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White House says 'reprehensible' gas attack in Syria resulted from President Obama's 'red line'

Syrians flee following a reported government air strike on the rebel-controlled town of Hamouria, in the eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus on Tuesday. (Abdulmonam Eassa / AFP/Getty Images)
Syrians flee following a reported government air strike on the rebel-controlled town of Hamouria, in the eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus on Tuesday. (Abdulmonam Eassa / AFP/Getty Images)

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer faulted the Obama administration in a "reprehensible" gas attack in Syria that killed dozens, but did not say how or whether the United States would respond beyond condemnation.

"Today's chemical attack in Syria against innocent people, including women and children, is reprehensible and cannot be ignored by the civilized world," Spicer said at the beginning of his daily press briefing with reporters. "These heinous acts are a consequence of the past administration's weakness and irresolution."

Spicer said Obama had more options when he declared a red line against chemical weapons in 2012.

“What's the point of red lines?" Spicer said. "America’s credibility was at stake.”

But Spicer, who blamed the attacks on forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad, would not say whether President Trump would establish his own red line against Syria.

“The president has made it clear in the past and [I] will reiterate today, that he is not here to telegraph what we will do," Spicer said, adding that Trump was meeting with his national security team Wednesday morning.

Spicer said “there is not a fundamental option of regime change,” but he said Assad's ouster would be "in the best interests of the Syrian people," adding that "any leader who treats their people to this kind of activity" presents a menace.

Spicer made his comments during a rare off-camera press briefing. Trump, at least early in the day, did not make comments. Presidents often make on-camera statements following grave attacks.

They give the the U.S. position more weight and attention, but also put more pressure on the administration's response. 

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