As US President Donald Trump and his allies ramped up threats of military action against Syria this week, Syria's military has repositioned some air assets to avoid fallout from possible missile strikes, US officials told Reuters on Wednesday (April 11).
In April a year ago Trump ordered limited missile strikes on the Shayrat Airbase in response to a similar chemical weapons attack on rebel-held Khan Sheikhun.
US President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter earlier that Russian Federation should be ready to shoot down missiles fired at Syria. "Get ready Russian Federation, because they will be coming, nice and new and 'smart!' You shouldn't be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!"
But a special hotline for the USA and Russian militaries to communicate about operations in Syria is active and being used by both sides, Moscow said Thursday.
On Tuesday, Trump cancelled his first official trip to Latin America so he could focus on Syria.
Russian Federation has military forces, including air defences, in several areas of Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad in his long war against anti-government rebels.
The deepening legal mire facing the President and the apparently looming military strike in Syria converged in Monday's stunning rant about his legal plight before a room full of top military brass.
The attack at the weekend led to widespread condemnation, as Theresa May agreed with Trump and French president Emmanuel Macron that the worldwide community "needed to respond" following the suspected attack.
"Final decisions haven't been made yet", press secretary Sarah Sanders said.
At the House hearing, Democrats grilled Mattis on the wisdom and legality of Trump ordering an attack on Syria without explicit authorization from Congress. Mattis argued it would be justified as an act of self-defense, with 2,000 USA ground troops in Syria; he insisted he could not talk about military plans because an attack "is not yet in the offing".
But many of Syria's most sensitive military facilities are protected by Russian missile defence systems or are located at bases where Russian, Iranian and Syrian personnel cohabit.
Trump had also said last week that Putin bore responsibility for the "atrocity" in Douma because of his support for the Syrian government.
"Our decision will not target allies of the regime or attack anyone but rather attack the regime's chemical capabilities", he said, insisting he did "not want an escalation".
Mattis said options would be discussed with Trump at a meeting of his National Security Council on Thursday afternoon.
Dozens of Douma inhabitants died and hundreds were injured in the attack, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
"The situation in the world is becoming more and more chaotic but all the same we hope that common sense will finally prevail and global relations will take a constructive path", he said.
Some lawmakers who are calling for a strike on Syria also faulted Trump over his call of a withdrawal from Syria. "But on a strategic level, it's how do we keep this from escalating out of control, if you get my drift on that", Mattis said in morning testimony before the House Armed Services Committee. The only goal of this action is to accuse the Syrian authorities as well as Russian Federation of committing this crime and use it as a pretext for armed intervention against legitimate Syrian government. He said Syria's air defenses were ineffective and that numerous more than 40 surface-to-air missiles fired by the Syrians were launched after the allied attack was over.
Asked about Trump's "Mission Accomplished" assertion, White said it pointed to the successful targeting of the three Syrian chemical weapons sites.
It was not clear whether Trump and USA allies would wait for the results of the investigation before deciding on a possible strike.
Trump's predecessor Barack Obama had brokered a deal with Syria's ally Russian Federation to remove chemical stockpiles from the country, a strategy that also failed.
More than 2,000 USA troops are in Syria.
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