President Trump condemned a suspected chemical weapons attack over the weekend on the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Douma that reportedly took the lives of more than forty people, including children. The president blamed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime for unleashing what appears to have been deadly chlorine gas. “This is about humanity — it can’t be allowed to happen,” the president said. “If it’s Russia, if it’s Syria, if it’s Iran, if it’s all of them together, we’ll figure it out.” Referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Trump warned: “Everybody’s going to pay a price — he will, everybody will.” The president said Monday evening that he was receiving more definitive information on what had happened, that he had a lot of military options on the table and that he would respond “forcefully.”
For their part, the Syrian regime and Russia denied that any such chemical attack had even taken place. Putin warned against any “provocation and speculation on this matter.”
Syrian forces, backed by the Russian military and Iranian militias, have been mounting an offensive to retake several towns that have been rebel-occupied, including Douma, in a region known as Eastern Ghouta. They have surrounded and bombarded the area, cutting it off from vital humanitarian aid. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, more than 1600 people have died as a result and tens of thousands of people have fled. The alleged chemical attack in Douma, said to be the last remaining town in the region still in rebel hands, appeared to have come from one or more Syrian government aircraft. The alleged chemical attack would fit into the Syrian regime’s larger pattern of exerting maximum pressure on the civilian population of rebel-held areas to the point of forcing a surrender.