ON THE BRINK: TENSIONS WITH RUSSIA MOUNT AS U.S. DISCOVERS PUTIN HAD ADVANCE KNOWLEDGE OF CHEMICAL ATTACK

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Tensions between the United States and Russia reached a peak on Monday after U.S. officials discovered that Russia may have had advance knowledge of a deadly gas attack upon Syrian civilians which killed more than 80 people, 27 of which were children.

According to a senior U.S. official who spoke to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity (http://bigstory.ap.org/article/19772be1238e49fbb62c509a5b659b3d/official-us-military-takes-extra-precautions-syria), Russia not only knew of Syria’s chemical weapons attack in advance, but bombed a Syrian hospital as the injured were obtaining treatment in an effort to cover up their ally’s use of chemical weapons.

The official said a drone operated by Russians was captured on surveillance footage flying over the hospital as doctors fought to save the victims’ lives. Hours after the drone left, he said, a Russian jet began dropping bombs on the facility.

The official says it remains unclear as to whether a Russian pilot or Syrian pilot was flying the bomber, but that the bombing came from a Russian jet proves that the Russian government was complicit in the attack. Until Monday U.S. officials said it remained unclear what, if any, knowledge Russia had of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s apparent plan to gas his own people.

The allegation strikes another devastating blow to the already crumbling relations between the United States and Russia, who publicly slammed president Donald Trump’s decision to launch a military strike against Syria in response to the gassing.

Last week, after Trump ordered military jets to bomb a Syrian airbase, Russian president Vladimir Putin angrily withdrew from a joint agreement with the U.S. that was designed to ensure military peace.

So far, there has been no Syrian retaliation for the airstrike, which destroyed more than 20 Syria air force planes, but Russia said in a statement over the weekend that it will do whatever is takes to ensure that their ally has the military capacity necessary to protect itself from future American strikes.

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