U.S., U.K. naval forces prepare for possible 'first' strike against Syria
Military action could begin as soon as next week
Both the United States and the United Kingdom are preparing their naval forces for a possible military strike against Syria. Military commanders are finalizing a list of potential targets. While talks between the British Prime Minister David Cameron, U.S. President Barack Obama and other international leaders continue, any military actions could begin as soon as next week.
The escalation arrives as a direct response to a likely gas attack perpetrated by Syrian forces on a civilian district of Damascus last week.
The escalation arrives as a direct response to a likely gas attack perpetrated by Syrian forces on a civilian district of Damascus last week. One international agency said it had counted at least 355 people dead and 3,600 injured following the attack, while reports suggested the true death toll could be as high as 1,300.
Syrian state media accused rebel forces of using chemical agents. The Syrian government offered to allow a team of U.N. inspectors access to the area. Hague suggested that this offer of access four days after the attack had come too late.
"We cannot in the 21st century allow the idea that chemical weapons can be used with impunity, that people can be killed in this way and that there are no consequences for it," he said.
The Foreign Secretary said all the evidence "points in one direction", to the use of illegal chemical agents by Assad regime forces.
Officials said the Assad regime has continued bombarding the area in the days since the attack, making it likely that any evidence which could establish who was responsible would have long since been destroyed.
Cameron interrupted his holiday in Cornwall for talks with Obama, François Hollande, the French president, and Angela Merkel, the German chancellor. All leaders agreed on the need for a "serious response." Government sources confirmed that military action was among the options "on the table" but said no decisions had been taken.
Cameron is thought to have abandoned hope of securing any further meaningful response from the U.N. amid opposition from Russia.
Cameron is sure to face criticism for any British military involvement from many MPs, who believe the Armed Forces are already overstretched and must not be committed to another distant conflict.
Any retaliatory attack would be likely to be launched from the sea as the Syrian air force is judged to be strong enough to shoot down enemy jets.
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