertisement

Trump has blamed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as well as Russia and Iran for the devastation.

Dozens of Syrian civilians — most of them women and children, many of whom were in underground shelters — were killed in what appeared to have been a horrific sarin gas attack in the Eastern Ghouta town of Douma.

The attack, which occurred late Saturday, brings to an end a 10-day truce between opposition forces and the Russian and Iranian-backed regime forces of President Bashar al-Assad.

Both the Syrian and Russian governments denied involvement in the alleged chemical attack Sunday, which the Syrian civil defense organization, White Helmets, documented with videos and photos of the victims. One activist said he smelled very strong gas, saying it was “definitely a chemical attack.” He said he saw at least 40 bodies in the basement of the Douma Medical Center. Another activist said he saw at least 25 bodies, most of them children.

More than 42 other victims were found dead in their homes, according to the Syrian American Medical Society, who said “more than 500 cases – the majority of whom are women and children – were brought to local medical centers with symptoms indicative of exposure to a chemical agent.”

Despite the slaughter, no one in the international community called for an emergency session of the UN Security Council, Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman pointed out with some sarcasm on Sunday during an interview with the country’s Reshet Bet broadcaster. A spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres later told journalists during the day on his behalf, “While the United Nations is not in a position to verify these reports, the Secretary-General notes that any use of chemical weapons, if confirmed, is abhorrent, and requires a thorough investigation.”

A U.S. statement on the chemical attack, issued at midnight Saturday night by State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert, made it clear the Trump administration was rapidly reaching the end of its patience with Assad’s defiance, and Russia’s unwillingness to rein him in.

“We continue to closely follow disturbing reports on April 7 regarding another alleged chemical weapons attack, this time targeting a hospital in Douma, Syria. Reports from a number of contacts and medical personnel on the ground indicate a potentially high number of casualties, including among families hiding in shelters. These reports, if confirmed, are horrifying and demand an immediate response by the international community. The United States continues to use all efforts available to hold those who use chemical weapons, in Syria and otherwise, accountable. The regime’s history of using chemical weapons against its own people is not in dispute, and in fact nearly one year ago on April 4, 2017, Assad’s forces conducted a sarin gas attack on Khan Sheikhoun, which killed approximately 100 Syrians.

“The Assad regime and its backers must be held accountable and any further attacks prevented immediately. Russia, with its unwavering support for the regime, ultimately bears responsibility for these brutal attacks, targeting of countless civilians, and the suffocation of Syria’s most vulnerable communities with chemical weapons. By shielding its ally Syria, Russia has breached its commitments to the United Nations as a framework guarantor. It has betrayed the Chemical Weapons Convention and UN Security Council Resolution 2118. Russia’s protection of the Assad regime and failure to stop the use of chemical weapons in Syria calls into question its commitment to resolving the overall crisis and to larger non-proliferation priorities.

“The United States calls on Russia to end this unmitigated support immediately and work with the international community to prevent further, barbaric chemical weapons attacks.”

On Sunday, the Syrian Civil Defense Organization (White Helmets) posted a statement about the attack with a demand for a cease-fire so an international investigative team could get in to examine the evidence; the group also called for immediate international intervention and protection for its personnel and those of other humanitarian groups so they could safely carry out their life-saving work. Tragically, neither appears very likely given the history of the past seven years.

Advertisement

SHARE
Previous articleLiberman Calls for Probe of B’Tselem Incitement of IDF
Next articleIDF Launches Probe into Deaths at Gaza Border
Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.