US, UK and France Launch Strike against Syria over Chemical Attack

The United States and allies Britain and France have launched coordinated airstrikes against three Syrian targets in retaliation for the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons

Missiles fly through Damascus sky (Photo: AP)

The United States, together with France and Britain, launched airstrikes overnight Saturday against Syrian targets as a response to the suspected chemical attack on Douma last weekend that killed dozens of people.

US President Donald Trump announced that the three allies had launched military strikes to punish Assad and to prevent him from using chemical weapons again. Trump said Washington was prepared to "sustain" pressure on Assad until he ends what the president called a criminal pattern of killing his own people with internationally banned chemical weapons.

US Defense officials said that Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched from at least three American warships, while B-1 bombers dropped long-range missiles on targets. French and British warplanes also fired long-range missiles, while a British submarine launched cruise missiles.

In all, 105 missiles were launched in the combined strike. In a briefing on Saturday morning, the Pentagon provided the following breakdown of the military weapons used to strike Syrian targets overnight.

From the Red Sea, USS Monterey launched 30 Tomahawk missiles, and USS Laboon fired 7 Tomahawk missiles. From the North Arabian Gulf, USS Higgins launched 23 Tomahawk missiles. From the eastern Mediterranean, USS John Warner fired 6 Tomahawk missiles, and a French frigate launched three naval SCALP missiles.

From the air, two US B-1 Lancer bombers fired 19 joint air-to-surface standoff missiles. British Tornado and Typhoon jets fired eight storm shadow missiles, and French Rafales and Mirages fired 9 SCALP missiles.

Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the US, French and British forces struck three sites: a scientific research center near Damascus, a suspected chemical weapons storage facility near Homs and a storage facility and command post also near Homs.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters that there were no more attacks planned unless Assad again uses gas on his own people.

"We confined it to the chemical weapons-type targets," Mattis said. "We were not out to expand this; we were very precise and proportionate. But at the same time, it was a heavy strike."

British Prime Minister Theresa May said Syria had left the allies no choice. "This persistent pattern of behavior 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," she said.

"This is not about intervening in a civil war," she added. "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."

French President Emmanuel Macron also issued a statement saying his country's "red line has been crossed" after the suspected chemical attack. He there was "no doubt" Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime was responsible.

Macron said his country's priorities in Syria are to fight terror, allow the access of humanitarian aid and help bring peace to the region.

Syrian state television said government air defense systems were responding to "the American aggression" and aired video of missiles being fired into a night sky. It reported that 13 missiles had been shot down by Syrian air defenses near Al-Kiswa, a town south of Damascus. American officials said they could not yet confirm that.

In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin and other top officials swiftly condemned the attack as international aggression but said no Russians were injured. He announced that Russia will call an emergency session of UN Security Council over the strike.

"We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences," Anatoly Antonov, the ambassador to the United States, said in a statement. "All responsibility for them rests with Washington, London and Paris."

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said an attack on Syria was a crime and would not achieve any gains. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the attack will cause destruction in the Middle East. 

 

[Sources: CNN, The Washington Post, The New York Times]

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