Forces ready to strike Syria at Obama's command
American armed forces stand ready to strike Syria and are "ready to go" should President Barack Obama give the order for action, the country's defence secretary Chuck Hagel said last night.
The announcement was made as the United States prepares to formally declare that chemical weapons had been used in the Syrian civil war.
Meanwhile, David Cameron said last night that any intervention in Syria would not be about the conflict itself but preventing the use of chemical weapons by any regime, stressing that no decisions about British involvement had yet been made.
The Prime Minister said there was never 100% certainty or a single piece of irrefutable evidence but said the world had agreed almost a century ago chemical weapons should not be used.
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Decisions about British involvement have not been taken, he said, adding Parliament was the "right place to set out all of the arguments".
He said action must be "proportionate, have to be legal, would have to specifically be about deterring the use of chemical weapons".
US officials said the growing intelligence pointed strongly toward Syrian president Bashar Assad's government as the culprit for the attack in the Damascus area – a claim which Mr Assad called "preposterous".
The US, along with allies in the UK and Europe, appears to be laying the groundwork for the most aggressive response since Syria's civil war began more than two years ago.
However, General Lord Dannatt, the former head of the British Army, has said he is opposed to military intervention in Syria at this time.
He told the BBC: "It's wrong, because although undoubtedly by any moral standards at all using chemical weapons against your own people – which is what on the balance of probabilities it now seems Assad has done – this does not constitute an open invitation for the international community to impose themselves on the internal affairs of another country.
"Now, if the international community was of one voice on this and the UN Security Council was of one voice... that would be a different issue because the case then would be compelling and undoubtedly legal.
"But the international community is fractured on this, and while there are some things we do know, there are many things we do not know about Syria, and the main thing we don't know is what the effect of these strikes would be on the developments and consequences of the civil conflict in Syria."
Labour leader Ed Miliband last night said: ''When I saw the Prime Minister this afternoon, I said to him that we the Labour Party would consider supporting international action, but only on the basis that it was legal, that it was specifically limited to deterring the future use of chemical weapons, and that any actions contemplated had clear and achievable goals. And we'll be scrutinising any action that is contemplated on that basis."
Mr Miliband added: ''The use of chemical weapons on innocent civilians is abhorrent and cannot be ignored."
Later, it was revealed that 20 children killed in the deadly chemical attack in Damascus could not be identified and it was thought this was because their families also died in the attack and there was no-one left to identify them.
The young victims were named from one to 20 as there is no way of knowing who they are.
Gas masks are now being mass produced in a nearby factory in anticipation of further attacks.