President Donald Trump condemned the chemical attack on civilians in Syria that has resulted in dozens of deaths and hundreds injured. He added that the attack has changed his attitude toward Syrian President Bashar Assad.
On April 4, the rebel-controlled city of Khan Sheikhoun in the Idlib province of Syria was struck with gas in an airstrike. The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates the death toll has so far exceeded 70 people, including 20 children, The Guardian reports.
Hamish de Bretton Gordon, the director of Doctors Under Fire, stated the symptoms exhibited by those injured indicates that they had been exposed to sarin gas, an internationally condemned nerve agent.
"It's very clear it's a sarin attack," Gordon said.
Both the Assad regime and the allied Russian government have denied any responsibility for the chemical attack and attributed it to rebel forces, an assertion international officials have blasted as false, citing that only Assad's forces have an air force capability in the region.
On April 5, Trump held a joint press conference at the White House with King Abdullah of Jordan. During his remarks, the president asserted that Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons had changed his administration's posture towards the Syrian dictator.
"It crossed a lot of lines for me," Trump said, reports Politico. "When you kill innocent children ... with a chemical gas that is so lethal ... that crosses many, many lines, beyond a red line. Many, many lines."
The president added that the attack had impacted his opinion on U.S. policy towards Syria.
"I will tell you, that attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me," Trump continued. "Big impact. It's very, very possible -- and I will tell you, it's already happened -- that my attitude Syria and Assad has changed very much."
The president declined to state what actions his administration would take in response to the Assad regime's alleged gassing of its own citizens.
A week earlier, two key Trump foreign policy officials signaled that the U.S. would no longer actively pursue Assad's ousting from power.
On March 30, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told reporters that the Trump administration would not prioritize removing Assad from power.
"You pick and choose your battles and when we're looking at this, it's about changing up priorities and our priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out," Haley told Reuters. "Do we think he's a hindrance? Yes. Are we going to sit there and focus on getting him out? No."
That same day, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated during a diplomatic trip in Turkey that Assad's long-term status as Syria's ruler "will be decided by the Syrian people."