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Washington (AFP) – US President Donald Trump said Monday he will decide on military action in Syria within hours, as Washington readied its response to a “heinous attack on innocent Syrians with banned chemical weapons.”

The US commander-in-chief — who last year ordered missile strikes on a Syrian airfield after seeing gruesome images of civilians poisoned with sarin — looked poised to act again.

“It was an atrocious attack, it was horrible, you don’t see things like that — as bad as the news is round the world — you just don’t see those images,” Trump said.

“We are very concerned that a thing like that can happen. This is about humanity, we are talking about humanity, it can’t be allowed to happen.”

“We are studying that situation extremely closely, we are meeting with our military and everybody else and we are making some major decisions over the next 24-48 hours,” he told reporters and his cabinet.

Trump, who has long courted better relations with Russian president Vladimir Putin, indicated that whoever is responsible for killing at least 48 people with what is alleged to be a chemical weapon will pay a “big price.”

“If it’s Russia, if it’s Syria, if it’s Iran, if it’s all them together, we’ll figure it out and we’ll know the answers quite soon,” Trump said.

Syria and its ally Russia have repeatedly denied any use of chemical weapons.

“As you know they are claiming they didn’t make the attack,” Trump said, making it clear he had was skeptical. “To me there is not much of a doubt, but the generals will figure it out.”

Putin sent troops into Syria in 2015 to protect its most strategically important military base in the Middle East and defend and prop up the teetering regime of Bashar al Assad — a long-time ally.

Most analysts believe that without Russian and Iranian support the Syrian military would be unable to function effectively, including carrying out bombing raids in civilian areas controlled by rebels.

Asked if Putin bears responsibility, Trump responded: “He may and if he does it’s going to be very tough. Everybody is going to pay a price, he will everybody will.”

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