WASHINGTON — Edging toward a retaliatory strike, the Obama administration accused the Syrian government of Bashar Assad on Friday of launching a chemical weapons attack that killed at least 1,429 people — far more than previous estimates — including more than 400 children.
"Some cite the risk of doing things" in response, Secretary of State John Kerry said in a speech that acknowledged that Americans at home and U.S. allies abroad are weary of war. "But we need to ask what is the risk of doing nothing."
Halfway around the world, U.N. personnel carried out a fourth day of inspection as they sought to determine precisely what happened in the attack last week. Videotapes said to be taken at the scene show victims writhing in pain, twitching and exhibiting other symptoms associated with exposure to nerve agents. The international contingent arranged to depart Syria on Saturday and head to laboratories in Europe with the samples they have collected.
Residents of Damascus stocked up on food and other necessities in anticipation of strikes, although no signs of panic or shortages were evident.