President Donald Trump answers questions as he leaves the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, March 23, 2018, after speaking about the $1.3 trillion spending bill.
Such a strike would amount to a punitive action against Syria for what the U.S. and its allies consider blatant use of chemical weapons against civilian populations within the country, but they still carry the risk of sparking war with Russian Federation.
"Assad as a person and his henchmen need to feel they are a target, if they continue this pain and suffering of the people", he said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry also said that following Syrian rebels' withdrawal from eastern Ghouta, stockpiles of chemical agents were found there. Turkish forces and rebel allies control territory in northern Syria, while US-backed Kurdish forces hold wide areas of the northeast, and pockets of Islamic State fighters remain.
Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said it is "vital that parliament has the chance to debate and decide in advance" of any military action, which he warned "risks a risky escalation of the conflict". "It is to drive this to a United Nations -brokered peace but, at the same time, keep our foot on the neck of ISIS until we suffocate it", referring to the Islamic State extremist group.
Mattis' remarks at a House Armed Services Committee hearing followed a series of Trump tweets this week that initially indicated he was committed to bombing Syria but later suggested he was awaiting further advice and assessment.
That still didn't stop him from making an overture to Russian Federation in his very next tweet, though, in hopes of improving relations.
Later Thursday he was noncommittal. We are looking very, very seriously, very closely at that whole situation. On Thursday, he met with his National Security Council and spoke by phone with the leaders of Britain and France, both of whom have indicated they want to punish Syria. We are meeting with our military and everybody else, and we'll be making some major decisions over the next 24 to 48 hours. "We hope there will be no point of no return", the envoy said.
Conservative former London mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith tweeted: "We need a clear response to the Syrian chemical outrage".
Trump ordered airstrikes at a small air base past year in response to a chemical attack, but the strike did little little to dent Syrian government air operations.
Worries about a confrontation between Russia, Syria's big ally, and the West have been running high since Trump said on Wednesday missiles "will be coming" in response to the attack in the Syrian town of Douma on April 7, and lambasted Moscow for standing by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
French President Emmanuelle Macron said he had "proof" that chlorine was used in Douma and that the Syrian government was responsible for the attack, which Syrian activists said killed over 40 people.
While Trump himself was silent on Syria on Friday, giving no further clues on whether American military action is imminent, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Washington estimated that Assad's forces had used chemical weapons at least 50 times during the seven-year-old Syrian conflict.
A fact-finding mission from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is expected to arrive in Douma on Saturday. France has also said it would join the military action. "We need to know where that's going, what the objective of it is before we take that act".
That's after Mr. Trump said earlier this week that he would have a decision in a very short period of time.
The best thing that happened this week was that the policy process paused for a careful consideration of military options. But U.S. intelligence agencies have not completed their assessment or reached a final conclusion, the officials said.
Congressman Adam Smith, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said he sees no legal justification for a U.S. strike in Syria, absent explicit authorization by Congress.
Many of those positions, Haley noted, were full of civilians, despite Russian Federation and Syria's contention that they were bombing terrorists.
In a thinly veiled swipe at Russia, Mattis also said there would be a briefing at 9 a.m. ET on Saturday morning with more details to address the possible misinformation campaign that will be waged by Syria and its allies. "We need to know where that's going, what the goal of it is before we take that act".
Mr Trump warned Russian Federation on Wednesday to "get ready" for a missile attack on its ally Syria.