Trump condemns ‘affront to humanity’ : Syria chemical attack

News Hour:

US President Donald Trump has condemned the killing of dozens of civilians in northern Syria in an apparent chemical weapons attack by Syria’s air force.

It was an “affront to humanity”, he said, adding: “When you kill innocent children, innocent babies, little babies… that crosses… many lines.”

He did not mention Russia, Syria’s ally, which says chemical weapons in rebel hands may have been released.

But America’s envoy to the UN accused Russia of covering up for Damascus.

“Time and time again Russia uses the same false narrative to deflect attention from their ally in Damascus,” Nikki Haley said during a heated UN Security Council debate in New York.

Hinting at possible unilateral action by the US, she added: “When the United Nations consistently fails in its duty to act collectively, there are times in the life of states that we are compelled to take our own action.”

The government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denies its forces launched a chemical weapons attack.

What happened?

According to UK-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 20 children and 52 adults were killed in the chemical incident in Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib province, on Tuesday.

Footage following the incident shows civilians, many of them children, choking and foaming at the mouth.

Both the World Health Organisation and medical charity MSF said some of the victims had symptoms consistent with exposure to nerve agents.

Witnesses say clinics treating the injured were then targeted by air strikes.

Will there be a change in US policy?

Mr Trump said: “I will tell you, it’s already happened, that my attitude towards Syria and Assad has changed very much… You’re now talking about a whole different level.”

Asked during a meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah at the White House whether he was formulating a new policy towards Syria, Mr Trump told reporters, “You’ll see.”

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on Russia to “think carefully” about its continued support for President Assad.

Vice-President Mike Pence said “all options are on the table” regarding Syria.

In an interview with Fox News, he added: “The Russians are in a close working alliance with the Assad regime in Syria, and the time has come for them to keep the word that they made to see to the elimination of chemical weapons so that they no longer threaten the people in that country.”

Only last week, Ms Haley said the US was no longer prioritising the removal of President Assad, a shift in US policy from the Obama era.

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