Nightly News   |  August 27, 2013

New horrors in Syria as demand grows to punish Assad

Officials tell NBC News they have intelligence intercepts tying the chemical attacks to the Syrian regime. The White House is now waiting for a report from the UN team that arrived at the attack site on Monday. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports.

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>>> good evening, i'm lester holt in for brian. there are a number of indications tonight that a u.s.-led military strike against syria could be launched before the end of the week. momentum for punishing action against the assad government has been building throughout the day, and as we begin here tonight, there are several new developments to report. the white house says it will release solid evidence that the syrian government ordered a mass chemical weapons attack on its own people last week. on the diplomatic side, international support for an attack is growing. for the pentagon, word that u.s. war ships are in place and ready to launch when the order is given. this fast moving chain of events all touched off by those horrific images of dead and dying civilians that shocked the world. andrea mitchell begins our coverage tonight from washington. good evening.

>> good evening, lester .

>> brushing aside assad 's denial, the administration's goal is to punish him. hoping to prevent more deaths from devastating weapons, not seen in decades. and lester , fair warning , these latest pictures are very hard to wat watch.

>> a different kind of war. a war that killed babies silently, suddenly, bathing them not in blood, but in the tears of a doctor. ghastly images of last week's attack. most too horrifying to show on television. emerging only today. this infant apparently barely a month old. and a new horror near aleppo, the opposition claims napalm dropped on civilians monday killing at least ten, wounding dozens. a report that has not been independently verified. in texas today, speaking to veterans, the vice president continued the drum beat to punish bashar al assad .

>> there's no doubt who is responsible for this heinous use of chemical weapons in syria . the syrian regime.

>> reporter: the white house is not waiting for a report from the u.n. chemical weapons team that finally got to the attack site monday. officials tell nbc news, they have intelligence intercepts, tying the attack to the regime.

>> we know the regime maintains custody of the chemical weapons in syria , and uses the types of rockets that were used to deliver chemical weapons on august 21st , the opposition does not.

>> david cameron cut short his holiday to call a special session of parliament thursday.

>> what we've seen in syria are appalling scenes of death and suffering because of the use of chemical weapons by the assad regime. i don't believe we can let that stand.

>> russia's vladimir putin interrupted a meeting to take a call from the british prime minister . the arab league led by the saudis denounced the asads government for the chemical attacks. when the order comes, the mog has four destroyers, submarines and the nato base in turkey.

>> we are ready to go like that.

>> military intelligence is updating targets to teach assad a lesson.

>> he values his communications nose, his military air field will crater runways so planes can't take off. we'll try to hit planes on the tarmac.

>> reporter: what about unintended consequences. the u.s. military plan is not to get in the middle of the civil war and try to topple assad . general lee just told richard engel they will seize the chance to defeat assad .

>> i think there is a very good chance to fall the assad regime.

>> and one of syria 's allies iran, hezbollah retaliate against israel. israel says it's ready for anything. the administration will give a classified intelligence assessment to congress this week and make a declassified version public. officials have delayed the release for a day or so, to make sure there are no mistakes. lester ?

>> andrea mitchell tonight, thanks. as