UN Security Council members were at odds on placing blame as they failed to respond to the reported chemical attack in northwestern Syria that killed at least 100 victims.
A planned vote on a resolution drafted by the U.S., U.K. and France never happened as Russia, a permanent member of the Council, vehemently objected to its wording as a "provocation" and its authors "irresponsible".
U.S. Ambassador to UN Nikki Haley said the attack was "a disgrace at the highest level, and as assurance that humanity means nothing to Syrian government".
Tuesday's attack in the town of Khan Shaykhun in Idlib, which injured hundreds more and "bears all the hallmarks of the [Bashar al-] Assad regime's use of chemical weapons", Haley told the Council as she indicated Washington and its allies might take unilateral action.
"When the UN consistently fails in its duty to act collectively, there are times in the life of states when we are compelled to take our own action," Haley said.
U.K.ambassador Matthew Rycroft rejected Moscow's allegation that Syrian opposition forces are responsible for the attack while he lamented inaction on the part of the Council.
"Until Russia changes its ways this Security Council will remain blocked," Rycroft said. "That is the sad reality the world has gotten used to. They view us as a table of diplomats doing nothing our hands tied behind our backs beholden to Russian intransigence."
Rycroft added that the U.K. had "every indication this was a sustained attack using aircraft over a number of hours".
According to Haley, there is evidence Assad has increased his use of chemical weapons.
During her speech, the U.S. envoy rose from her chair to display images of chemical attacks victims.
"Yesterday morning, we awoke to pictures of children -- foaming at the mouth, suffering convulsions being carried in the arms of desperate parents," Haley said.
"We saw rows of lifeless bodies some still in diapers, some with visible scars of a chemical weapons attack. Look at those pictures. We cannot close our eyes to these pictures."
After a first round of attacks, a second round hit as first responders arrived, causing death "in the same slow horrendous manner as the civilians they were trying to save,” she said.
French ambassador Francois Delattre said: "Why won’t we condemn those who have killed children and women and who made them suffer terribly? What are we waiting to do this?"
Haley said Syria and its sponsors — Iran and Russia — “have no interest in peace".
Russia's Deputy UN Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov accused Western powers of provocation and repeated the Moscow’s claim that opposition groups carried out the attack.
At one point, Safronkov suggested reports of a regime chemical attack were being "taken at face value" and he disputed the authenticity of photographs and video footage of chemical attack victims.
"Certain states in this Council are already manipulating the preliminary results of the Joint Investigative Mechanism," he said, referring to the UN-sponsored fact-finding mission.
The world reacted with outrage at the attack in Syria, calling for accountability.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has begun an investigation, while the World Health Organization issued a statement declaring findings of the use of nerve gas in the targeted area.
The draft resolution Tuesday called on the Assad regime to “cooperate fully” with the OPCW fact-finding mission.
The resolution notably asked the regime to provide the mission with wide-ranging military information, including flight plans and logs, information on helicopter squadrons and access to relevant military bases.
In six years, the Syrian conflict has devastated an entire country and wrecked millions of lives.
It erupted after the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests -- as part of the "Arab Spring" uprisings -- with unexpected ferocity.
Since then, hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been killed and more than 10 million displaced.