0 UK Warplanes start to land in Cyprus
Warplanes and military transporters” have reportedly been moved to Britain’s Akrotiri airbase in Cyprus in the latest sign of the allied forces’ preparations for a military strike on Syria amid bellicose rhetoric against the Syrian government.
Two commercial pilots who regularly fly from Larnaca, Cyprus, claim to have spotted C-130 transport planes from their own aircraft and small formations of possibly European fighter jets from their radar screens, according to the Guardian.
Akrotiri airbase is less than 100 miles from Syria, making it a likely hub for a bombing campaign. Residents near the airfield confirmed to the Guardian that “activity there has been much higher than normal over the past 48 hours.”
Meanwhile, top military officials from ten Western and Middle Eastern nations – led by US Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey and his Jordanian counterpart – met in Amman, Jordan, to discuss potential military action in Syria. This follows reports that Dempsey presented potential military options to the White House over the weekend.
On Friday, Reuters revealed the US Navy was expanding its Mediterranean presence with a fourth ship capable launching long-range, subsonic cruise missiles to reach land targets in Syria.
British military assets already near Syria include four warships, the Navy's flagship HMS Bulwark, a helicopter carrier and two frigates near Albania. Meanwhile France – another key player in the possible conflict – has its jet fighters stationed in the United Arab Emirates if needed
The Obama administration has little doubt the regime of Assad deployed chemical weapons on the outskirts of Damascus last week, killing hundreds, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday.
Reports from Syria of chemical warfare “should shock the conscience of the world,” Kerry said, adding that the indiscriminate slaughter of women and children carried out by the Assad regime constitutes a“moral obscenity.”
President Barack Obama has yet to make a determination about how the US will respond, Kerry said, but a decision would be forthcoming.
“While investigators are gathering additional information on the ground, our understanding of what has already happened in Syria is grounded in facts, informed by conscious and guided by common sense,” Sec. Kerry said. “The reported number of victims, the reported symptoms of those who were killed or injured, the first-hand accounts from the humanitarian organizations on the ground . . . these all strongly indicate that everything these images are already screaming at us are real: that chemical weapons were used in Syria.”
While top US officials hint at some unequivocal evidence implicating the Syrian government in the chemical attack, anonymous sources told NBC News late Monday the US is planning to release evidence as soon as Tuesday “to prepare the public for a possible military response.”
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday during a phone call with British Prime Minister David Cameron that there is no evidence such an attack had occurred. “President Putin said that they did not have evidence of whether a chemical weapons attack had taken place or who was responsible,” a British government spokesperson said after the meeting.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov confirmed during an emergency press conference in Moscow that the US, Britain and other countries have assembled a “powerful force” and are “readying their ships and planes” for a possible invasion in Syria.