Syria expects a military attack "at any moment" and is ready to retaliate, an official said on Saturday, hours after a team United Nations (UN) experts probing a suspected gas attack blamed on the regime quit the country.
The departure of the inspectors has opened a window for a possible US-led strike after President Barack Obama gave the clearest indication yet on Friday that a military intervention was imminent.
"We are expecting an attack at any moment. We are ready to retaliate," the security official told Agence France Presse, asking not to be named.
The 13 UN inspectors, led by Ake Sellstrom, left their Damascus hotel in a convoy before dawn and crossed into Lebanon a few hours later, AFP reporters said.
They are due to report straight back to United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon and detail their conclusions on whether a poison gas attack actually did take place in Damascus suburbs on August 21, based on samples collected on site.
Obama's administration says it has no need to wait for the results of the probe, claiming its intelligence gives firm evidence the regime launched a chemical onslaught that killed 1,429 people, including at least 426 children.