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UK can ‘legally’ launch Syria strike

The British government has published internal documents advising them to strike Syria.

British Prime Minister David Cameron leaves 10 Downing Street in central London after a Cabinet meeting to discuss a response to Syria following chemical attacks that Britain believe were launched by the Syrian regime. 29 August 2013. Picture: Leon Neal/AFP

It also published intelligence material on last week's chemical weapons attack in Syria, saying there was no doubt that such an attack had taken place.

It added that it was "highly likely" that the Syrian government had been behind it and that there was "some" intelligence to suggest that was the case.

"If action in the Security Council is blocked, the UK would still be permitted under international law to take exceptional measures in order to alleviate the scale of the overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe in Syria," a copy of the British government's legal position read.

In such circumstances, it added, "military intervention to strike specific targets with the aim of deterring and disrupting further such attacks would be necessary and proportionate and therefore legally justifiable."

A letter from the chairman of Britain's Joint Intelligence Committee said there were "no plausible alternative scenarios" except that forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad had perpetrated the chemical attack in the suburbs of Damascus.

"We also have a limited but growing body of intelligence which supports the judgement that the regime was responsible for the attacks and that they were conducted to help clear the Opposition from strategic parts of Damascus," it said.

At the same time, UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon says he expects to receive a report from UN inspectors investigating the alleged nerve gas strike by the weekend.

The team is expected to finish its work on Friday and report to him after leaving the area on Saturday.

REGION PREPARES FOR WAR

Lebanon's Hezbollah has warned western nations preparing to strike Syria that it won't stand idle if an attack goes through.

Residents of Beirut talking to Eyewitness News say they feared a western strike could come as soon as nightfall.

If Hezbollah was to get involved, it's likely to fire rockets at Israel.

Across the Jewish state, thousands of worried Israelis have queued up at post offices to pick up gas masks.

While there's been no official call for a state of emergency there, Israel's army is in a state of high alert.

SYRIAN NATIONAL

Meanwhile, a Syrian man living in Cape Town says South Africa has adopted a sensible approach to the conflict in his home country.

The Opposition Syrian National Coalition has urged Western powers to quickly launch a punitive strike against Bashar al Assad's government in retaliation for an alleged chemical weapons attack.

But South Africa says military intervention is not the answer and that dialogue is needed.

Abdul Joudi, who has been living in South Africa for the past four and half years, says he in regular contact with his family who stay in a village in Syria's Idlib Province.

The 26-year-old hair stylist says western military intervention might lead to more civilian deaths.

"I agree with South Africa. They have taken a very sensible decision."

While Joudi does not support the Syrian army's assault on civilians, he is not opposed to Assad's regime.

"I really prefer Assad to stay and the country can return to normal because if you look at countries such as Libya and Egypt, they are messed up."

He says it is disastrous what has been allowed to happen in Syria over the past two years.