The Trump administration pinned part of the blame of a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria Tuesday on the “weakness” of the Obama administration.
Poison gas is suspected of being used during a bombardment of Khan Sheikhoun, a rebel-held town in the Syrian providence of Idlib. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports 58 people were killed, 11 of whom are believed to be children.
The attack was believed to have been carried out by Syrian jets, and caused victims to choke and foam at the mouth.
Mounzer Khalil, head of Idlib’s health authority, believes sarin and chlorine gasses were deployed during the attack.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday President Trump is “extremely alarmed” by the reports and said the suspected use of chemical weapons was “reprehensible and cannot be ignored by the civilized world.”
Spicer made clear the Trump administration believes Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is responsible for the attack, but pinned blame on the Obama administration for creating a precedent of forgiveness for Syria’s prior use of chemical weapons.
In a report last October, the United Nations found the Syrian government responsible for using chemical weapons in at least three attacks since 2014.
“These heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the last administration’s weakness and irresolution,” Spicer said. “President Obama said in 2012 that he would establish a ‘red line’ against the use of chemical weapons and then did nothing.”
Doctors who treated victims on the scene said Tuesday’s attack was much more severe then previous chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian government.
“Honestly, we have not seen this before,” said radiologist Mohammed Tennari. “The previous times the wounds were less severe. There were no deaths, not in those numbers,”
Trump, who ran on a platform of “peace through strength,” has made no indication of what he would do about the suspected chemical weapons attack other than to say he had spoken with his national security team about the incident.
The Syrian government has denied responsibility for all suspected chemical weapons attacks since the beginning of the Syrian civil war. They accuse rebels for being the perpetrators of the attacks.
In a statement following the attack, the Syrian government said it “categorically” rejects responsibility for the use of chemical agents in the bombardment of Khan Sheikhourn.