0716 GMT July 19, 2019
US President Donald Trump said Wednesday that "missiles will be coming" in response to an alleged chemical attack in Syria, defying Russian warnings against a strike.
Upping the stakes in an escalating confrontation with Moscow, Trump took to Twitter in the strongest assertion yet that he plans to take military action in Syria, AFP reported.
"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.
Damascus, which has long accused Washington of supporting terrorists, hit back at Trump's threats.
"We are not surprised by such a reckless escalation from a regime like the United States which has fostered and continues to foster terrorism in Syria," state news agency SANA quoted an official source at the Foreign Ministry as saying.
Trump and other Western leaders have vowed a quick and forceful response to Saturday's alleged gas attack in the terrorist-held Damascus suburb of Douma.
Efforts to find a diplomatic solution at the UN Security Council on Tuesday failed, with Washington and Moscow opposing each other's rival motions to set up an international investigation into chemical weapons use.
Trump in another tweet said US-Russian relations are "worse now" than ever, "and that includes the Cold War".
Russia has meanwhile taken to stronger and stronger warnings.
"We would hope that all sides will avoid steps that in reality are not provoked by anything and that could destabilize the already fragile situation in the region," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
"The situation is tense," Peskov said, adding that Russia is calling for an "unprejudiced and objective investigation before making judgements" on the suspected use of chemical weapons.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova also insisted that "smart rockets should be aimed at terrorists, rather than the legitimate government" of Syria.
Trump has said he plans to make the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad pay a "big" price for the latest alleged toxic gas atrocity in the war-wracked country.
The air traffic control agency Eurocontrol has also released an alert from the European Aviation Safety Agency to flight operators in nearby airspace of "the possible launch of air strikes into Syria with air-to-ground and/or cruise missiles within the next 72 hours."
Syria's government has denied accusations of using banned weapons such as chlorine or sarin throughout the country's war.
United Nations chief Antonio Guterres said Tuesday the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons should be granted unfettered access to investigate.