Published On: Sun, Apr 15th, 2018
Published in Category: International

US and allies launch strikes on Syria chemical weapons sites

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DMASCUS: The US, UK and France have bombed multiple government targets in Syria in an early morning operation targeting alleged chemical weapons sites.

The strikes are in response to a suspected chemical attack on the Syrian town of Douma last week. Explosions hit the capital, Damascus, as well as two locations near the city of Homs, the Pentagon said.

Russia’s ambassador to the US responded by saying the attack on its ally “will not be left without consequences”. “The nations of Britain, France, and the United States of America have marshalled their righteous power against barbarism and brutality,” President Trump said in an address to the nation from the White House.

“The purpose of our actions tonight is to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread, and use of chemical weapons,” he added. The wave of strikes is the most significant attack against President Bashar al-Assad’s government by western powers in seven years of Syria’s civil war.

At a Pentagon briefing shortly after Mr Trump’s announcement, Gen Joseph Dunford listed three targets that had been struck. Syrian state television said government forces had shot down more than a dozen missiles, and claimed only the research facility in Damascus had been damaged. Three civilians had been injured in Homs, it said.

US Secretary of Defence James Mattis told journalists there were no reports of US losses in the operation. In his earlier address, President Trump had said: “We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents.” But Secretary Mattis said that “right now, this is a one-time shot”. Gen Dunford confirmed the wave of strikes had ended.

Gen Dunford said the US had specifically identified targets that would “mitigate” the risk of Russian casualties. But the Pentagon said that Russia – which has forces on the ground in Syria in support of the government – had not been given advance notice of the targets.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed British involvement, saying there was “no practicable alternative to the use of force”. But she also said the strikes were not about “regime change”.

French President Emmanuel Macron also confirmed his country’s participation in the operation. “Dozens of men, women and children were massacred with chemical weapons,” he said of the Douma incident a week ago – adding that “the red line had been crossed”.

Last year some 59 missiles were fired. This time a little over double that number were used. The strikes are over for now, but there was a clear warning that if the Assad regime resorts to chemical weapons again then further strikes may well follow. Care was taken, say the Americans, to avoid both Syrian and “foreign” – for that read Russian – casualties.


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