where they stand
President Bashar Assad said that his country "will defend itself against any aggression," signaling defiance to mounting Western warnings of a possible punitive strike. U.N. chemical weapons inspectors toured stricken rebel-held areas near Damascus for a third day.
Republicans and Democrats pressed President Obama to explain why the U.S. military should attack Syria. Intelligence officials prepared briefings for Congress on evidence they say links Assad's government to last week's attack.
Prime Minister David Cameron's office said legal conditions have been met for military action against Syria, without authorization from the U.N. Security Council.
The French military is ready to commit forces to an operation in Syria if President Francois Hollande approves it, Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said. Hollande, who met with the head of the Syrian opposition, stopped short of announcing an intervention.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in Vienna that U.N. experts seeking to collect evidence from the apparent chemical attack will report to him as soon as they leave the country Saturday. The team is expected to complete its inspection on Friday and their conclusions will be shared with Security Council members.
Thousands of Israelis crowded gas-mask distribution facilities to get free masks, fearing Israel could be targeted in retaliation by Syria if it is attacked. A mob forcibly took gas masks from a distribution center in Jerusalem on Wednesday. Officers were deployed to maintain order Thursday in Haifa.
Officials placed Turkey on alert against possible chemical attacks from Syria and stocked food and gas masks along their shared border. Bunkers were designated in seven border areas.
President Hassan Rowhani said his country will press forward with efforts to ward off military action against its ally.
Russia's foreign ministry asked the United Nations to continue its inspection of places where chemical weapons might have been used in Syria. A foreign minister spokesman said the team should inspect three other locations, including a suburb of Aleppo, where the government in Damascus alleges the rebels have used poisoned gas.