Dozens feared dead in Syria attack; Trump lashes out at Damascus, Kremlin

UPDATE — 4/11, 8:24 a.m. EDT: While President Trump threatened to lob missiles at Syria in a Wednesday morning tweet, the World Health Organization has demanded “unhindered access” to the chemical attack site in Douma to help aid victims and make record of the damage. 

Trump went on to say the U.S. relationship with Russia has reached an all-time low and suggested a halt to the “arms race”.

 

An alleged chemical attack against the rebel-held Syrian enclave of Douma has killed 70 and injured over a thousand civilians according to multiple sources.

According to reports from Syrian civil defense group The White Helmets, a Syrian military helicopter dropped a barrel bomb on the center of the city Saturday. Both Damascus and the Kremlin have denied Syrian involvement.

Expecting the death toll to rise, Raed al-Saleh, head of the White Helmets, told Al Jazeera:

“Seventy people suffocated to death and hundreds are still suffocating.  White Helmet volunteers are trying to help the people but all that we can do is evacuate them to another area by foot because most of the vehicles and centers went out of service.”

Reports conflict whether the chemical agent consisted of sarin or chlorine.  However, witnesses say victims suffered foaming at the mouth and suffocation, both of which are symptoms of exposure to chlorine.

Al-Saleh said chlorine gas had been definitively pinpointed as one agent used against the town, but a yet-to-be identified toxin had also been used in the attack on Douma.

Referring to Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad as animal, President Trump expressed outrage at the carnage on Twitter and issued a vague but grim warning of potential consequences.

Following the attack, Syrian state television reported its air base at Homs had sustained an aerial bombardment leaving 14 dead.  Among the dead were Syrian air force personnel and Iranians working at the facility.

Both Damascus and the Kremlin have implicated Israeli aircraft consisting of two F-15s in the attack, but the Jewish state’s foreign ministry has yet to comment on the accusation.

Trump followed up Monday saying the U.S. will decide on a response to the attack by the end of the day and that “nothing’s off the table.”

“If it’s Russia, if it’s Syria, if it’s Iran, if it’s all of them together, we’ll figure it out,” he said during a Cabinet meeting open to reporters. “Everybody’s going to pay a price — (Putin) will, everybody will.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders followed the president’s comments saying “these actions are consistent with Assad’s established pattern of chemical weapons use.”

The latest of dozens of alleged uses of chemical warfare in the seven-year civil war in Syria, the attack on Douma follows a string of ground victories earned by the Syrian Arab Army, which has driven opposition groups from Eastern Ghouta since it launched its offensive against the region in mid-February.

 

Editor’s note: This article has been updated.

 

[Al Jazeera] [Reuters] [Washington Post] [CBS News] [AP] [BBC] [The Telegraph] [Photo courtesy Kathmandu Post]