Home / NEWS / Syria airstrikes: America, Britain and France target Assad’s chemical facilities in aerial barrage – latest news

Syria airstrikes: America, Britain and France target Assad’s chemical facilities in aerial barrage – latest news

America, Britain and France have launched a coordinated airstrike in Syria to punish the regime for a chemical weapons attack that killed more than 70 people.

Donald Trump announced he had ordered the strike at 9pm on Friday in Washington DC with Theresa May issuing her own statement minutes later. 

Three Syrian sites involved in the use of chemical weapons were targeted in the attack – one scientific facility near Damascus and two storage facilities near Homs. 

More than a hundred missiles were launched and the strikes lasted no longer than 70 minutes. America, British and French naval and air force units were involved. 

Addressing the nation in a televised statement, Mr Trump said it was a response to the “evil and despicable” chemical attack by the Syrian regime last Saturday. 

He said: “The purpose of our actions tonight is to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread and use of chemical weapons. Establishing this deterrent is a vital national security interest of the United States.”

An explosion in the sky over Damascus seen through a night-vision device 

Credit:
AFP

Mr Trump added: “To Iran and to Russia I ask – what kind of regime wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women and children?

“The nations of the world can be judged by the friends they keep. No state can succeed in the long run by promoting rogue states, brutal tyrants and murderous dictators.”

Mrs May said that the strikes were not about “intervening in a civil war” or “regime change” but to ensure chemical weapons were not used again. 

She said: “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.

“And while this action is specifically about deterring the Syrian Regime, it will also send a clear signal to anyone else who believes they can use chemical weapons with impunity.”

Emmanuel Macron, the French president, said: “The facts and the responsibility of the Syrian regime [for Saturday’s attack] are not in any doubt. The red line set by France in May 2017 has been crossed.” 

Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, condemned the attack and said there would be “consequences”. 

Syrian state media slammed Western strikes on Saturday as illegal.

“The aggression is a flagrant violation of international law, a breach of the international community’s will, and it is doomed to fail,” said state news agency SANA.

The missiles were launched around 9pm, Washington DC time, as Mr Trump stepped before the cameras in the White House to address the nation. 

An explosion on the outskirts of Damascus

Credit:
AFP

Some missiles were targeted by surface-to-air missile systems controlled by the Syrian regime, according to the Pentagon. 

The sites chosen were involved in the “research, development and deployment” of chemical weapons, a Pentagon official said.  

One target was a scientific facility in the greater Damascus area which had been involved in researching and testing chemical weapons. 

Two targets were near the city of Homs. Both were chemical weapons storage facilities, one had also been used as a command post. 

Damascus sky lights up with service to air missile fire 

Credit:
AP

The sites had been chosen to minimise civilian casualties and avoid Russian troops stationed on the ground in Syria.

James Mattis, the US defence secretary, said more than double the number of missiles were used than in the US air strike against Syria in April 2017, when 59 missiles were launched.  He also confirmed that the strike was over during a Pentagon briefing at around 10.10pm, meaning it lasted no more than 70 minutes. 

Russia was not warned before the air strikes were launched and there was no explicit coordination over the attack, a Pentagon official said.

A US-Russia “deconfliction line” to avoid crashes over Syrian airspace was used, the official said, but he stressed it is used most days.

Mr Mattis indicated Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, had not been a target when asked, saying the regime’s chemical weapons programme had been the focus. 

Mr Mattis also described the attack as a “one-time” strike, suggesting that no further military action was planned at this time. 

He said: “Right now, this is a one-time shot, and I believe it has sent a very strong message to dissuade [Assad], to deter him from doing this again.”

The comments contrasted with Mr Trump’s statement an hour earlier when he said the allies were ready to “sustain” their pressure on Assad. 

Mr Trump said: “The combined American, British and French response to these atrocities will integrate all instruments of our national power: military, economic and diplomatic. “We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents.”

The Pentagon declined to detail the extent of damage or whether any lives were lost on the ground, saying that a briefing would be held on Saturday morning. Mrs May is also expected to speak then. 

Britain used Four Royal Air Force Tornado GR4s to launch Storm Shadow missiles at one of the facilities near Homs, the Ministry of Defence said. 

Gavin Williamson, the Defence Secretary, said the strikes were “highly successful” and that all RAF crews had returned safely. He said the strikes played “an important role in terms of degrading the Syrian regime in using chemical weapons in the future”.

 A fighter jet lands at Akrotiri military British Royal Air Force Base, Cyprus

Credit:
AP

In a statement posted from the Russian Embassy in America’s official Twitter account, Mr Antonov warned there would be “consequences” for the attack. 

He said: “The worst apprehensions have come true. Our warnings have been left unheard. A pre-designed scenario is being implemented. Again, we are being threatened. 

“We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences. All responsibility for them rests with Washington, London and Paris.

“Insulting the President of Russia is unacceptable and inadmissible.”

“The US – a possessor of the biggest arsenal of chemical weapons – has no moral right to blame other countries.”

Latest updates….

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Defence secretary: strikes “highly successful”

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that last night’s air strike against the Syrian regime was “a highly successful mission”.

Speaking to presenter John Humphrys, he said: “The reason we have taken this action is because we all saw the images last week of the suffering that had been inflicted on innocent men, women and children, and there has been a need to act.

“That’s why last night we deployed four Tornados armed with Storm Shadow cruise missiles. You will be pleased to hear all of those crews have returned safely and every early indication is that is has been a highly successful mission.

“This is something we have been in discussion with the US and French over the last few days but obviously the meeting of Cabinet is where this was properly discussed.”

Mr Williamson said the service personnel involved in last night’s attack have played “an important role in terms of degrading the Syrian regime in using chemical weapons in the future”.

Regime lives to fight another day

The Syrian regime knew there was little it could do to stop the incoming barrage of Western missiles. But it also knew that the hours afterwards would be crucial in terms of reassuring its own base. 

As well as posting a video of Assad going to work as normal, the regime has organised “spontaneous” demonstrations on the streets of Damascus. Soldiers and regime supporters paraded with the red-and-black Syrian government flag. 

 The message they are trying to send is clear: the regime is stable and it lives to fight another day. 

Russia: Missiles intercepted by air defences

Russia’s defence ministry said on Saturday that the majority of missiles fired during the overnight attack on Syria by US, British and French forces were intercepted by Syrian government air defence systems, TASS news agency reported.

Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has responded angrily to the strikes, while Syrian state media called them a “flagrant violation of international law.”

More than 100 missiles were fired from ships and manned aircraft, and the allies struck three of Syria’s main chemical weapons facilities, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Joseph Dunford said.

According to Interfax news agency, Russia’s defence ministry also said that Syria intercepted the US and allied attacks using Soviet-produced hardware, including the Buk missile system. 

Assad off to work

Video has emerged apparently showing President Bashar al-Assad going to work as normal.

Reaction in Britain

UK forces have been engaged in “gesture bombing with no major international consensus”, the Scottish National Party spokesman for defence said.

Stewart McDonald wrote on Twitter: “Most worrying, is that she has acted at the behest of presidential tweets and sidelined parliament.

“What does this new bombing campaign do to help move Syria towards peace? Nothing.”

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said he welcomed the military strikes on Syria.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said questions remained about how peace can be brought to Syria.

Writing on Twitter, she said: “My first thoughts this morning are with service personnel called to action”.

MoD releases images of attack

The Ministry of Defence has released images and footage of the strike on a chemical weapons facility.

France: Russia was warned ahead of strikes

France’s defence minister says its joint military operation with the US and Britain against Syria targeted three sites and that Russia was informed ahead of time.

Defence Minister Florence Parly told reporters on Saturday that the French military sent fighter jets from multiple bases in France and used missile-equipped frigates in the Mediterranean in the operation. 

She said strikes targeted the “main research center” for the Syrian chemical weapons program and “two important production sites.”

She added that “with our allies, we ensured that the Russians were warned ahead of time.” 

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the operation did not target Syria’s allies or civilians but President Bashar Assad’s government because of its alleged use of chemical weapons. Syria’s government denies using them.

Syrians take to streets after attacks

Hundreds of Syrians are demonstrating in a landmark square of the Syrian capital, waving victory signs and honking their car horns in a show of defiance

Syrians wave Russian and Syrian flags during a protest against U.S.-led air strikes in Damascus

Credit:
Reuters

In Damascus, the president’s seat of power, hundreds of residents gathered in Omayyad Square, many waving Syrian, Russian and Iranian flags. Some clapped their hands and danced, others drove in convoys, honking their horns.

“We are your men, Bashar,” they shouted.

State TV broadcast live from the square where a large crowd of civilians mixed with men in uniforms, including an actor, lawmakers and other figures.

“Good morning steadfastness,” one broadcaster said.

Democrats warn Trump over Syria

Mr Trump’s announcement of airstrikes in Syria triggered swift warnings from opposition Democrats that any broader military campaign there would require a well-formulated strategic vision – and authorisation from Congress.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi led calls for the US president to map out a detailed plan and present it to Congress if he wants to expand military action.

“One night of air strikes is no substitute for a coherent strategy,” Ms Pelosi said in a statement.

Mr Trump “must come to Congress to obtain a new AUMF (authorization for use of military force), present a clear set of objectives, & ultimately hold Putin accountable for the bloodshed he has enabled,” she added, referring to President Vladimir Putin of Russia, the Syrian regime’s most powerful ally.

US military forces have largely been operating under AUMFs passed by Congress shortly after the 9/11 attacks to conduct operations against extremist groups like the Islamic State, including in Syria.

Some Democrats like Senator Tim Kaine, the party’s vice presidential nominee in 2016, said although last week’s deadly apparent chemical attack was an abomination, Trump’s air strikes were illegal.

“The last thing Congress should be doing is giving this president a blank check to wage war against anyone, anywhere. We need to put clear limits in place before he starts another war,” said Kaine.

“Today, it’s a strike on Syria – what’s going to stop him from bombing Iran or North Korea next?”

Western allies back strikes

International reaction has started coming in, with Western allies backing the military action.

The head of NATO expressed his support for strikes in Syria after bombings targeting Bashar al-Assad’s regime in retaliation for a suspected chemical attack.

“I support the actions taken by the United States, the United Kingdom and France… This will reduce the regime’s ability to further attack the people of Syria with chemical weapons,” Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement.

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau also backed the strikes. 

David Miliband responds

David Miliband, CEO of the International Rescue Committee, has issued this response to the strikes.

“Now that the US, France and the UK have decided on their reaction to the use of chemical weapons last weekend, the need for a diplomatic offensive is more imperative than ever. Military action is only ever successful when it is part of a political strategy, for peace-making, humanitarian aid and regional security. Bombing cannot substitute for diplomacy, military reactions a substitute for a peace plan. Syrian civilians need urgent humanitarian aid to relieve poverty, Syria’s neighbors need support for the refugees they are housing.”

Trump ‘can be called Adolf Hitler’

A highly placed Russian politician is likening President Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler after the launch of airstrikes against Syria, and says he regards the action as a move against Russia.

Alexander Sherin, deputy head of the State Duma’s defense committee, says Trump “can be called Adolf Hitler No. 2 of our time – because, you see, he even chose the time that Hitler attacked the Soviet Union.”

That’s according to state news agency RIA-Novosti. The Nazi forces’ opening attack against the USSR in 1941 was launched around 4 a.m.

Syria’s response

Syrian state media has slammed Western strikes as illegal and “doomed to fail”.

“The aggression is a flagrant violation of international law, a breach of the international community’s will, and it is doomed to fail,” said state news agency SANA.

State media published images of a cloud of reddish smoke hanging over the capital and said that air defences were activated to block the attack.

Smoke rises after airstrikes targeting different parts of the Syrian capital Damascus

Credit:
AP

SANA reported the joint operation hit a research centre northeast of the capital as well as other military installations around Damascus, but said missiles targeting army depots in Homs had been intercepted.

It said skies were clear over Aleppo in the north, Hasakeh in the northeast, and Latakia and Tartus along the western coast, where key Syrian and Russian military installations are located.

Details of US strikes

The US Pentagon announced that three sites used by the Syrian regime for the “research, development and deployment” of chemical weapons had been targeted, writes Ben Riley-Smith

One target was a scientific facility in the greater Damascus area which had been involved in researching and testing chemical weapons. 

Two targets were near the city of Homs. Both were chemical weapons storage facilities, one had also been used as a command post. 

The Damascus sky lights up with service to air missile fire as the U.S. launches an attack on Syria

Credit:
AP

The sites had been chosen to minimise civilian casualties and avoid Russian troops stationed on the ground in the country.  James Mattis, the US defence secretary, announced that the strike was a “one-time” attack designed to deter Assad from using chemical weapons again. 

He said that the strikes were over during the briefing, meaning at most the attack lasted around an hour and 10 minutes.  Mr Mattis said that twice as many missiles were used than last year’s US attack on a Syrian regime airfield, meaning more than 100 missiles were fired.  Russia was not warned before the air strikes were launched and there was no explicit coordination over the attack, a Pentagon official said.

An explosion on the outskirts of Damascus 

Credit:
AFP

A US-Russia “deconfliction line” to avoid crashes over Syrian airspace was used, the official said, but he stressed it is used most days.  The Pentagon also confirmed that Syria had used surface-to-air missiles to counter the attack. 

Mr Mattis said: “Right now, this is a one-time shot, and I believe it has sent a very strong message to dissuade [Assad], to deter him from doing this again.” It is unclear how that comment matches with Mr Trump’s earlier statement that the US was prepared to “sustain” pressure on the Assad regime. 

US media have also reported that the US Congress was notified just minutes before the attack was launched.  Mr Mattis also said that the Trump administration was confident chlorine had been used in the original Douma attack, but said they were not sure that Sarin gas had been used.

Russia responds angrily

Russia’s embassy in the US has issued its response to the airstrikes, saying “such actions will not be left without consequences”.

First wave of strikes over

The Pentagon has said the first wave of airstrikes are over.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said no additional strikes on Syria were planned:

“Right now this is a one-time shot”, he saud, adding  there were “no reports of losses” on the part of the US and its allies.

 He called on the international community to “urgently” unite and bring an end to Syria’s civil war.

“It is time for all civilized nations to urgently unite in ending the Syrian civil war by supporting the United Nations backed Geneva peace process,” Mattis said.

Williamson describes strikes as  ‘legal and proportionate military force’

Gavin Williamson, the Defence Secretary, has issued a statement.

“The reprehensible use of chemical weapons in Douma is further evidence of the Syrian regime’s appalling cruelty against its own people. We will not stand by whilst innocent civilians, including women and children, are killed and made to suffer.

“The international community has responded decisively with legal and proportionate military force. Let these united actions send a clear message to the regime – the use of chemical weapons is categorically unacceptable and you will be held to account.”

Blasts in Damascus

Several huge explosions have been heard in Syria’s capital.

Consecutive blasts were heard at 4:00 am local time (0100 GMT), followed by the sound of airplanes overhead. Smoke could be seen emerging from the northern and eastern edges of the capital.

Syrian state television simultaneously reported a US attack on Syria, in coordination with France and Britain.

“Syrian air defence blocks American, British, French aggression on Syria,” state television said.

Details of airstrikes

The Ministry of Defence [MOD] revealed some details of UK involvement in the strikes in a statement released 45 minutes after Mr Trump addressed the nation spoke. 

Four Royal Air Force Tornado GR4s launched Storm Shadow missiles at a military facility and former missile base some 15 miles west of Homs. 

An MoD spokesman said the Syrian regime “is assessed to keep chemical weapon precursors stockpiled” at the facility, breaching the Chemical Weapons Convention.  The spokesman added:

“Very careful scientific analysis was applied to determine where best to target the Storm Shadows to maximise the destruction of the stockpiled chemicals and to minimise any risks of contamination to the surrounding area. 

“The facility which was struck is located some distance from any known concentrations of civilian habitation, reducing yet further any such risk.”

Macron issues statement

French President Emmanuel Macron said late on Friday that France had joined the US and Britain in an ongoing operation against Syria with strikes to target “the capacities of the Syrian regime to produce and use chemical weapons”.

“We cannot tolerate the normalisation of the use of chemical weapons,” he said in a statement.

Statement from the prime minister

Theresa May has issued a statement on the Syrian airstrikes. 

Here it is in full.

This evening I have authorised British armed forces to conduct co-ordinated and targeted strikes to degrade the Syrian Regime’s chemical weapons capability and deter their use.

We are acting together with our American and French allies. In Douma, last Saturday a chemical weapons attack killed up to 75 people, including young children, in circumstances of pure horror.

The fact of this attack should surprise no-one. The Syrian Regime has a history of using chemical weapons against its own people in the most cruel and abhorrent way. And a significant body of information including intelligence indicates the Syrian Regime is responsible for this latest attack.

This persistent pattern of behaviour must be stopped – not just to protect innocent people in Syria from the horrific deaths and casualties caused by chemical weapons but also because we cannot allow the erosion of the international norm that prevents the use of these weapons.

We have sought to use every possible diplomatic channel to achieve this. But our efforts have been repeatedly thwarted. Even this week the Russians vetoed a Resolution at the UN Security Council which would have established an independent investigation into the Douma attack.

So there is no practicable alternative to the use of force to degrade and deter the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Regime. 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.

And while this action is specifically about deterring the Syrian Regime, it will also send a clear signal to anyone else who believes they can use chemical weapons with impunity. At this time, my thoughts are with our brave British servicemen and women – and our French and American partners – who are carrying out their duty with the greatest professionalism.

The speed with which we are acting is essential in co-operating with our partners to alleviate further humanitarian suffering and to maintain the vital security of our operations. 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. We cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalised – within Syria, on the streets of the UK, or anywhere else in our world. We would have preferred an alternative path. But on this occasion there is none.

History teaches us that the international community must defend the global rules and standards that keep us all safe. That is what our country has always done. And what we will continue to do.

A ‘sustained’ response

Mr Trump said U.S., allies were prepared for a “sustained” response until Syrian government stops use of chemical weapons. 

He added that the strikes were a  ‘direct result’ of Russia’s failure to keep Syria’s Assad from using chemical weapons. 

Trump has ordered strikes

Donald Trump has announced he has ordered military action against Syria, in co-ordination with Britain and France. 

Trump ‘approves military action’

US media outlets are reporting that Trump has approved air strikes against Syria.

Trump set to make statement 

The New York Times is reporting that Donald Trump is set to make an announcement about Syria in about 10 minutes from the White House.

Article Source : https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/04/14/syria-airstrikes-donald-trump-set-make-announcement-military/

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