Kremlin tells U.S. it's 'one step from war' as Trump warns he will hit Syria AGAIN after his attack on Russia's ally Assad triggers fears of WWIII

DailyMail

  • Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev denounced Donald Trump 
  • In the first direct American raid on Bashar al Assad’s forces, US President authorised the firing of 59 cruise missiles at military airfield
  • Officials said it was retaliation for Assad’s use of chemical weapons 
  • US ambassador to UN: ‘We are prepared to do more but we hope that will not be necessary’ 
  • Vladimir Putin has now diverted warship the Admiral Grigorovich to protect the Syrian coast 

The Kremlin has warned the US it is ‘one step from war' over Syria - but the Trump administration hit back by saying it would be prepared to carry out airstrikes again.

In the first direct American raid on Bashar al Assad’s forces, President Trump authorised the firing of 59 cruise missiles at a military airfield.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev denounced the US for attacking ‘the legitimate government of Syria’ and for allegedly breaking international law without the approval of the UN.

Mr Medvedev said: ‘This military action is a clear indication of the US president’s extreme dependency on the views of the Washington establishment, the one that the new president strongly criticised in his inauguration speech.'

‘Soon after his victory, I noted that everything would depend on how soon Trump’s election promises would be broken by the existing power machine. It took only two and a half months.

’The last remaining election fog has lifted. Instead of an overworked statement about a joint fight against the biggest enemy, ISIS, the Trump administration proved that it will fiercely fight the legitimate Syrian government’.

But the US President warned he would do it again after unleashing a surprise attack on the Syrian regime with a massive show of firepower.








Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (left) last night denounced Donald Trump for attacking ‘the legitimate government of Syria’ and said the US was ‘on the verge of a military clash with Russia’. Trump warned he would do it again after unleashing a surprise attack on the Syrian regime




Officials said it was retaliation for Assad’s use of chemical weapons and would ‘deter’ further atrocities. The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley (above), said that her country had taken ‘a very measured step’. She added: ‘We are prepared to do more but we hope that will not be necessary’


Officials said it was retaliation for Assad’s use of chemical weapons and would ‘deter’ further atrocities. The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said that her country had taken ‘a very measured step’.

She added: ‘We are prepared to do more but we hope that will not be necessary.’

Vladimir Putin yesterday also denounced the US missile strikes as an illegal act of aggression against a sovereign nation.

The furious Russian president responded to the attack against his ally by diverting warship the Admiral Grigorovich to protect the Syrian coast and vowing to bolster Assad’s missile defences against further bombing raids.

He also suspended a military hotline known as the ‘deconfliction line’ which is designed to avoid mid-air collisions and confrontations between Russian and US fighter jets over the war-torn country.



The strikes hit the government-controlled Shayrat air base (above) in central Syria, where U.S. officials say the Syrian military planes that dropped the chemicals had taken off




The American action drew a furious response from the Kremlin, which accused the US of violating international law. Above, the moment USS Ross fired one of 59 Tomahawk missiles into Syria from the Mediterranean





‘The US strike was a proportionate response to unspeakable acts that gave rise to overwhelming humanitarian distress,’ said UK ambassador Matthew Rycroft





Russia’s envoy to the UN called the attack a ‘flagrant violation of international law and an act of aggression’

The two old Cold War superpowers clashed at the UN Security Council where a Russian envoy claimed US ‘aggression’ had strengthened terrorism.

But Mrs Haley said the Russian government held ‘considerable responsibility’ for Assad’s use of chemical weapons.

‘Every time Assad has crossed the line of human decency, Russia has stood beside him,’ she said.

He had terrorised his country and shocked the conscience of the world, Mrs Haley added.

‘He murdered hundreds of thousands and displaced millions’.

On Tuesday Assad launched ‘yet another chemical attack, murdering men women and children in the most gruesome way’, Mrs Haley said.

‘Assad did this because he thought he could get away with it. He thought he knew Russia would have his back.’

Vladimir Putin responded to the attack against his ally by diverting warship the Admiral Grigorovich to protect the Syrian coast and vowing to bolster Assad’s missile defences against further bombing raids

Mrs Haley said that changed with the American strike: ‘When the international community fails in its duty to act collectively there are times when states are compelled to take their own action.’

The use of chemical weapons against civilians is ‘one of those times’, she said, adding: ‘The moral stain of the Assad regime could no longer go unanswered.

‘The United States took a very measured step last night.

'We are prepared to do more. But we hope that will not be necessary.

'It is time for all civilised nations to stop the horrors that are taking place in Syria and demand a political solution.’

The action marked a dramatic U-turn from the new US administration.

In the final days of last year’s election campaign, Mr Trump warned a ‘shooting war in Syria’ could bring the US into a conflict with Russia that could ‘very well lead to World War III’.

In an emotive broadcast in the early hours of yesterday morning, Mr Trump said he was responding to the Syrian regime’s attack – believed to have involved sarin nerve agents – on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun which left at least 72 people dead, including 20 children.

‘Using a deadly nerve agent, Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many,’ he said.

‘Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.’

Downing Street was swift to back the action.

At the UN, Britain came out in strong support of its ally ‘because war crimes have consequences and the greatest war criminal of all, Bashar al Assad, has now been put on notice,’ said UK ambassador Matthew Rycroft.
At the UN, Britain came out in strong support of its ally ‘because war crimes have consequences and the greatest war criminal of all, Bashar al Assad (left), has now been put on notice,’ said UK ambassador Mr Rycroft. Right, the remains of one of the hangars obliterated by US missiles fired from destroyers overnight

‘The US strike was a proportionate response to unspeakable acts that gave rise to overwhelming humanitarian distress,’ he added.

‘It was also a strong effort to save lives, by ensuring such acts never happen again.’

Russia had been ‘humiliated by its failure to bring to heel a puppet dictator, entirely propped up by Russia itself and Hezbollah and Iran’, he said.

Moscow compared the US action with the invasion of Iraq by American and British forces in 2003.




In an emotive broadcast in the early hours of yesterday morning, Mr Trump said he was responding to the Syrian regime’s attack – believed to have involved sarin nerve agents – on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun which left at least 72 people dead, including 20 children

Abdul Hamid al-Youssef cradles the bodies of his dead twins after they were killed in the chemical attack


Russia’s envoy to the UN called the attack a ‘flagrant violation of international law and an act of aggression’.
‘We strongly condemn the illegitimate action by the US,’ said deputy ambassador Vladimir Safronkov.
‘The consequences of this for regional and international stability could be extremely serious.’
Russia won support from some quarters other than Syria. Bolivian ambassador Sacha Sergio Llorenti accused the US of being the ‘prosecutor, judge and jury’ in Syria.
The editor of the website AltRight.com, Richard Spencer, told of how he felt ‘shocked and angry’ at yesterday’s intervention.

Weapon of choice: The £1million one-ton Tomahawk missiles destroy targets with pinpoint accuracy


Assad's base in ruins: Dramatic satellite photos reveal how airfield pounded with 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles is 'almost completely destroyed' after punishment for deadly chemical weapon attack

New images from the Department of Defense show how 59 powerful US missiles obliterated an airfield that was allegedly being used by Bashar al-Assad's regime to mount chemical attacks.

Observers said al-Sharyat Air Base was 'almost completely destroyed' by the 1,000lb warheads in a 30-minute barrage of destruction that is said to have destroyed 20 planes, a dozen aircraft hangars and a fuel depot, as well as ripped up runways, storage sites and radars.

The missiles were launched from US destroyers 150 miles away in the Mediterranean Sea in response to Assad's Sarin gas attack in Idlib on Tuesday, which killed 80 civilians, including children.


Destruction: These images show the extent of the destruction wrought on Syria's al-Shayrat military airfield by US Tomahawk missiles on Thursday. Note the holes punched through the tops of the thick concrete aircraft shelters



Damage: The photos show that the missiles - which were launched from 150 miles away by US destroyers - were terrifyingly accurate, slamming down on the shelters and ripping up runways


Disabled: The damage sustained in the 30-minute attack was meant to disable the air base, near the city of Homs. This shot shows how far apart the main target zones were

But while the US and a number of its allies say the attack was justified, it has enraged Russia, which backs Assad's regime.

Footage and photos from the ground Friday morning showed some of the aircraft shelters - which appear to be made of thick concrete, with feet of sand piled on top - partially or fully collapsed.

Others had sunlight shining in through holes in their roofs, and black scorch marks on their walls.

'Initial indications are that this strike has severely damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft and support infrastructure and equipment at Shayrat Airfield, reducing the Syrian government's ability to deliver chemical weapons,' said Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis.


Aftermath: This is the aftermath of one of the Tomahawk missile strikes, underneath one of the protective concrete plane shelters. US officials said that 20 Syrian jets were destroyed in the attack



Twisted: Twisted and shredded metal is all that's left of this ravaged plane after the bombardment. The Syrian government said at least seven soldiers were killed and nine wounded, though the US had tried to avoid barracks and populated buildings


Unscathed: This collection of five jets on al-Sharyat Air Base somehow escaped the bombing raid, despite being located out in the open, on a patchy grass plain

Two senior defense officials told Fox News that about 20 Syrian jets were destroyed in the strike, although footage screened on Russian television suggested that at least two had escaped the destruction.

Early reports put the figure at nine destroyed jets.

The US officials said that none of the planes had been able to scramble before missiles hit, and that no Russian aircraft were at the airfield. No helicopters were struck during the destruction, they said.

When asked why Russian TV footage showed an undamaged shelter and two apparently intact jets, an expert told CNN that the US had been precise in its targeting due to the size of the airfield so as not to waste missiles, and so not every area would be accountedfor.

Syria claimed that at least seven of its soldiers were killed and nine wounded in the airstrike. According to US intel, there were 12-100 personnel on the site that night. Efforts were made not to hit barracks, officials said.


Burnt out: Footage showing burnt out shelters and hangars and a damaged runway was cheered by tearful Syrians hoping that Trump's intervention would lead to Assad being overthrown

SANA, Syria's state media, also claimed that nine civilians, including four children, were killed - even though the airbase was attacked at 3:45am local time.

The satellite photos show a considerable distance between the base's perimeter and the nearest built-up area.

The US said that only one of its missiles failed to land on-target after being launched by the USS Ross and USS Porter, although Russians released their own counter-claims, saying that only 23 of the 59 rockets hit the base.

But the photos released by the Department of Defense suggest that that the missiles - at least, the ones involved in the damage seen in the satellite images - were closely clustered around the aircraft hangars.

The US said the base was being used to store chemical weapons, like those used on civilians in the city of Idlib on Tuesday.

That attack, which killed 80 civilians and injured many more, was the fourth such atrocity in Syria since the conflict began in 2011. One chemical attack has been blamed on ISIS and the other three on Syrian forces.

An hour after the attack, Trump, speaking from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, where he is hosting the Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng as part of a two day summit, said the US had to act after the Syrian dictator launched the 'horrible chemical weapons attack' on innocent civilians.

'Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack,' he said. 'It was a slow and brutal death for so many. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.'

He added: 'There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the chemical weapons convention, and ignored the urging of the UN security council.

'Years of previous attempts at changing Assad's behavior have all failed and failed very dramatically.

'As a result, the refugee crisis continues to deepen and the region continues to destabilize, threatening the United States and its allies.

'Tonight I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria, and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types.'

While Trump's election victory marked the possibility of a 'reset' between the former Cold War adversaries, that optimism has since dissipated, with relations between the US and Russia hitting a new low in recent years as officials on both sides openly bashed each other Friday.

Putin this morning denounced the strike as an 'illegal act of aggression' and also ripped up an agreement to avoid mid-air clashes between Russian and US fighter jets over Syria.


Inside the Mar-a-Lago war room: President Trump is briefed on a video link with his advisers and cabinet members around him. Trump was meeting with Chinese Premier Xi Jinping when he was pushed into action

Putin saw the US action as an 'aggression against a sovereign nation' on a 'made-up pretext' and considered it a cynical attempt to distract the world from civilian deaths in Iraq, according to Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Meanwhile, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev took to Facebook on Friday to declare US-Russian relations 'completely ruined'. He also said the US was 'on the verge of a military clash with Russia'.

Rex Tillerson also delivered some harsh words on Thursday and said Russia was either 'complicit' in the Sarin attack that killed more than 80 people or 'simply incompetent' in getting Syria to surrender its chemical weapons.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley echoed the sentiments at the UN Security Council and mocked Moscow for failing to rid Syria of chemical weapons under a 2013 deal.

'It could be that the Assad regime is playing the Russians for fools,' Haley said.

In response to the airstrikes, Russia said it will further strengthen Syrian air defenses.

And Putin ordered his Admiral Grigorovich frigate - armed with cruise missiles and a self-defense system - from the Black Sea to dock in-between the Syrian mainland and the US ships that launched the attack.

Russia's foreign minister says no Russian servicemen have been hurt in the bombing raid. Its security council said it regretted the 'harm' done to relations between Washington and Moscow.

The country also demanded a special meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss what it called 'aggression against a sovereign state'.

The meeting, called by Bolivia on Friday afternoon, saw Bolivian Ambassador Sacha Lorenti denouncing the United States as acting like 'investigator, attorney, judge and executioner'.

The US was defended by France and Britain.

British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft praised President Trump's decision, saying the attack was 'an appropriate response to such a heinous crime, a war crime.'

And French Ambassador Francois Delattre expressed hope the US action would be a 'game changer and help boost the political negotiations'.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres urged restraint and a renewed push for peace in Syria, saying in a statement that 'there is no other way to solve the conflict than through a political solution'.

He said: 'For too long, international law has been ignored in the Syrian conflict, and it is our shared duty to uphold international standards of humanity. This is a prerequisite to ending the unrelenting suffering of the people of Syria.'

The US was also branded 'a partner of ISIS' by al-Assad's spokesman, calling the missile strikes 'reckless and irresponsible.'

He also accused Trump of 'naively falling' for a 'false propaganda campaign' about the Idlib Sarin massacre.

A Pentagon official told DailyMail.com that the president 'is dead-set against letting Assad labor under the illusion that the Syrian army can murder innocent people with impunity.'




 WHO SUPPORTS WHO IN THE BATTLE FOR SYRIA?


PRO ASSAD


Russia - Gives military support, condemns the US airstrikes and suspends deal not to clash mid-air

Iran - Close strategic allies with Syria and has provided significant support including $8.69billion

North Korea - UN probe found that North Korea was supplying arms to Syria

Iraq - The Iraqi Government provided financial support and transported supplies

Algeria - Rumours suggest Algerian military aircraft is regularly landing in Syria

Venezuela - The South American country has shipped tens of millions of dollars worth of diesel to Syria

Lebanon - Police arrested family after they protested about the Syrian Government

Belarus - President Alexander Lukashenko supported Moscow's involvement and offered air strike

Lebanese Hezbollah Party - Involvement has been substantial and has deployed troops since 2012

ANTI ASSAD

US - President Donald Trump launched first airstrikes since six-year civil war started

UK - Supports US cruise airstrikes as Theresa May said chemical attack was 'despicable'

France/Germany - Both of the countries today said Assad bears 'sole responsibility' for US strike

Turkey - Opposed to Assad but objects to Syrian rebels and wants control of Kurdish area
 

Canada - Canada gave more than $4.97million to the Syrian opposition in 2013

Saudi Arabia - The Middle East country is the main group to finance the rebels and has provided a large amount of weapons

Israel - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was the first to praise the US's retaliatory attack, saying he 'fully supports' Donald Trump's decision to launch the cruise missile attacks

Qatar- It was reported Qatar gave the Syrian rebels $2.98 billion at the start of the civil war in 2011

A Syrian military source also claimed on Friday that Syria had already 'learned of the American threat' and that precautions were taken - but it did not say how they found out, or from whom.

'We took precautions in more than one military point, including in the Shayrat airbase. We moved a number of airplanes towards other areas,' the official said, adding they were forewarned 'hours' before the strike.

Those claims were belied by photographs and video that emerged Friday showing burned out planes underneath the targeted shelters.

Some planes - several of which had apparently been left out in the open air, at least two of which were still in shelters - were undamaged but on the base.

America had used a special military-to-military hotline to warn Russia about the airstrike around 30 minutes in advance - but the Trump administration did not ask Moscow for permission.

It is likely Russia alerted the Syrians about the incoming strikes but this has not been confirmed.

The US has been supported by some of its foreign allies.



Russian warship the Admiral Grigorovich (pictured on recent deployment) - armed with cruise missiles and a self-defense system - was sent from the Black Sea to Syria today following the airstrike on al-Shayrat military airfield





Block: Vladimir Putin ordered the Admiral Grigorovich will pass through the east Mediterranean waters where the USS Ross and USS Porter fired the 59 Tomahawk missiles that pounded Assad's al-Shayrat military airfield near Homs in the early hours of Friday

In a joint statement on Friday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande said, 'President Assad bears sole responsibility for this development.

Hollande added that the US strike was what France had been calling for in the wake of another chemical attack in 2013.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, speaking alongside German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, added that they hoped this would not spiral into further conflict.

'We do not want an escalation,' Ayrault said. 'We have to stop the hypocrisy. If Russia is acting in good faith it should stop and negotiate.'

Britain also stood staunchly behind its long-time ally and what it called an 'appropriate response.'

A spokeswoman for Prime Minister Theresa May said: 'The UK Government fully supports the US action, which we believe was an appropriate response to the barbaric chemical weapons attack launched by the Syrian regime, and is intended to deter further attacks.'

EU President Donald Tusk said in a tweet that 'US strikes show needed resolve against barbaric chemical attacks. EU will work with the US to end brutality in Syria.'

And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that 'in both word and action' Trump 'sent a strong and clear message' that 'the use and spread of chemical weapons will not be tolerated.'



Bolivia called an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council (pictured) in New York to discuss Trump's attack on Syria on Friday afternoon. The Bolivian Ambassador denounced the US as acting like 'investigator, attorney, judge and executioner'


Predictably, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was less enthused.

He took to Twitter on Friday to denounce the strikes, saying: 'Not even two decades after 9/11, US military fighting on same side as al-Qaeda & ISIS in Yemen & Syria. Time to stop hype and cover-ups.'

And Iranian news agency ISNA quoted foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi as saying: 'Such measures will strengthen terrorists in Syria... and will complicate the situation in Syria and the region.'

Iran is a long-time supporter of the Assad regieme.

There has also been debate at home, as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle complained that the Commander in Chief had authorized military action without consulting Congress.

'The President needs congressional authorization for military action as required by the Constitution, and I call on him to come to Congress for a proper debate,' said Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.

Libertarians such as Representative Justin Amash, a House Freedom Caucus member, want to stick tightly to the Constitution, which he argued on Twitter had been violated by Trump's actions.

'Airstrikes are an act of war' he wrote. 'Atrocities in Syria cannot justify departure from Constitution, which vests in Congress power to commence war.'

He continued: 'Framers of Constitution divided war powers to prevent abuse,' he wrote. 'Congress to declare war; President to conduct war and repel sudden attacks.'

Nancy Pelosi, the House's top-ranking Democrat, begged House Speaker Paul Ryan in a letter Friday morning to call back House members to DC as they begin their two-week Passover and Easter recess.

'The President's action and any response demands that we immediately do our duty. Congress must live up to its Constitutional responsibility to debate an Authorization of the Use of Military Force against a sovereign nation,' Pelosi said.

All eyes will be on Tillerson next week when he becomes the first Trump Cabinet member to visit Russia. Tillerson may get an audience with Putin himself.

Despite the breakdown over Syria, where Russia has a significant military presence, U.S. officials insisted Tillerson's highly anticipated trip was still on.

For Tillerson, the trip is even more delicate than before: He must find a way to show the U.S. can stand up to Russia and safeguard elements of cooperation at the same time.

He must also be prepared to deal with the notoriously unpredictable Putin, known for making guests feel uncomfortable when he wants to express displeasure.

'Let him come and tell us what they have been up to today,' Maria Zakharova, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, told Russian television. 'We will tell them everything that we think on this score.'

If Putin is looking for a way to even the score, it might not be in Syria, said Julianne Smith, a former National Security Council and Defense Department official now at the Center for a New American Security. Faced with challenges to his country's dignity, she said, Putin always thinks in 'asymmetric terms'.

'We should be watching eastern Ukraine, we should be watching for a cyberattack, another drip-drip-drip of WikiLeaks,' she said. 'There's all sorts of things they can do.'

TIMELINE OF THE SYRIA CIVIL WAR AND US RESPONSE


The US attack on a Syrian air base came after years of heated debate and deliberation in Washington over intervention in the bloody civil war.

Chemical weapons have killed hundreds of people since the start of the conflict, with the U.N. blaming three attacks on the Syrian government and a fourth on ISIS. One of the worst yet came Tuesday in rebel-held northern Idlib and killed dozens, including women and children.

That attack prompted President Donald Trump, on day 77 of his presidency, to dramatically shift U.S. policy, with the first direct U.S. attack on the Syrian government.

Trump blamed Syrian President Bashar Assad for the attack and called on the international community to join him in trying to end the bloodshed.

A timeline of events in Syria leading up to Tuesday's attack:

March 2011: Protests erupt in the city of Daraa over security forces' detention of a group of boys accused of painting anti-government graffiti on the walls of their school. On March 15, a protest is held in Damascus' Old City. On March 18, security forces open fire on a protest in Daraa, killing four people in what activists regard as the first deaths of the uprising. Demonstrations spread, as does the crackdown by President Bashar Assad's forces.

April 2011: Security forces raid a sit-in in Syria's third-largest city, Homs, where thousands of people tried to create the mood of Cairo's Tahrir Square, the epicenter of protests against Egypt's autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Aug. 18, 2011: President Barack Obama calls on Assad to resign and orders Syrian government assets frozen.

Summer 2012: Fighting spreads to Aleppo, Syria's largest city and its former commercial capital.

August 20, 2012: Obama says the use of chemical weapons would be a 'red line' that would change his calculus on intervening in the civil war and have 'enormous consequences.'

March 19, 2013: The Syrian government and opposition trade accusations over a gas attack that killed some 26 people, including more than a dozen government soldiers, in the town of Khan al-Assal in northern Syria. A U.N. investigation later finds that sarin nerve gas was used, but does not identify a culprit.

August 21, 2013: Hundreds of people suffocate in rebel-held suburbs of the Syrian capital, with many suffering from convulsions, pinpoint pupils, and foaming at the mouth. U.N. investigators visit the sites and determine that ground-to-ground missiles loaded with sarin were fired on civilian areas while residents slept. The U.S. and others blame the Syrian government, the only party to the conflict known to have sarin gas.

Aug. 31, 2013: Obama says he will go to Congress for authorization to carry out punitive strikes against the Syrian government, but appears to lack the necessary support in the legislature.

Sept. 27, 2013: The U.N. Security Council orders Syria to account for and destroy its chemical weapons stockpile, following a surprise agreement between Washington and Moscow, averting U.S. strikes. The Security Council threatens to authorize the use of force in the event of non-compliance.

Oct. 14, 2013: Syria becomes a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention, prohibiting it from producing, stockpiling or using chemical weapons.

June 23, 2014: The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons says it has removed the last of the Syrian government's chemical weapons. Syrian opposition officials maintain that the government's stocks were not fully accounted for, and that it retained supplies.

Sept. 23, 2014: The U.S. launches airstrikes on Islamic State group targets in Syria.

Aug. 7, 2015: The U.N. Security Council authorizes the OPCW and U.N. investigators to probe reports of chemical weapons use in Syria, as reports circulate of repeated chlorine gas attacks by government forces against civilians in opposition-held areas. Chlorine gas, though not as toxic as nerve agents, can be classified as a chemical weapon depending on its use.

Aug. 24, 2016: The joint OPCW-U.N. panel determines the Syrian government twice used helicopters to deploy chlorine gas against its opponents, in civilian areas in the northern Idlib province. A later report holds the government responsible for a third attack. The attacks occurred in 2014 and 2015. The panel also finds that the Islamic State group used mustard gas.

Feb. 28, 2017: Russia, a stalwart ally of the Syrian government, and China veto a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing sanctions against the Syrian government for chemical weapons use.

April 4, 2017: At least 58 people are killed in what doctors say could be a nerve gas attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in the rebel-held Idlib province. Victims show signs of suffocation, convulsions, foaming at the mouth and pupil constriction. Witnesses say the attack was carried out by either Russian or Syrian Sukhoi jets. Moscow and Damascus deny responsibility.

April 4, 2017: President Donald Trump issues a statement saying that the 'heinous' actions of Assad's government are the direct result of Obama administration's 'weakness and irresolution.'

April 5, 2017: Trump says Assad's government has 'crossed a lot of lines' with the suspected chemical attack in Syria.

April 6, 2017: The U.S. fired a barrage of cruise missiles into Syria Thursday night in retaliation for this week's gruesome chemical weapons attack against civilians, U.S. officials said. It was the first direct American assault on the Syrian government and Trump's most dramatic military order since becoming president. Trump said strike on Syria in the 'vital national security interest' of the United States.


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