‘It crossed a lot of lines’: Trump on alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria
Trump has said his attitude toward President Bashar Assad and Syria has "changed very much," when asked at a joint news conference with Jordan's King Abdullah if the alleged chemical attack in Idlib crossed a red line.
“It crossed a lot of lines with me. When you kill innocent children – innocent babies – with chemical gas… that goes beyond red lines,” Trump told reporters on Wednesday.
Trump said the alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria “cannot be tolerated," but he did not say what the US might do in response. He blamed the incident on the government in Damascus.
“These heinous acts by the Assad regime cannot be tolerated,” added Trump. “My attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much. What happened yesterday is unacceptable to me.”
URGENT: Syrian army command denies involvement in alleged gas attack in Idlib https://t.co/TeSpNEV13U— RT (@RT_com) April 4, 2017
Pressed by reporters to reveal what he intended to do in response, Trump declined.
“Militarily, I don’t like to say when I’m going and what I’m doing,” he added. “I’m not saying I won’t do anything one way or another, but I certainly won’t be telling you [the media].”
Jordan's King Abdullah praised Trump’s “realistic approach to the challenges in the region," adding that Syria requiresa political solution "that ends the conflict with the country preserving its unity and territorial integrity."
At least 58 people, including 11 children, reportedly died and scores were injured after a hospital in Khan Sheikhoun was targeted in a suspected gas attack on Tuesday morning, Reuters reported, citing medics and rebel activists. Soon after a missile allegedly hit the facility, people started showing symptoms of chemical poisoning, such as choking and fainting.
The victims were reportedly also seen with foam coming out of their mouths. While the major Syrian opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, and other pro-rebel groups put the blame on the attack onto President Bashar Assad’s government, the Syrian military dismissed all allegations as propaganda by the rebels.
"We deny completely the use of any chemical or toxic material in Khan Sheikhoun town today and the army has not used nor will use in any place or time, neither in past or in future," the Syrian army said in a statement.
The Russian military said in a statement that it did not conduct any airstrikes in the Idlib Governorate either.
According to Russia’s Defense Ministry, the Syrian Air Force destroyed a warehouse in Idlib province where chemical weapons were being produced and stockpiled by rebels before being shipped to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Iraq.
The warehouse was used to both produce and store shells containing toxic gas, Major-General Igor Konashenkov said. The same chemical munitions were used by militants in Aleppo, where Russian military experts took samples in late 2016, Konashenkov said.
Just last week the US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, signaled a quite different message, suggesting the Trump administration had taken it sights off Assad.
"Our priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out," Ambassador Nikki Haley told a small group of reporters on Thursday. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made a statement in the similar vein.
AGAIN, TO OUR VERY FOOLISH LEADER, DO NOT ATTACK SYRIA - IF YOU DO MANY VERY BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN & FROM THAT FIGHT THE U.S. GETS NOTHING!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2013
Trump himself harshly criticized the Obama administration's intentions to intervene in Syria back in 2013, saying that the rebels were "just as bad as the current regime" and the US should stay out.
Asked about it on Wednesday, however, the president said his position has changed.
"I do change, and I am flexible. I am proud of that flexibility. The attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me," Trump said.
“The world is a mess. I inherited a mess,” he told reporters, pointing to Syria and North Korea before adding, “we’re going to fix it.”