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White House: Barrel bomb could lead to US strike

White House: Barrel bomb could lead to US strike
© Greg Nash

The White House on Monday appeared to shift its position on what could draw a U.S. military response in the Syrian conflict as press secretary Sean Spicer warned that chemical or barrel bomb attacks on civilians could draw fire from the Trump administration. 

“If you gas a baby, if you put a barrel bomb into innocent people, I think you will see a response from this president,” Spicer told reporters.

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Trump ordered a military attack on a Syrian airfield last week after a chemical weapons attack killed dozens of civilians. The Syrian government is believed to have been behind the chemical weapons attack. 

The use of barrel bombs have been comparatively more common in the Syria fight. 

One watchdog, the Syrian Network for Human Rights, reported that 13,000 barrel bombs were dropped in the country in 2016, killing hundreds of people. The bombs are seen as targeting civilians because they hit an indiscriminate area. 

The barrel bomb attacks have won widespread criticism from U.S. lawmakers such as Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainEx-McSally aide pleads guilty to stealing over 0K in campaign funds DOJ: Arizona recount could violate civil rights laws Cheney fight stokes cries of GOP double standard for women MORE (R-Ariz.) who have urged a more forceful response to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. 

McCain has called for setting up a safe zone in Syria that might protect civilians from chemical and more conventional weapons. 

Assad's forces have also been known to drop barrel bombs containing chemical agents. One such attack is believed to have occurred earlier this month. 

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Nikki Haley, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations, in separate interviews have said President Trump is concerned about the loss of civilian life in Syria regardless of the weapons. But they stopped short of suggesting the use of barrel bombs would definitively draw a response. 

Tillerson, in a response to a question from CBS's John Dickerson on "Face the Nation" that specifically raised barrel bombs, said that by using such weapons Assad would be undermining his own legitimacy.