May expected to sell the case for military action to stop further chemical attacks inside Syria (Reuters)
UK Prime Minister Theresa May has called for an emergency cabinet meeting to discuss potential action in Syria, as US President Donald Trump continues to mull the prospect of American air strikes against the Syrian government.
Senior government ministers summoned to the cabinet meeting in London later this afternoon are expected to approve May's decision to intervene in Syria.
May is expected to sell the case for military action to stop further chemical attacks by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al Assad.
The emergency cabinet meeting comes amid widespread calls by opposition leaders for MPs to be given a vote before taking any military action in Syria.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn demanded an urgent inquiry into the chemical attacks in Douma and said that "parliament should always be given a say on military action."
Overnight, UK submarines armed with cruise missiles had reportedly moved into range to take part in potential military against Assad.
A UK government source told the Times that RAF fighter jets operating from Cyprus is also prepared for air strikes in Syria.
“We have planes on the tarmac in Akrotiri,” a Whitehall source told the Times. “We are ready.”
The US and France are also contemplating military action, although Russia – which backs Syrian President Bashar al Assad and has troops in the country – has warned of a response if Syrian government facilities are struck by Western nations.
US President Donald Trump warned on Wednesday of imminent military action in Syria over a suspected poison gas attack, declaring that missiles "will be coming" and lambasting Moscow for standing by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The White House pushed back against suggestions that Trump had broadcast his plans for military strikes via Twitter, saying he had not laid out a timetable for action.
Trump's tweet was reacting to a warning from Russia that any U.S. missiles fired at Syria over the deadly assault on Saturday on the rebel enclave of Douma near Damascus would be shot down and the launch sites targeted.
His comments raised the prospect of direct conflict over Syria for the first time between the two world powers backing opposing sides in the seven-year-old civil war, which has aggravated instability across the Middle East.
"Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and 'smart!'," Trump wrote on Twitter.
"You shouldn't be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!" Trump tweeted, referring to Moscow's alliance with Assad.
The Russian Foreign Ministry quickly replied that US "smart missiles" should be aimed at terrorists and not at the Syrian government.
"Smart missiles should fly towards terrorists, and not towards the lawful government which has been fighting international terrorism on its territory for several years," Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, wrote on Facebook.
Zakharova said that a possible US missile strike could be an attempt to destroy evidence of the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma.
Russia's ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Zasypkin told Hezbollah's al-Manar TV on Tuesday: "If there is a strike by the Americans, then… the missiles will be downed and even the sources from which the missiles were fired."
He also said a clash "should be ruled out and therefore we are ready to hold negotiations".
On the ground in Syria on Wednesday, pro-Syrian government forces were emptying main airports and military bases over possible US strikes, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.