US, Turkey blast Assad on chemical raid claim
ANKARA / WASHINGTON
The international community has blasted the Syrian regime in Syria over claims of use of chemical weapons in Eastern Ghouta, with the U.S. President Donald Trump calling Bashar Al-Assad “an animal.”
Turkey also condemned the use of chemical weapons, the foreign ministry said in a statement on April 8.
Trump condemned a “mindless chemical attack” in Syria that killed women and children, but he offered no evidence to support the claim by Syrian opposition activists and rescuers that poison gas was used.
A top aide, asked about the possibility of a U.S. missile strike in response, said, “I wouldn’t take anything off the table.”
Trump, without elaboration, said there would be a “big price to pay” and he called Syrian President Bashar Assad an “animal.”
Just over a year ago, Trump ordered dozens of cruise missiles to be fired at a Syrian air base after declaring there was no doubt Assad had “choked out the lives of helpless” civilians in an attack that he said used banned gases.
The April 7 attack took place in a rebel-held town near Damascus, the capital, amid a resumed offensive by Syrian government forces after the collapse of a truce.
Syrian activists, rescuers and medics said a poison gas attack killed at least 40 people, with families found suffocated in their houses and shelters.
The reports could not immediately be independently verified. Images released by the Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, a volunteer organization, show children lying on the ground motionless and foaming at the mouth.
The Assad government, in a statement posted on the state-run news agency SANA, strongly denied the allegations.
Trump said in a tweet Sunday that the “area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world.”
He said Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iran, influential Syrian backers, “are responsible for backing Animal Assad.”
Russia’s military rejected claims that Syrian government forces used chemical weapons.
Trump called for the area to be opened “immediately” for medical aid and verification.
“Another humanitarian disaster for no reason whatsoever. SICK!” he tweeted.
Trump’s homeland security adviser, Thomas Bossert, noted the timing of the suspected chemical attack - almost a year to the day of the U.S. missile strikes.
“This isn’t just the United States. This is one of those issues on which every nation, all peoples, have all agreed and have agreed since World War II, it’s an unacceptable practice,” Bossert told ABC’s “This Week.”
“We strongly condemn the attack, which there is strong suspicion was carried out by the regime, whose record on use of chemical weapons is known by the international community,” the Turkish ministry said.
The Syrian regime must give account for the attacks in various regions of the country at different times,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan spokesperson İbrahim Kalın said.
“The entire international community, primarily countries that have an influence on the Syrian regime, has a responsibility to take the necessary steps in order to prevent similar war crimes and crimes against humanity,” Kalın said in a statement.