Washington: US President Donald Trump Wednesday said that "missiles will be coming" in response to an alleged chemical attack in Syria, defying Russian warnings against a strike. Upping the stakes in an escalating confrontation with Moscow, Trump took to Twitter in the strongest assertion yet that he plans to take military action in Syria.
"Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, 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!" Trump wrote.
Damascus, which has long accused Washington of supporting "terrorists" opposed to the regime, hit back at Trump's threats. "We are not surprised by such a reckless escalation from a regime like the United States which has fostered and continues to foster terrorism in Syria," state news agency SANA quoted an official source at the foreign ministry as saying.
Trump and other Western leaders have vowed a quick and forceful response to Saturday's alleged gas attack, which rescue workers say killed more than 40 people in the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Douma. Efforts to find a diplomatic solution at the UN Security Council on Tuesday failed, with Washington and Moscow opposing each other's rival motions to set up an international investigation into chemical weapons use, according to AFP.
Trump further chided Russia for its support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Wednesday's tweet, saying it "shouldn't be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!"
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova responded to Trump's tweet saying, "Smart missiles should fly towards terrorists, not [Syria's] lawful government, which has spent several years fighting against international terrorism on its territory."
Meanwhile, the Syrian government has put its forces on "high alert" amid the looming threat of a US military response. With Russian military assistance, President Assad launched a bloody offensive on Eastern Ghouta, which had been under rebel control since mid-2013.
Since the start of the aerial bombardment campaign on February 18, the offensive has claimed more than 1,600 civilian lives, and has, through a series of deals reached with rebel groups, internally displaced more than 45,000 people according to the UN. Trump later tweeted that Russian-US relations are "worse now" than ever before.
Trump concluded by opening the possibility of a detente. "There is no reason for this. Russia needs us to help with their economy, something that would be very easy to do, and we need all nations to work together. Stop the arms race?" Trump asked.
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