Published: Tue, April 17, 2018
People | By Neil Grant

France attack Syria; Russia blames United Kingdom of staging the chemical attack

France attack Syria; Russia blames United Kingdom of staging the chemical attack

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said on Friday that Syria was responsible for the attack but added pointedly, "We also hold Russian Federation responsible for their failure to stop chemical weapons attacks from taking place".

Nevertheless, experts say the Russian "red line" would be the safety of its own forces, which are based alongside their Syrian and sometimes Iranian comrades in many areas of western Syria.

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said the strikes were a "one-time shot" and that no additional airstrikes were now planned.

"We are carrying out an assessment of the material damages", the official added.

President Bashar al-Assad's government - which receives military backing from Russian Federation - has denied involvement in any chemical attack, calling the reports "fabricated".

Russian officials alleged quickly after last Saturday's suspected attack that the images of victims in Douma were fake.

Russia's demand for condemnation and an immediate halt to "aggression" and "any further use of force" by the U.S., Britain and France got support from only two other countries on the 15-member council - China and Bolivia.

Oil prices jumped to their highest level in more than three years on Wednesday after Trump's missile warning, and USA stock index futures fell sharply amid alarm over possible Russian-U.S. conflict over Syria.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said any United States missile salvo could be an attempt to destroy evidence of the reported gas attack in the Syrian town of Douma, for which Damascus and Moscow have denied any responsibility.

Western countries accused Moscow on Monday of preventing inspectors from reaching the site of a suspected poison gas attack in Syria and said Russians or Syrians may have tampered with evidence on the ground.

It also recently announced that Russia had targeted the U.S. energy grid with computer malware, and it slapped fresh sanctions on Russian hackers for illicit cyber activity.

That was glaringly obvious in early February when U.S. forces killed more than 200 Russian mercenaries who tried to attack a base held by USA and mainly Kurdish forces in the oil-rich Deir Ezzor region.

What has Trump said about the attack?

Officials said the goals for the operation were varied, including espionage and intellectual property theft, but that it also would give attackers control of the sort of basic infrastructure that might allow them to launch dedicated denial of service attacks, steal intellectual property or lie dormant to facilitate future attacks.

He noted that OPCW's report didn't contain any mention of BZ, adding that Russian Federation will ask the chemical weapons watchdog for an explanation.

Also on Thursday, US Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis told a congressional panel: "I believe there was a chemical attack and we are looking for the actual evidence".

Since 2015 France has carried out air strikes against Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria as part of allied forces linked to the USA -led coalition, conducting about 5 percent of total coalition air missions.

SIMON: What else has Mr. Putin said about these strikes? "Russia and Syria must cooperate".

Nonetheless, there are signs that the two sides, amid the standoff, haven't completely cut off ties, providing a thin possibility that the U.S. sanctions, the heated rhetoric and the Russian accusations of United States mendacity mask a desire to get along.

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