The United States is reportedly weighing possible military responses to the apparent use of chemical weapons by the military of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on April 6 that the incident was "a serious matter" and "it requires a serious response." U.S. President Donald Trump said the same day that "something should happen" in response.
"I think what Assad did is terrible," Trump told journalists. "I think what happened in Syria is a disgrace to humanity."
A U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity told Reuters that the Pentagon and the White House were in intense discussion of possible options, including a no-fly zone for Syrian military aircraft or cruise-missile strikes.
The source said Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and national security adviser H.R. McMaster had met on the topic and that Mattis was scheduled to fly to Florida to brief Trump, who is meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The White House said Trump would not "telegraph" his decisions in advance.
Speaking at the UN Security Council on April 5, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said "when the United Nations consistently fails in its duty to act collectively, there are times in the life of states that we are compelled to take our own action."
Syria denies carrying out a chemical attack, saying its warplanes struck a factory where chemical weapons were being stored. Syria's ally, Russia, has endorsed this explanation.
Western analysts, however, have rejected it.
French chemical-weapons expert Olivier Lepick told AFP that Syria's explanation is "completely fanciful."
He said the way the gas was dispersed was consistent with "aerosolization," an effect that can only be created with military-grade chemical weapons and specially designed delivery systems.
At least 86 people were killed and dozens injured in the April 4 chemical incident in Syria's Idlib Province.