Time: 4:47 a.m. CEST Update: 6:42 a.m. CEST
The US, UK and France launched coordinated strikes in Syria, hitting targets associated with the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons program.
The military airstrikes launched over Syria by the United States, the United Kingdom and France targeted a research center, a chemical weapons storage facility, and a command post, the U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said as CNN reports.
The continuation of the airstrikes would depend on Syrian leader Bashar al Assad, Mattis explained hours after the U.S. President Donald Trump announced the strikes from the White House. The strikes began at 9:00 p.m. ET or 4:00 a.m. in Syria. Mattis said there were “no reports of losses” on the part of U.S. and allied forces participating in the strike, which included manned aircraft.
The strikes that hit early Saturday in Syria came hours before inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons were set to arrive to inspect the sight of the apparent attack. Reuters reports that a senior official in a regional alliance said “we had an early warning of the strike from the Russians…and all military bases were evacuated days ago.
The news agency publishes a statement of a member of Israel Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying the strikes are an “important signal’ to Iran, Syria and Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
Two military officials said to CNN that at least one U.S. Navy warship based in the red Sea was included in the strikes. The decision for the airstrikes came after most recent suspected attack with chemical substance in Douma. “Should he decide to use more chemical weapons in the future and of course-the powers that have signed the chemical weapons prohibition have every reason to challenge Assad if should he choose to violate that, but right now this is a one-time shot,” Mattis stated.
Earlier, during his statement from the White House, Trump pointed out that the strikes could “sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents.” It was not known if Trump would continue beyond this round of missile strikes.
Russia reacted with a statement on Facebook by Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. “One must be really exceptional to strike Syria’s capital when the country finally got a chance for a peaceful future,” Zakharova stated.
Zakharova blamed the White House on using media reports to make a decision for the strikes. Russian ambassador to the U.S. commented on Facebook that this is “pre-designed scenario.” Anatoly Antonov said “consequences” would be for the West and the responsibility is in Washington, London, and Paris.
Later, Russian President Vladimir Putin condemns the attack, as CNN reports. Putin called it “an act of aggression against sovereign state.” But, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as the Associated Press reports, “allied strike in Syria were ‘necessary and appropriate’ response to chemical attack.”
The U.S. deployed in past years about 2.000 troops in Syria as advisers to the Syrian Democratic Forces fighting against Islamic State militants. Those troops are far of Damascus. Since September 2014, a U.S.-led coalition has been launching strikes in anti-IS group operation in Syria and Iraq.
The United States, France and the United Kingdom started airstrikes in Syria to send a message to Bashar al Assad’s regime in response to recent suspected chemical attack. While the U.S. President Donald Trump announced the decision on Friday, explosions happened over sky in Damascus.
The British Ministry of Defense commented that it has joined allied in “a precision strike on Syrian installations involved in the regime’s use of chemical weapons against its own people.” Four RAF Tornado GR4’s were used, launching Storm Shadow missiles at a “military facility, some 15 miles west of Homs.” It is the place where the regime is assessed to keep chemical weapon precursors.
State television in Syria said air defenses in the country responded to the attack.
Trump said will pressure Assad until he ends, “a criminal pattern of killing his own people with internationally banned chemical weapons.”
“The evil and the despicable attack left mothers and fathers, infants and children, thrashing in pain and gasping for air. These are not the actions of a man; they are crimes of a monster instead,” Trump said.
In London, British Prime minister Theresa May justified the action saying that “every possible” diplomatic effort was thwarted by Syria and Russia. May said the airstrikes are not related with the intervention in a civil war. “This is not about intervening in a civil war. It is not about regime change.”
French President Emmanuel Macron said in a statement that a target of the strike was the Syrian government’s “clandestine chemical arsenal.”
This is Trump’s second attack on Syria. Last year in April he authorized attack with Tomahawk cruise missiles to hit single airfield in Syria.
“Russia must decide if it will continue down this dark path, or if it will join with civilized nations as a force for stability and peace,” Trump said. “Hopefully, someday we’ll get along with Russia, and maybe even Iran — but maybe not,” Trump said.
Friday’s strikes appear to signal Trump’s willingness to draw the United States more deeply into the Syrian conflict. Just weeks ago, Trump said he wanted to end U.S. involvement in Syria and bring American troops home to focus on the homeland.
In his nationwide address, Trump stressed that he has no interest in a longtime fight with Syria.
“As other nations step up their contributions, we look forward to the day when we can bring our warriors home,” Trump said. “And great warriors they are.”
Jarrod Agen, Vice President Mike Pence’s deputy chief of staff, said Pence called congressional leaders from his hotel suite in Lima, Peru, to notify them of the president’s plan to address the nation about the Syrian air strikes.
Pence spoke to House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi before Trump’s speech. Agen said Pence was unable to reach Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer before the speech but planned to speak to him after.
Senator John MacCain said, “I hope these strikes impose meaningful costs on Assad.” McCain, who is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called for a “comprehensive strategy in Syria and Middle East.