SYRIA (OBSERVATORY via BBC) – US President Donald Trump has vowed to fire rockets at Syria in response to threats by Russian officials to drop any US missiles fired at Russia and hit its launch sites.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in London, said Syrian forces emptied the main airports and military bases in anticipation of US strikes. The Russian military also said it was closely monitoring the situation in Syria and was monitoring US naval movements in the Gulf.
In the same context, Lebanese Airways suspended flights over Syrian airspace and northern Turkey. Israel also raised its alert in anticipation of any military operation in Syria.
Iranian state television also showed footage of a visit by the Supreme Leader’s advisor to Syria, who said his country “supports Damascus against any external aggression.”
The Russian ambassador in Lebanon has said that any US missile fired at Syria will fall, and will target its launch sites.
Russian Ambassador Alexander Zasypkin said in comments broadcast on Saturday evening that he was referring to what Russian President Vladimir Putin and the chief of staff of the Russian armed forces had said.
“Russia promises to drop any and all missiles fired at Syria, get back, Russia, because it will come and it will be beautiful, new and” smart. “You should not be partners to an animal that killed its people with gas and enjoys it!” Trump said in a tweet on Twitter.
He also said in another tweet that US-Russian relations are “worse than ever before, including the start of the war.” He called for an end to the arms race.
The Pentagon declined to comment on Trump’s comments about beating Syria.
Britain blamed the Syrian government for the “chemical attack” on the city of Douma. British Prime Minister Theresa May said all indications were that the Syrian authorities were responsible for the chemical attack, and that the shocking attack would not go unanswered.
“Missiles must be directed towards terrorism”
Earlier in the day, a foreign ministry spokeswoman responded to Trump’s comments, saying that “smart missiles must be directed at terrorism, not at the legitimate government.”
Syria also described Trump’s threats of firing rockets on its territory as “reckless escalation,” according to the Syrian news agency SANA.
“We were not surprised by such reckless escalation by a regime like the United States that has strengthened and continues to strengthen terrorism in Syria,” the agency quoted an official source as saying.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry said the United States was using fabrications and lies as a pretext to target Syria.
The Russian military said on March 13 that it would respond to any US strike on Syria, targeting any missiles and launchers involved in any such attack.
Rosa is the strongest ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The United States and its allies are now considering whether to hit Syria over a suspected chemical attack on Saturday that aid groups and medical organizations said had killed dozens of people in the rebel-held town of Duma.
“If the Americans launch a strike … the rockets will fall, and even the sources of the rockets,” the Russian ambassador to Lebanon told Al-Manar television of the Lebanese Hezbollah group, speaking in Arabic.
He added that any clash “will rule out the occurrence, and therefore we are ready to conduct negotiations.”
Moscow has warned that US strikes on Syria could destroy evidence of the alleged chemical attack.
Russia and the United States have aborted their respective attempts at the UN Security Council on Tuesday to launch international investigations into chemical weapons attacks in Syria.
Trump warned on Monday of a swift and strong response once responsibility for the attack in Syria was determined.
What happened in Douma?
Syrian opposition activists, rescue workers and medics say the planes have dropped bombs filled with poisonous chemicals in Douma.
The Syrian-American Medical Association, which supports hospitals in opposition-controlled areas and rescue workers in the Syrian Civil Defense, said more than 500 people had been treated with “signs of exposure to a chemical agent.”
On Wednesday, the World Health Organization asked the Syrian government to allow it to “immediately and unhindered access” to the town of Douma to verify reports from its partners on the ground that 70 people had died, including 43 people “Symptom consistent with exposure to highly toxic chemicals”.
A team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is due to move to Syria “soon” to determine whether banned weapons have been used permanently.
Moscow described the chemical attack as a “provocation” aimed at justifying Western intervention against the Syrian regime.
Also on Wednesday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova asked whether the purpose of the Western raids was “to remove the effects of provocation quickly … [therefore] the international inspectors will not have what they are looking for in terms of evidence.”
Russia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Vasily Nibenzia, warned Washington that it would “take responsibility” for any “illegal military adventure”.
What will happen next?
US President Donald Trump has canceled a trip he was due to start in Latin America this weekend to focus on responding to what happened in Syria, the White House said.
The resolution suggests that the United States’ response may involve a military operation more than just a limited strike, says BBC correspondent Barbara Plit Ocher in Washington.
French President Emmanuel Macron said any strikes “will not target the [Syrian] regime’s allies or attack anyone, but will target chemical capabilities.”
But The Times reported that British Prime Minister Teresa May urged Trump to provide further evidence of the alleged chemical attack.
The USS Donald Cook is based in the Mediterranean, and the European Air Traffic Control Agency has warned airlines to take “due consideration” while flying over the eastern Mediterranean over the next few days because of the possible launch of missiles at Syria.
Russia has vetoed a US draft resolution on the UN Security Council calling for a new commission of inquiry to determine responsibility for chemical weapons attacks in Syria.
Twelve out of 15 US states supported the draft, while Bolivia joined Russia in voting against the draft resolution and China abstained.