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Middle East Trump escalates tensions by warning Russia to ‘get ready’

US PRESIDENT Donald Trump warned Russia today to “get ready” for a missile attack on Syria in a dangerous escalation of tensions in the region.

Mr Trump made the threat in response to allegations of a chemical attack killing 70 people in Douma, near Damascus, on Saturday.

He promised to send “nice, new and smart” missiles and warned Russia it shouldn’t be partners with “a gas-killing animal who kills his people and enjoys it,” referring to Syrian President Bashar al Assad.

Russia has claimed the allegations of a chemical attack were a “provocation” to justify Western intervention. Both the US and Britain are committed to regime change in Syria and a future without Mr Assad.

And it has promised to respond to any attacks by shooting down missiles that threaten Russian personnel and to destroy the launchpads 

Russian ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Zasypkin warned: "If there is a strike by the Americans then ... the missiles will be downed and even the sources from which the missiles were fired." 

However he added that a dangerous escalation of hostilities "should be ruled out and therefore we are ready to hold negotiations."

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova questioned whether the aim of Western bombs might be "to quickly remove the traces of the provocation ... [so] international inspectors will have nothing to look for in terms of evidence."

There are no independent reports to verify the alleged attack after the Syrian-American Medical Society, which only operates in areas held by jihadist opposition groups, claimed 500 people had been treated for symptoms that may indicate exposure to a chemical agent.

Mr Assad has agreed to allow access to inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to investigate claims of a chemical attack.

Douma was one of the last strongholds controlled by the Jaish al-Islam jihadist group and their surrender saw Mr Assad resume control over the whole of eastern Ghouta.

Under the terms of the surrender, the jihadists released scores of civilians it had been holding hostage and hundreds of the group’s fighters were bused out of the area.

A UN security council meeting yesterday failed to gain approval for an inquiry into the alleged chemical attack, with Russia and the US vetoing each other’s proposals.

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