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Trump Warns of ‘Big Price to Pay’ After Syria’s Chemical Gas Attack

An alleged chemical attack that left dozens dead in Syria’s rebel-held town of Douma sparked international outrage on Sunday, with U.S. President Donald J. Trump warning there would be a “big price to pay.”

An alleged chemical attack that left dozens dead in Syria’s rebel-held town of Douma sparked international outrage on Sunday, with U.S. President Donald J. Trump warning there would be a “big price to pay.”

As condemnation poured in, Syria’s government and opposition negotiators announced rebels had agreed to evacuate Douma, the only remaining part of their one-time stronghold Eastern Ghouta.

Trump’s threat came exactly a year and a day after the U.S. fired cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase in retaliation for a deadly sarin gas attack in 2017.

“Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Sunday, lashing out at Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, a key ally of the regime.

“President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price to pay,” he said.

Asked whether the U.S. could again respond with a missile strike, White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert told ABC television: “I wouldn’t take anything off the table.”

Asked whether the U.S. could again respond with a missile strike, White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert told ABC television: “I wouldn’t take anything off the table.”

Russia’s foreign ministry called the latest reports a provocation and warned against them being used to justifying military action.

“A military intervention under far-fetched and fabricated pretexts in Syria, where there are Russian soldiers at the request of the legitimate Syrian government, is absolutely unacceptable and could have the most dire consequences,” it said.

‘Bodies in the streets’

Syria’s White Helmets, who act as first responders in rebel-held areas of Syria, said “poisonous chlorine gas” had been used late Saturday.

In a joint statement with the Syrian American Medical Society, the White Helmets said more than 500 cases were brought to medical centers “with symptoms indicative of exposure to a chemical agent.”

It said six died while being treated, and rescuers found 42 more people dead in their homes with similar conditions. Footage posted online by the White Helmets, which it was not possible to verify, showed victims with yellowed skin crumpled on the ground and foaming at the mouth.

It said six died while being treated, and rescuers found 42 more people dead in their homes with similar conditions. Footage posted online by the White Helmets, which it was not possible to verify, showed victims with yellowed skin crumpled on the ground and foaming at the mouth.

A member of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) inside the town said volunteers were still trying their best despite the organization’s Douma branch being out of operation.

“This morning, we drove around and found bodies lying in the streets. We took four trips to bring the corpses back, each with three or five dead,” the SARC member told AFP.

He said the hospital was teeming with dead and wounded, as well as civilians taking cover from the previous night’s bombardment. “Imagine, people were cooking for their kids next to corpses. There’s nowhere to bury the dead now.”

The reports prompted international anger, with U.N. chief Antonio Guterres saying any confirmed use of chemical weapons would be “abhorrent.”

Pope Francis described the allegations as “terrible news,” adding that “nothing, nothing can justify the use of such devices of extermination against defenseless people and populations.”

Evacuation within 48 hours

The European Union said “the evidence points towards yet another chemical attack by the regime,” while opposition ally Turkey stated it had a “strong suspicion” Assad was to blame.

But key backer Iran came to Assad’s defense, saying the allegations were a Western conspiracy and echoing Russia’s warning against a foreign military action.

Douma is the last remaining opposition-held town in Ghouta, the former rebel bastion outside Damascus that has now been ravaged by a seven-week regime assault.

Since February 18, Syrian and Russian forces have waged a fierce military onslaught and negotiated two withdrawals to retake control of 95 percent of Ghouta.

Agreements, brokered by Moscow last month, saw more than 46,000 rebels and civilians bussed to the opposition-held northwest. It appeared Douma would follow suit, with a preliminary deal that saw hundreds of civilians and rebels from Jaish al-Islam quit the town last week.

The rebels had been hoping to land a deal that would let them stay in Douma, but Syria’s government insisted they leave. After days of talks and a respite from bombing, negotiations collapsed, and strikes resumed Friday, killing nearly 100 people according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

On Sunday, state media announced Damascus had secured a deal that would see Jaish al-Islam leave Douma within 48 hours and release hostages it was holding. State news agency SANA reported dozens of buses entered Douma to begin the evacuations.

A civilian committee from Douma participating in the talks confirmed a “final agreement” was reached for rebels to evacuate. It said Syrian troops would not enter Douma, but Russian military police would deploy there.

Ghouta was among the areas hit in a 2013 sarin gas attack blamed on Syria’s government.

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