Britain poised to bomb Syria over suspected chemical weapons atrocity which killed hundreds of children


David Cameron is considering an allied bombing blitz with France and the US which could start in days

Britain was last night poised to bomb Syria over the suspected chemical weapons atrocity which killed hundreds of children.

David Cameron is considering an allied bombing blitz with France and the US which could start in days. Military targets are being identified.

The Western allies said a “firm response” was needed and accused President Bashar al Assad’s regime of “hiding evidence” about the gas attack.

Military chiefs were last night identifying targets in Syria as David Cameron considered ordering a ­military strike against a regime he believes gassed its own people.

The huge increase in reconnaissance activity, confirmed by military sources, brought Britain closer to a conflict which critics warn could escalate bloodshed in the war-torn country.

A bombardment seemed inevitable despite Syria caving in to allow United Nations inspectors to examine a dozen sites today where chemical weapons are thought to have been used.

But Mr Cameron has dismissed the move. A senior government source said: “They’ve had investigators only 20 minutes away from the scene which could have been allowed in from Wednesday.

“They’ve stopped them for four days while continuing to shell the areas. This suggests they have something to hide. Evidence could have been destroyed.”


Evidence of sarin gas, the deadly chemical thought to have been used by the Syrian regime, starts to deteriorate after just 30 minutes and then is all-but impossible to discover after three days.

The Foreign Secretary William Hague said last night: “We have to be realistic now about what the UN team can achieve.

“Much of the evidence could have been destroyed. Other evidence could have degraded and other evidence could have been tampered with.”

He added: “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 there are no consequences.

“And so we believe it’s very important that there is a strong response and that dictators – whether they are Assad or other people who might slaughter their own people or attack people of any other country – know that the use of chemical weapons is to cross a line, and the world will respond when that line is crossed.”

The PM held talks with French President Francois Hollande yesterday after consulting President Barack Obama on Saturday to agree “a firm response” following the suspected gas attack believed to have killed 1,400, in Damascus last week.

Options include a Tomahawk Land Attack Missile – or TLAM – fired from a Royal Navy submarine or a strategic strike by RAF Tornado bombers from Cyprus.

Military strikes likely to happen within a week using “naval assets in the region” could be limited – and designed to act as a warning to the Syrian regime, Government sources indicated. The Mirror has been told an attack is “very possible” but planners are awaiting more information about the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons.

Defence chiefs will meet in neighbouring Jordan today.

The head of the British armed forces, General Sir Nick Houghton, will attend along with General Lloyd Austin, the US commander in the Middle East, and the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, General Martin Dempsey. Turkey, France, Qatar, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Italy and Canada will also be represented.

Parliament may also be recalled this week if an attack is imminent. But Downing Street stressed that while the PM had promised MPs the chance to debate such issues, the Government “has to reserve the right to act ­immediately”.

Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander said: “I would expect Mr Cameron to seek a recall of Parliament and to come to the House of Commons and make his case in advance of a ­decision being made.”

Mr Cameron is to hold further talks with Mr Obama in the next 48 hours, to firm up the nature of the attack. He is also due to speak to German Chancellor Angela Merkel today and other European leaders over the coming days.

Britain and France have been leading the calls for action in Syria since last week’s chemical attack came to light. A Downing Street spokesman said: “Mr Cameron and the French President yesterday agreed the failure of the Syrian regime to grant UN investigators immediate access to the area was extremely worrying and demonstrated the regime was hiding the facts and evidence.

“A chemical weapons attack against the Syrian people on the scale emerging demanded a firm response from the international community. This crime must not be swept under the carpet.”

Earlier Mr Hollande said there was “a body of evidence indicating that the August 21 incident was chemical in nature, and that everything led to the belief that the Syrian regime was responsible for this unspeakable act”. And despite early caution, President Obama has strengthened his response following a meeting with military chiefs on Saturday before he spoke to the PM.

Mr Cameron and Mr Obama pledged a “serious response” if it was proved Assad used chemical weapons on his people.

And yesterday a senior US administration official said there was little doubt a chemical weapon was used by the Syrian regime against civilians based on “the reported number of victims, reported symptoms of those who were killed or injured, and witness accounts”.

Last Wednesday’s attack in a suburb of Damascus drew four US warships into the Mediterranean. Military planners are said to be confident Russia, which backs the Assad regime, will not react against Western forces. But Russia yesterday warned the US against an attack.

It said unilateral military action in Syria would undermine efforts for peace and have a “devastating impact” on the security situation in the Middle East.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said: “We once again decisively urge the US not to allow actions against international law.”

And Iran warned of “harsh ­consequences” if the West gets involved.

A YouGov poll shows just 9% of Brits support sending troops, and 74% oppose.

The government’s stance was attacked by MPs – who accused ministers of leading Britain into an “almighty crisis”. Labour’s Paul Flynn said: “It is a terrible mess that we ought to be staying out of.

“There is no guarantee at all that force will produce peace – but there’s every chance it will escalate the situation.

“The myth Hague talks about, that we should ‘punch above our weight’ actually means dying above our responsibilities. It is extremely foolhardy to intervene.

“It gives an excuse to other countries to move in, causing an almighty crisis.”



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here