11 April, 2018
United States President Donald Trump has tweeted that Russia should be ready for a missile strike in Syria.
In the message on the social media service Twitter, Trump said, "You shouldn't be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!"
He said the missiles would be "new and ‘smart!'"
The comments come after Russia's ambassador to Lebanon said on Tuesday that Russian forces would shoot down any missile fired at Syria.
A spokesman for the Russian government, Dmitry Peskof, said U.S. missiles should target "terrorists" and not the "legitimate government" in Syria.
Peskov also said that all parties involved in Syria should refrain from actions that could destabilize the area.
The Syrian state news agency called the threat of a missile strike "reckless escalation."
Suspected chemical attack and heightened tensions
Tensions rose in Syria after reports of a suspected chemical attack in the town of Douma on Saturday. At least 40 people are said to have died.
A man is hosed off following an alleged chemical weapons attack in what is said to be Douma, Syria, in this still image from video obtained by Reuters, April 8, 2018. (White Helmets/Reuters TV)
The World Health Organization said Wednesday it had received reports from its partners about the victims. The WHO said 500 people who sought treatment Saturday showed signs and symptoms of coming in contact with toxic chemicals. A WHO spokesman said, however, the agency cannot say the deadly incident was a chemical attack because it cannot get into the area.
The WHO said it had reports that as many as 70 people may have died.
The U.N. agency demanded that it be given the "immediate, unhindered" ability to meet with people injured in the attack.
The United States and several allies have centered blame on military forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. But Syria and Russia have denied that charge.
Trump also has blamed supporters of Assad in Iran and Russia for the attack.
Soon after the suspected gas attack, Trump said those responsible would pay a "big price." The U.S. president has spoken with the leaders of Britain and France about a possible answer.
French President Emmanuel Macron said a decision on a possible strike would be made "in the coming days."
The United Nations Security Council met on Tuesday for an urgent discussion on Syria. Russia vetoed a U.S.-proposed measure to create a commission to investigate the attack.
The Associated Press reports that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) will send a fact-finding group to Douma "shortly." The OPCW is based in The Hague.
The AP says the Syrian government and Russian supporters requested the mission. However, it is unclear if such a mission might affect U.S. or allied military action in the area.
The U.S. has more than 2,000 troops in Syria, and the U.S.-led coalition has launched thousands of airstrikes against the country. Most have been against the Islamic State terror group.
President Trump has cancelled a planned trip to Latin America, which was to begin Friday. The administration said that Trump would "oversee the American response to Syria."
I'm Mario Ritter.
Mario Ritter adapted this story from VOA News for VOA Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.
Words in This Story
legitimate –adj. permitted or recognized by rule or law
refrain –v. to keep from doing something
destabilize –v. to cause to change in an unorderly or unplanned way
escalation –n. to take to a higher level, to become more severe
unhindered –adj. to restricted in any way
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