Responding to Russian warnings to the US against military strikes in Syria, President Donald Trump said Wednesday that missiles "will be coming" in response to Syria's suspected chemical attack that killed at least 40 people.
"Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria," Trump tweeted. "Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and 'smart!' You shouldn't be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!"
Trump did not detail what a strike would look like, or whether these would be US missiles. The tweet came as Trump administration officials have consulted with global allies on a possible joint military response to Syria's alleged poison gas attack. Trump cancelled a foreign trip in order to manage a crisis that is testing his vow to stand up to Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Russian MPs have warned the United States that Moscow would view an airstrike on Syria as a war crime, saying it could trigger a direct military clash between the two former Cold War adversaries. Russia's ambassador to Lebanon said any missiles fired at Syria would be shot down and the launching sites targeted - a stark warning of a potential major confrontation in Syria.
The US, France and Britain were in extensive consultations about launching a military strike as early as the end of this week, US officials have said. None of the three countries' leaders had made a firm decision, according to the officials, who were not authorised to discuss military planning publicly.
A joint military operation, possibly with France rather than the US in the lead, could send a message of international unity about enforcing the prohibitions on chemical weapons and counter Syria's political and military support from Russia and Iran.
President Emmanuel Macron said France, the US and Britain will decide how to respond in the coming days. He called for a "strong and joint response" to the attack in the Syrian town of Douma on Saturday, which Syrian activists and rescuers say killed 40 people. The Syrian government denies responsibility.
A watchdog agency, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, announced that it will send "shortly" a fact-finding mission to Douma, after receiving a request from the Syrian government and its Russian backers to investigate the allegations. It was not immediately clear whether that visit would delay or avert US or allied military action.
The Russian military, which has troops in Syria, said on Monday that its officers had visited the site of the alleged attack and found no evidence to back up reports of poison gas being used.