Trump warns of military action against Syria
U.S. President Donald Trump warned Russia of imminent military action in Syria over a suspected poison gas attack, declaring that missiles "will be coming".
He has lambasted Moscow for standing by Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Trump was reacting to a warning from Assad's main ally Russia on Tuesday that any U.S. missiles fired at Syria over the deadly assault on a rebel enclave would be shot down and the launch sites targeted.
"Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and 'smart!'," Trump wrote in a post on Twitter.
"You shouldn't be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!" Trump said, referring Moscow's alliance with Assad.
In response, Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a Facebook post that "smart missiles should fly towards terrorists, not towards the lawful government", referring to Syrian rebels and Assad respectively.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said any U.S. missile strike could be an attempt to destroy evidence of the reported chemical weapons attack in the Syrian town of Douma, for which Damascus and Moscow have denied any responsibility.
After the attack, the rebel group holed up in Douma - Jaish al-Islam - finally agreed to withdraw from the town. That sealed a major victory for Assad in Syria's civil war, crushing a protracted rebellion in the eastern Ghouta region near Damascus.
Officials at the White House did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for more details about Trump's comments on the planned military action. The U.S. Defense Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The World Health Organization said on Wednesday that 43 people had died in Saturday's attack on Douma from "symptoms consistent with exposure to highly toxic chemicals", and more than 500 in all had been treated.
Moscow's threat to down U.S. missiles came from its ambassador to Lebanon, Alexander Zasypkin, who said he was referring to a statement by President Vladimir Putin and the Russian armed forces chief of staff.
Zasypkin also said that any hostilities with Washington should be avoided and Moscow was ready for negotiations.
But his remarks could raise fears of direct conflict for the first time between major powers backing opposing sides in Syria's protracted civil war.
Oil prices hit their highest level in more than three years on Wednesday after Trump's threat to unleash missiles, and U.S. stock index futures fell sharply over rising concern about possible Russian-U.S. conflict over Syria.
The Kremlin said earlier on Wednesday it hoped all sides involved in Syria would avoid doing anything to destabilise an already fragile situation in the Middle East, and made clear it strongly opposed any U.S. strike on its ally.Published: by Radio NewsHub