Syria Live Updates: Israel 'Struck Advanced Iranian Air-defense System', Not Only Attack Drones

Syria blames false alarm on 'joint electronic attack' by Israel, U.S. ■ Erdogan, Rohani agree to maintain Turkey, Iran, Russia cooperation in Syria ■ Chemical arms inspectors enter Douma

Missiles in the skies of Damascus, April 14, 2018.
Hassan Ammar/AP

The U.S., France and the U.K. launched an overnight strike on multiple Syrian targets Saturday, in response to Bashar Assad regime's chemical attack a week ago. The targets included research centers in Damascus believed to have produced chemical weapons.

>> Read more: An Inconvenient Truth for Israel ■ Attack is a win for Assad ■ There's Only One Show in Syria Right Now: A Battle Between Two Superpowers ■ How the Airstrikes Hit Their Targets Before Assad's Missile Defenses Even Fired >>

After the strikes, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted that the Syria mission was a "Mission Accomplished!". Newly released satellite images showing the sites before and after the Western coalition strikes show the attack caused damage. Some U.S. officials, however, are saying that the sites may have been inactive, as indicated by the fact that there were no casualties or chemical leaks from the facilities. 

Live updates:

11:58 A.M. Revealed: Israel 'struck advanced Iranian air-defense system' in Syria

The Israeli military targeted an advanced Iranian air-defense system at the T4 base in Syria last week and not just attack drone deployment, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

The report noted that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the strike after conferring with U.S. President Donald Trump, in hopes of preventing Iran from using the anti-aircraft battery against Israeli jets carrying out strikes in Syria. Read full story here

8:31 P.M. Saudi Arabia says open to sending troops to Syria under wider coalition

Targets of the U.S.-led strike in Syria on Saturday April 14, 2018.
Haaretz

Saudi Arabia would be prepared to send troops into Syria as part of the U.S.-led coalition if a decision was taken to widen it, Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said on Tuesday. 

"We are in discussion with the U.S. and have been since the beginning of the Syrian crisis about sending forces into Syria," Jubeir told a news conference in Riyadh with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. 

Jubeir was responding to a question about a Wall Street Journal report that the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump is seeking to assemble an Arab force to replace the U.S. military contingent in Syria. 

"There are discussions regarding ... what kind of force needs to remain in eastern Syria and where that force would come from, and those discussions are ongoing," Jubeir said. 

8:22 P.M. Theresa May rejects criticism over Syria airstrike decision

British Prime Minister Theresa May has rejected opposition calls for a law requiring Parliament's approval to commit U.K. forces to military action.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn accused May of showing a "flagrant disregard" for Parliament by not seeking lawmakers' approval first.

But May said Corbyn's demand for a War Powers Act to prevent the government from acting alone "would seriously compromise our national security, our national interests, and the lives of British citizens at home and abroad" by making rapid, small-scale strikes like those taken in Syria impossible.

6:08 P.M. Russia claims it found Syrian rebel chemical weapons lab

The Russian military says that it has found rebel chemical weapons stockpiles in the Syrian town hit by a suspected chemical attack.

Alexander Rodionov of the military's chemical weapons protection unit said Tuesday its experts found chlorine and components for producing mustard gas at a rebel laboratory in Douma.

Rodionov said the canister with chlorine was similar to the one shown in images released by activists. (Associated Press)

4:40 P.M. Chemical arms inspectors enter Syrian town

Syria’s state news agency says inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons have reached the town of Douma to investigate reports of a suspected April 7 gas attack.

The inspectors entered Douma on Tuesday after arriving in Syria on Saturday.

The United States, Britain, and France say the Syrian government was behind the attack, and launched a wave of missiles targeting Syrian military installations on Saturday as punishment.

Syria and its ally Russia deny any chemical attack took place, and Russian officials have gone even further, accusing Britain of staging a “fake” chemical attack.

Douma was the last town held by rebels in the eastern Ghouta region outside Damascus, until they surrendered the day after the alleged gas attack. (Associated Press)

4:18 P.M. German FM Maas: We can mediate with Russia over Syria

Germany’s role in the Syrian peace process must be to secure the channels of communication with Russia that are necessary to achieve a political solution to the country’s seven-year-old civil war, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Tuesday.

Maas’s remarks came as Western foreign ministers braced for another round of diplomacy on the conflict at a Toronto summit this weekend, from which Russia will be absent.

“The aim we are pursuing in the foreign ministry is to keep Germany an appreciable part of the peace initiative,” Maas told a joint news conference with visiting Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland.

“The aim ... is that in our role we can be the ones who can prop open the window for dialogue with Russia,” he added. (Reuters)

4:06 P.M. Erdogan, Rohani agree to maintain Turkey, Iran, Russia cooperation in Syria

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rohani agreed on Tuesday to maintain the cooperation between Turkey, Iran and Russia for a political solution to the conflict in Syria, a source in Erdogan's office said.

Erdogan also told Rohani in a telephone call that actions to increase tensions in the region should be avoided, following the Western coalition airstrike in Syria over the weekend. (Reuters)

12:30 P.M. Iran's threat of revenge overshadows Israel's 70th Independence Day celebrations | Analysis

The missile fire in Syria early Tuesday, which for several hours led to speculation about another Israeli attack, turned out to be the result of excessive anxiety within the Syrian air defense system. Tensions on Israel's northern borders remain very high in light of the American punitive attack against the Assad regime and the expectation of Iranian retaliation for a strike attributed to Israel. Unusual air traffic was apparently interpreted by the Syrians as preparations for an attack, prompting the mistaken firing of missiles that, as far as we know, hit nothing. The Syrian military admits it too now – somewhat belatedly. (Amos Harel)

08.00 A.M. Syria blames false alarm on 'joint electronic attack' by Israel and U.S.

Syrian military sources denied early Monday reports of an early morning missile attack targeting Shayrat air base and told the DPA news agency that the defense systems were activated, but that it turned out to be a false alarm. (Jack Khoury) 

10:15 P.M. Putin’s bluff is finally being called and Russia is running out of options in Syria

Saturday morning’s combined attack by the United States, Great Britain and France on the Assad regime’s chemical warfare bases in Syria may have been, as U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis described it, “a one-time shot,” but it also proved an important point: Russia does not have the military capabilities necessary to prevent the U.S. and its allies from destroying targets that are ostensibly under its protection in Syria. (Anshel Pfeffer)

8:16 P.M. U.S. military chiefs to brief Congress on Syria behind closed doors

U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford will brief the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives about Syria behind closed doors on Tuesday afternoon, congressional aides say. 

7:30 P.M. White House says Trump still wants U.S. troops to leave Syria, but no timeline

President Donald Trump still wants to bring U.S. troops home from Syria but has not set a timeline, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders says.

7:22 P.M. May: Do not doubt our resolve to prevent normalization of chemical weapons

Asked whether she could order new strikes if chemical weapons were found to have been used in the future, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May said: "Nobody should be in any doubt of our resolve to ensure that we cannot see a situation where the use of chemical weapons is normalised." 

7:15 P.M. Lieberman warns: Israel faces unified front by Hezbollah, Syria and Iran

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told IDF staff that Israel faces a unified threat in the north by the "Lebanese army – which is cooperating with Hezbollah -  the Syrian army, the Shiite militias and above all – Iran. Together they form one front that is unified against Israel's northern front."

6:30 P.M. May denies U.K. acted on Trump's behalf in Syria

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May has denied Monday that the U.K. acted at U.S. behest in Syria. "We have not done this because President Trump asked us," May told U.K. lawmakers.

5:55 P.M. Trump considering new sanctions against Putin 

The White House said on Monday it is considering additional sanctions on Russia following a chemical weapons attack in Syria, but has not made a decision yet.

Protests against U.S.-led strikes on Syria in Haifa, April 14, 2018.
Rami Shllush

"We are considering additional sanctions on Russia and a decision will be made in the near future," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement. Read the full story.

1:03 P.M. Israel admits to striking Syria: "It was the first time we attacked live Iranian targets."

A senior Israeli military official tells The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman: 'It was the first time we attacked live Iranian targets — both facilities and people'

Damascus is seen as the U.S. launches an attack on Syria targeting different parts of the capital early Saturday, April 14, 2018
Hassan Ammar/AP

12:30 P.M. Russia may have tampered with the site of an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria's Douma, the U.S. envoy to the global watchdog said on Monday, urging the body to condemn the continuing use of banned chemical weapons.

The comments came during a closed-door meeting at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, convened after an April 7 attack in the town of Douma, outside the Syrian capital, in which dozens of people were allegedly killed with poison gas.

"It is long overdue that this council condemns the Syrian government for its reign of chemical terror and demands international accountability for those responsible for these heinous acts," U.S. Ambassador Kenneth Ward said in comments obtained by Reuters. (Reuters)

2:28 A.M. Despite Tensions Over Syria Attack, Israel’s Line to the Kremlin Remains Open | Analysis

"Chicks are counted in autumn," goes the more cautious, Russian version of "don't count your chickens before they're hatched." It's a proverb apt for just about any long-running event, and particularly appropriate when considering the future of Israel's relations with old-new regional power Russia in the face of Iranian efforts to entrench itself at Israel's northern border.

On the surface of such ties, Russia has broadcasted a message of crisis since strikes on the Syrian T-4 air base near Homs last week were attributed to Israel. Moscow issued public denunciations of the strike and called in Israel's ambassador to Russia for a "conversation."  (Noa Landau)

12:54 A.M. Nine Takeaways From the U.S. Syria Strike Briefing, and an Inconvenient Truth for Israel | Analysis 

The weekend attack carried out by the United States, together with France and Great Britain, against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s chemical weapon program supposedly contradicts U.S. President Donald Trump’s declared intent of ending the American military presence in Syria.

A briefing given by senior administration officials on Saturday indicated, however, that the rationale for the Tomahawk attack, as well as its chosen targets, only reinforce the assessment that the U.S. is on its way out. Then French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Sunday night that he had persuaded Trump not to remove U.S. forces. (Chemi Shalev)

10:36 P.M. Macron says France convinced Trump to maintain troops in Syria

French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday said he had convinced U.S. President Donald Trump to maintain troops in Syria, as he defended France's participation in joint airstrikes.

In telephone calls before the Saturday airstrikes, Macron said he had persuaded Trump not to pull out of Syria. "We convinced him it was necessary to remain there," he said. (Reuters)

8:13 P.M.  Hezbollah's Nasrallah: U.S.-led Syria Strikes Failed to Serve Israel's Interests

The leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah said on Sunday that Western strikes on Syria had failed to terrorize the army, help insurgents or even serve Israel's interests.

Hassan Nasrallah said the U.S. military had kept its strikes limited because it knew a wider attack would spark retaliation from Damascus and its allies. (Reuters)

5:25 P.M. Putin: Further Western strikes on Syria will lead to chaos

Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rohani on Sunday that further Western missile strikes on Syria would lead to chaos in international relations, Russian news agencies cited the Kremlin as saying. 

The two leaders agreed that the Western strikes had damaged the chances of achieving a political resolution in Syria, the news agencies reported. 

"Vladimir Putin, in particular, stressed that if such actions in violation of the UN Charter continue, then it will inevitably lead to chaos in international relations," RIA news agency quoted the Kremlin as saying in a statement. (Reuters)

4:29 P.M. German president warns against demonising Russia

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has warned against demonising Russia and said Germany had a particular role to play in maintaining dialogue with Moscow, given its history. 

In an interview published on Sunday, Steinmeier, a Social Democrat, voiced concerns that Saturday's air strikes by Western powers had raised the serious risk of a direct confrontation between Russian and U.S. forces in Syria for the first time. 

"We are at the next step of escalation in the Russian-American relationship," Steinmeier, who twice served as Germany's foreign minister, told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

Steinmeier said the evidence pointed clearly at Russia's involvement, which was alarming, but added: "The galloping alienation between Russia and the West must also concern us, with consequences that will go far beyond this case. There is practically no basis of trust any more."  (Reuters)

4:21 P.M. U.S. envoy to UN Nikki Haley says U.S. troops are not leaving Syria until goals are accomplished 

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Sunday that the United States would not pull its troops out of Syria until its goals were accomplished. 

Speaking on Fox News Sunday, Haley listed three aims for the United States: ensuring that chemical weapons are not used in any way that pose a risk to U.S. interests, that Islamic State is defeated and that there is a good vantage point to watch what Iran is doing. 

It is our goal "to see American troops come home, but we are not going to leave until we know we have accomplished those things," Haley said. 

Haley added that U.S. ties with Russia are "very strained", in part because of Syria, but the Trump administration is still hopeful for a better relationship between the two nations. (Reuters)

4:18 P.M. Russia says will make every effort to improve ties with West

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Sunday Moscow would make every effort to improve political relations with the West, TASS news agency reported. 
Ryabkov also said Russia would study a UN resolution on Syria proposed by the United States, France and Britain, but added that it would be hard to reach a compromise on the issue, according to TASS. (Reuters)

3:27 P.M. Iran Foreign Minister condemns strikes on Syria

Iran has condemned the Western strikes on Syria, saying no country has a right to take punitive measures against another "beyond international procedures."
The semi-official Fars news agency quoted Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as saying that Iran had warned about the possibility that "terrorist groups" were behind the alleged chemical attack that triggered the strikes. It said he communicated his concerns in a phone call Sunday with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. (AP)

1:25 P.M. Pope deeply disturbed by lack of efforts to bring peace to Syria  

Pope Francis called on world leaders on Sunday to renew efforts to bring peace to Syria, saying he was deeply troubled by their failure to agree on a joint plan to end the bloodshed. 

"I appeal again to all the political leaders, so that justice and peace prevail," he said in his weekly address to the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square. 

"I am deeply disturbed by the current world situation, in which, despite the tools available to the international community, it is difficult to agree on a common action in favour of peace in Syria and other regions of the world," he said. 

12:47 P.M. Assad tells Russian lawmakers Western strikes were act of aggression

Syrian President Bashar Assad told a group of Russian lawmakers on Sunday that Western missile strikes on his country were an act of aggression, Russian news agencies reported. 

"From the point of view of the president, this was aggression and we share this position," Russia's TASS news agency quoted lawmaker Sergei Zheleznyak as saying after the meeting with Assad. 

The Syrian president was in a "good mood" and continuing his work in Damascus, agencies cited the lawmakers as saying, and praised the Soviet-era air defense systems used by Syria to help to repel the Western attacks. 

11:38 A.M. Netanyahu says there should be 'zero tolerance' for chemical weapons

At the weekly Knesset cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he spoke with UK's Prime Minister Theresa May. He said he told her there should be a "zero tolerance" policy for chemical weapons – and nuclear weapons as well. (Noa Landau) Read full story

10:10 P.M. Reports: Loud blast heard at Iranian facility near Syria's Aleppo

A loud explosion was heard at a weapons depot near Aleppo, Iranian media outlets reported Saturday. According to Al-Arabiya, the depot was used by Hezbollah and other pro-Iranian militias. Hezbollah-affiliated media outlets said the blast was a controlled explosion. Read full story 

9:00 P.M. Senior U.S. official says that U.S., French and U.K. airstrikes on Syria have caused significant damage to Assad's ability to use chemical weapons 

This contradicts reports that the building and facilities hit in the strikes were mostly evacuated before the missiles landed on them. "We believe there were things in these building that were not moved ahead of time," the official said. "We can't be specific about what was in the buildings, but it was relevant for using chemical weapons. We believe the strikes were successful in taking out what we intended to take out in those buildings." The official also added that while Trump was indeed considering strikes against addition targets, "we won't go into what else was considered."

According to the official, "we selected the targets very carefully, based on their relationship to the chemical weapons program, while balancing to make sure that this was targeted precisely."  The official added, echoing earlier comments by Secretary of Defense James Mattis, that Russia was not warned ahead of the strike, but clarified that the U.S. did "use the existing deconfliction channel" between the two countries. The same action was taken by the U.S. before its strikes against Assad's regime in April 2017. 

The official also said that the U.S. assessment is that both chlorine and sarin were used in the chemical attack in Douma last week. According to the senior official, the U.S. is following up on the propoganda efforts by Russia and the Assad regime to blame rebel groups fighting against the regime for the attack. The official said it would be impossible for the existing rebel groups to do what the regime is accusing them of doing. (Amir Tibon)

8:54 P.M. The largely Israeli Arab left-wing Hadash party is protesting against the U.S.-led strike on Syria

About 150 people of the left-wing Hadash party are now protesting in a demonstration against the U.S.-led strike on Syria in the German Colony of Haifa. They are reportedly waving Syrian flags. (Noa Shpigel)

8:46 P.M. Trump adviser Bolton coordinated U.S.-led strike in Syria with Israel

The White House was in touch with Jerusalem ahead of the overnight airstrikes on Syria. U.S. President Donald Trump's new national security adviser, John Bolton, spoke in the last few days with his Israeli counterpart, Meir Ben Shabbat, to coordinate details of the U.S.-led attack on Syria, which took place early Saturday morning. (Noa Landau)

7:53 P.M. Netanyahu: Israel backs Trump's airstrikes, Assad's efforts to acquire WMDs and Iran's entrenchment endanger Syria

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued his first response Saturday evening to airstrikes carried out by the U.S., France and the U.K. against targets in Syria overnight. 

"A year ago, I declared Israel’s full support for Trump’s decision to take a stand against the use and spread of chemical weapons," Netanyahu said in a statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office. "President Trump’s resolve and Israel’s support remain unchanged."

Netanyahu went on to say that "the United States' decision, along with France and Britain's support, showed that their commitment to combat chemical weapons is not limited to declarations alone.

"It should be clear to President Assad that his reckless efforts to acquire and use weapons of mass destruction, his wanton disregard for international law and his provision of a forward base for Iran and its proxies endanger Syria." (Noa Landau)

6.23 P.M. Canada's Trudeau endorses strikes on Syria

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says "Canada stands with our friends in this necessary response and we condemn in strongest possible terms" the use of chemical weapons in Syria. He made the comments Saturday at the Summit of Americas taking place in Lima, Peru. (DPA)

6:10 P.M. WATCH LIVE: UN Security Council gathers for emergency meeting on Syria strikes

4:48 P.M. U.S. says airstrikes halt Assad's ability to 'ever use chemical weapons again'

The U.S. is "confident" that the airstrikes it carried out against Syria alongside Britain and France have diminished the Syrian government's capacity to "ever use chemical weapons again," a Pentagon spokeswoman said.

"We are confident we have significantly degraded [Syrian President Bashar Assad's] ability to ever use chemical weapons again," said spokeswoman Dana White. "We were very methodical in making decisions about these sites, and it was deliberately decided to go to storage facilities and research and development facilities," she added. (DPA)

3:45 P.M. Pentagon releases pictures of cruise missiles used to strike Syria overnight; it also denies missiles were shot down

3:22 P.M. Trump praises 'perfectly executed strike' on Syria, says 'mission accomplished' in tweet

"A perfectly executed strike last night. Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine Military. Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!"

12:44 P.M. Iranian President Rohani says strike on Syria to cause destruction in the Middle East

Iran's supreme leader Hassan Rouhani says attack on Syria a crime and will cause destruction in the Middle East. 

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said an attack on Syria by the United States, France and Britain on Saturday was a crime and would not achieve any gains. Read full story.

12:34 P.M. British PM May declines to say whether Assad can stay after missile strikes

British Prime Minister Theresa May declined to say on Saturday whether Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should stay in power and said talks with allies would continue on finding a political solution to the civil war.

When asked if Syria's Assad could remain leader as long as he refrained from further use of chemical weapons, May said: "This was about, as I have said and you have recognised, this was specifically about the use of chemical weapons." Read full story

12:10 P.M. France says more strikes possible should Syria re-use chemical weapons

French foreign minister: More strikes possible if Syria uses chemical weapons again

11:35 A.M. Photos show aftermath of strikes on research facility near Damascus

11:28 A.M. AFP reports Russian military says 'no victims' following strikes

The Russian Defense Ministry said Saturday there were "no victims" among Syrian civilians or military personnel from Western air strikes, "according to preliminary information"

11:07 A.M. Russian military: Syria downed 71 out of 103 cruise missiles

Russian military says Syrian air defense units downed 71 out of 103 cruise missiles launched by US and its allies.

10:45 A.M. Russia's Putin says will call UNSC meeting, attack was 'act of aggression' against sovereign state

President Vladimir Putin said Russia will call an emergency session of UN Security Council over strike on Syria, adding that the airstrikes on Syria early Saturday is an "act of aggression" against a sovereign state

10:27 A.M. Syrians gather in Damascus in defiance of airstrikes

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

Many demonstrators in Damascus' Omayyad Square waved Syrian, Russian and Iranian flags. Some clapped their hands and danced, others drove in convoys, honking their horns. "Good morning steadfastness," one broadcaster said.

10:13 A.M: Syrian presidency posts video of Assad arriving at work

The Syrian presidency posted a video on its showing President Bashar Assad arriving for work hours after US-led strikes on Syrian targets. 

The eight-second video showed Assad wearing a suit and a tie, carrying a bag and walking in a hall, probably part of his presidential palace. The caption on the video read "The morning of steadfastness."

9:17 A.M.: Israel says Trump upheld his red line

An Israeli official said Saturday that the combined strike on Syria upheld U.S. president Donald Trump's red line: "Last year, Trump made clear that the use of chemical weapons crosses a red line," he said. "Tonight, under American leadership, the United States, France and the United Kingdom enforced that line." (Noa Landau) Read full story

9:14 A.M.: Russia: More than 100 missiles launched, 'considerable part' shot down

U.S., British and French forces fired more than 100 missiles at Syrian targets in the early hours of Saturday, the Russian Defense Ministry says.

"The Syrian air defense system was engaged. A considerable part of [the] cruise missiles and air-launched air-to-surface missiles have been shot down while approaching targets," the Defense Ministry said, according to Russian news agency TASS. (DPA) Read full story