US, France and Britain launch joint strikes on Syrian capital
14 April 2018
US, France and Britain today launched joint strikes at Syria’s chemical weapons capabilities, firing missiles into the Barzah district of Syrian capital Damascus, in a move that could escalate the strife in the Middle East.
Barzah is the location of a major Syrian scientific research centre and US President Donald Trump said, "The purpose of our actions tonight is to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread and use of chemical weapons."
Reports said at least six loud explosions were heard in Damascus and smoke was seen rising over the Syrian capital after the early morning strike.
US defence secretary Jim Mattis and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Joseph Dunford said more than 100 missiles were fired from ships and aircraft striking three of Syria’s main chemical weapons facilities.
Mattis said the strikes are a “one-time shot,” but Trump raised the prospect of further strikes if Assad’s government again uses chemical weapons.
Mattis had earlier warned in internal debates that too large an attack would risk confrontation with Russia.
President Trump on Friday said he has ordered precision strikes targeting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's chemical weapons capabilities. Trump said the combined operation with France and Britain is underway and that the strikes will continue until Syria stopped its use of chemical weapons.
"A short time ago, I ordered the United States Armed Forces to launch precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapons capabilities of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad," Trump said in a televised address from the White House. "These are not the actions of a man. They are crimes of a monster instead," Trump said referring to Assad and his alleged role in the poison gas attack that killed at least 60 people last week.
Syrian TV reports claim that the country's air defence systems have been activated and are responding to the attack. "Syrian air defence blocks American, British, French aggression on Syria," Syrian state television reported.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said she had authorised British forces to conduct the precision strikes against Syria to degrade its chemical weapons capability. "This is not about intervening in a civil war. It is not about regime change. It is about a limited and targeted strike that does not further escalate tensions in the region and that does everything possible to prevent civilian casualties," May said on Saturday in a statement." May said "a significant body of information, including intelligence" pointed to Syrian government responsibility for a suspected chemical attack last Saturday. "There is no practicable alternative to the use of force to degrade and deter the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime," she said.
May also said that the strikes would "send a clear signal to anyone else who believes they can use chemical weapons with impunity"."This is the first time as prime minister that I have had to take the decision to commit our armed forces in combat — and it is not a decision I have taken lightly. I have done so because I judge this action to be in Britain`s national interest," she added.
Confirming the attack, French President Emmanuel Macron said the strikes in Syria target "regime chemical weapons capacity. Cannot tolerate normalisation of chemical weapons in Syria”, he added.
Russia’s ambassador to the United States on Friday warned that there would be consequences for the US-led military strikes on Syria, adding that it was not acceptable to insult Russia’s president.
“A pre-designed scenario is being implemented,” Russian Ambassador Anatoly Antonov said on Twitter. “Again, we are being threatened. We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences.”
“Insulting the President of Russia is unacceptable and inadmissible,” he added. “The US — the possessor of the biggest arsenal of chemical weapons — has no moral right to blame other countries.”