Russia and Syria blamed Israel for airstrikes that landed on the T4 air base in central Syria over the weekend, an attack that was likely launched in retaliation for the devastating chemical weapons usage that killed at least 60 people outside of Damascus. In a statement on Monday, the Russian Defense Ministry, which continues to deny having any knowledge or part of the chemical weapons attack, said that two Israeli fighter jets launched the strike that killed 14 people at a military airport near Homs, Syria.
This would not be the first time that Israel has used military offense inside Syria’s borders, but as of Monday no country had taken credit for the pre-dawn strikes. The U.S. has officially announced that the airstrikes did not originate from Washington.
“However, we continue to closely watch the situation and support the ongoing diplomatic efforts to hold those who use chemical weapons, in Syria and otherwise, accountable,” said a Pentagon spokesperson.
The airstrikes this weekend may not have come from the U.S., but it is likely that President Trump will order some form of military retaliation for the deadly chemical attack. On Twitter this weekend, the president was unusually forceful in condemning not just Syria but Bashar al-Assad’s allies.
“Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria,” Trump wrote. “Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price to pay. Open area immediately for medical help and verification. Another humanitarian disaster for no reason whatsoever. SICK!”
Even in the unlikely event that Russia was not directly tied to the chemical attack, the fact remains that they have signed on as the keepers of Assad, as it were. And part of that entails keeping a lid on the dictator’s propensity to use these sickening weapons against his own people. This is what the Russian government has promised the U.S. and the rest of the international community, and this is a promise they have failed to keep at least twice.
On Monday, Trump seemed just as determined to take action. At a Cabinet meeting in the morning, the president said he was speaking to top officials at the Pentagon about how to respond.
“We’ll be making that decision very quickly – probably by the end of the day,” he told reporters. “But we cannot allow atrocities like that.”
Asked if a military strike was forthcoming, the president simply said: “Nothing is off the table.”