U.S. says military options being considered in response to Syria's chemical attack

Source: Xinhua| 2017-04-07 04:36:49|Editor: ZD

A picture taken on April 6, 2017 shows 40-year-old Hassan Youssef, a victim of the April 4, 2017 suspected toxic gas attack in Khan Sheikhun, receiving medical care in a hospital in the nearby northwestern Syrian city of Idlib. (Xinhua/AFP PHOTO)

WASHINGTON, April 6 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. government on Thursday called for ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while considering military options as response to a recent chemical attack in Syria.

Speaking to reporters onboard the Air Force One, U.S. President Donald Trump signaled that the U.S. would do "something" to respond to the attack, which he called "a disgrace to humanity."

"I think what Assad did is terrible. I think what happened in Syria is one of the truly egregious crimes," Trump said.

When asked if Assad should leave power, Trump said: "What happened is Syria is a disgrace to humanity and he's there and I guess he's running things, so something should happen."

He did not elaborate, but reports said that the Trump administration is considering options, including military strikes, in response to the use of chemical weapons.

Speaking at the White House Wednesday, Trump said the attack crossed a lot of red lines, and his attitude toward Assad has changed much.

Not long ago, U.S. officials indicated that the Trump administration's priority on Syria is not removing Assad from power as the previous Obama administration did.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Thursday that steps "are already underway" to remove Assad from power.

He told reporters at the Palm Beach International Airport that "no doubt" that the Assad regime was responsible for the Tuesday gas attack in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib, which reportedly killed over 70 people and wounded scores of others, most of them civilians.

Tillerson said the U.S. is considering "appropriate response" to the chemical attack.

At the same time, Tillerson urged Russia, a major supporter of Assad, to "consider carefully their continued support for the Assad regime."

U.S. officials were quoted by U.S. media as saying Thursday that the Pentagon had presented its options to strike Syria's chemical weapons capability to the Trump administration. But so far no decision has been made yet.

The top-level consultations about military options involve Defense Secretary James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joesph Dunford, as well as military officers at the U.S. Central Command, the New York Times revealed in a report Thursday.

Mattis will travel to Florida to discuss the crisis in Syria with Trump, the report said.

Syrian army on Tuesday strongly refuted the accusations against it as completely baseless, saying it had not used, nor would use such weapons in the future. It also held "terrorist groups" responsible for using chemical weapons.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry also said that the Syrian army doesn't possess any kind of chemical weapons.

In Moscow, Russian Defense Ministry said Wednesday that the deadly contamination in Syria was caused by the explosion of chemical weapons produced by the rebels.

The United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting on Wednesday to discuss the suspected chemical attack in Syria. The UN has already begun gathering information to confirm the use of chemical weapons.