Connect to share and comment

Report: Syrian soldiers find chemical agents in rebel tunnels (VIDEO)

Syrian state television reported troops found chemical agents in rebel tunnels in the Damascus suburb of Jobar in what some called an attempt to strengthen the government's case against a suspect chemical weapons assault.

Clone of Syria june 10Enlarge
A Syrian army soldier exits his tank in the southwestern neighborhood of the Syrian city of Qusayr. Clashes between the government and rebels occurred Tuesday north of Aleppo at strategically important air bases. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama met with his national security team on Syria Saturday amid reports that chemical agents were found in rebel tunnels outside Damascus.

According to Reuters, Syrian state television reported that some soldiers were overcome by fumes after coming across the chemical agents in the tunnels while patroling Jobar.

More from GlobalPost: Syrian refugees flood into Iraq (PHOTOS)

The soldiers were taken away by ambulance, and government forces were preparing to bomb the insurgent-held suburb, according to state TV.

Some called the claim a thinly-veiled attempt to strengthen the government's denials of responsibility for the reported nerve gas attack that killed hundreds earlier this week.

Obama and his security team met Saturday to discuss those reports and weigh possible military options.

The president has said he'll make a decision "once the facts are clear," although Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Friday that Obama had asked the Pentagon to prepare military options for Syria. 

More from GlobalPost: US response to Syria: 3 questions with Ambassaor Nicholas Burns

Speaking on Fox News Sunday, the ranking Republican and Democrat on the Senate and House foreign relations committees said the US must respond with quick action.

“I think we will respond in a surgical way,” Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said. “And I hope the president as soon as we get back to Washington will ask for authorization from Congress to do something in a very surgical and proportional way. Something that gets their attention, that causes them to understand that we are not going to put up with this kind of activity.”

"We certainly cannot wait for the United Nations," Rep. Eliot Engel, D-NY, told Fox News. "The Russians are there to block everything with their veto. I look at this situation as analogous to the 1999 situation in Kosovo whereby there was an endangered population and NATO launched airstrikes to save that population."

US naval forces moved closer to the war-torn country in recent days, with reports of a fourth warship armed with ballstic missiles now in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

That news comes amid reports of a top UN official arriving in Damascus on Saturday to press the government to cooperate with its investigation into the reported nerve gas attack.

Inspectors want to reach the site of the suspected attack quickly while evidence was fresh. The opposition claims the attack killed more than 1,300 people in a Damascus suburb.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/syria/130824/syrian-soldiers-find-chemical-agents-rebel-tunnels