US President Donald Trump has warned Russia of possible American missile strikes in Syria, in the latest series of Cold War-like manoeuvres between the two world powers, which carries potential military confrontations after the chemical attack in Douma early this week.
After Russia’s vow to shoot down any American missiles, Trump said in a tweet on his official account, “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!”
The Kremlin, as well as Iran, has previously warned the US that military action on Syrian land will lead to more instability in the country, a Russian foreign ministry spokesman said, adding, “smart missiles should fly towards terrorists, not [a] legal government.”
The tension comes after the UN Security Council knocked back on Tuesday two rival resolutions from the US and Russia proposing separate investigations into Saturday’s alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria. This follows a decision by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to examine the site of the attack at the request of the Syrian government.
The US and other Western countries have accused the Syrian regime of conducting the attack, which, according to the Syrian White Helmets voluntary rescue group, left at least 49 people dead and hundreds more injured, including several children.
The Syrian government, Iran, and Russia have vocally denied involvement in Saturday’s attack, and accused rebels in Douma of fabricating the chemical assault, describing the manoeuvres as “propaganda” and a “hoax” to sabotage the deal to end fighting in Douma and evacuate civilians as well as Jaish Al-Islam rebels and their families.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a Wednesday statement that it is deeply alarmed by reports of the suspected use of toxic chemicals in Douma.
According to reports from Health Cluster partners, during the shelling of Douma on Saturday, an estimated 500 patients presented to health facilities exhibited signs and symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic chemicals. In particular, there were signs of severe irritation of mucous membranes, respiratory failure, and disruption to central nervous systems of those exposed.
More than 70 people sheltering in basements have reportedly died, with 43 of those deaths related to symptoms consistent with exposure to highly toxic chemicals. Two health facilities were also reportedly affected by the attacks.
WHO called on the parties of the conflict to keep their obligation to refrain from attacking medical facilities and personnel as per Security Council Resolution 2286 of the year 2016, which states “any use of chemical weapons to cause harm is illegal under international law.”
“We should all be outraged at these horrific reports and images from Douma,” said Peter Salama, WHO deputy director general for emergency preparedness and response. “WHO demands immediate unhindered access to the area to provide care to those affected, to assess the health impacts, and to deliver a comprehensive public health response.”