U.S., France and U.K. Strike Syria Over Chemical Attack

Western allies carry out airstrikes against military bases, airports and research centers ■ Russia says 'a considerable part' of missiles shot down ■ Putin: 'Act of aggression' ■ Israel: Allies upheld Trump's 'red line'

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The Damascus sky lights up missile fire as the U.S. launches an attack on Syria targeting different parts of the capital early Saturday, April 14, 2018
The Damascus sky lights up missile fire as the U.S. launches an attack on Syria targeting different parts of the capital early Saturday, April 14, 2018Credit: Hassan Ammar/AP

The United States, together with France and the U.K., carried out precision air strikes against targets in Syria following a suspected nerve gas attack on the Syrian town of Douma last Saturday.

Explosions were heard in Damascus, Aleppo and Homs early Saturday. The Russian Defense Ministry says more than 100 missiles were fired at Syrian targets. "A considerable part" of the missiles were shot down by the Syrian air defense system, the Russian ministry added.

The Petagon announced the following three targets had been struck: A scientific research facility in Damascus allegedly connected to the production of chemical and biological weapons, a chemical weapons storage facility west of Homs, and a command post storing chemical weapons equipment also near Homs.

>> Read more: Putin may limit Israel's operations in Syria in retaliation for strikes | Zvi Bar'el ■ Trump chose not to threaten Assad's rule. The question is what Putin will do | Amos Harel ■ Attack gives instant gratification but is much ado about nothing | Chemi Shalev ■ Strikes can't hide fact the world has abandoned the Syrian people | Anshel Pfeffer >> 

Syrian state TV reported three civilians were injured. A Syrian military source says at least six Syrian soldiers were injured in the attacks near Homs.

The Observatory said all the bases and facilities struck in the attack had been evacuated by the Syrian government earlier this week due to prior warning from Russia of the strikes.

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

President Vladimir Putin said Saturday morning 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.

U.S. President Donald Trump announced the strikes in a televised announcement Friday evening in the White House. "The evil and the despicable attack left mothers and fathers, infants and children, thrashing in pain and gasping for air," Trump said of the chemical attack. "These are not the actions of a man; they are crimes of a monster instead," Trump said.

In a message to Iran and Russia, Trump asked: "What kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women, and children?”

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said the assault was a "one-time shot," noting "the Assad regime didn't get the message" after last year's U.S. strikes.

US President Donald Trump addresses the nation on the situation in Syria April 13, 2018 at the White House in Washington, DCCredit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP
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Syrians wave the national flag and portraits of President Bashar Assad in Umayyad Square, Damascus after air strikes by the U.S., Britain and France in the early morning of April 14, 2018.Credit: LOUAI BESHARA/AFP
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A French fighter plane was preparing for an attack, April 13, 2018.Credit: AP
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Damascus sky lights up with surface to air missile fire as the U.S. launches an attack on Syria, April 14, 2018Credit: Hassan Ammar/AP

Mattis stressed the military had “gone to great length to avoid civil and foreign casualties," adding there was no coordination with Russia regarding the attack.

The Syrian foreign ministry said Saturday the attack will not impact the Syrian army's resolve. "The barbaric aggression...will not affect in any way the determination and insistence of the Syrian people and their heroic armed forces," reported a Syrian state news agency.

Responding to the attack, the Russian embassy in the U.S. released a statement saying "We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences," adding that Washington, Paris and London will be held accountable for them.

"Insulting the President of Russia is unacceptable and inadmissble," said the statement. "The U.S. - the possessor of the biggest arsenal of chemical weapons - has no moral right to blame other countries."

Also responding to the attacks, Iran warned of "regional consequences," the AFP reported.

President Donald Trump's statement on Syria

British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Saturday she had authorized British forces to conduct precision strikes against Syria to degrade its chemical weapons capability.

“This is not about intervening in a civil war. It is not about regime change,” May said in a statement. “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 said Saturday he had ordered a military intervention in Syria alongside the U.S. and Britain in an attack on the chemical weapons arsenal of the country’s regime.

“On April 7, dozens of men, women and children were massacred in Douma, with the use of a chemical weapon in a total violation of international rules (...) The red line established by France in May 2017 was crossed,” Macron said.

An Israeli official said Saturday: "Last year, Trump made clear that the use of chemical weapons crosses a red line. Tonight, under American leadership, the United States, France and the United Kingdom enforced that line."

"Syria continues to engage in and provide a base for murderous actions," the official added, "including those of Iran that puts its territory, forces and leadership at risk."

He made it clear, however, that the strikes aren't likely to change his broader policy towards Syria, a country which he has previously expressed his will to withdraw all American forces from. "America does not seek an indefinite presence in Syria, under no circumstances," he said in his speech.

Blaming Russia directly for the situation in Syria, Trump stated that "Assad's recent attack and today's response are the direct result of Russia's failure to keep that promise (Russia's chemical disarmament agreement from 2013). Russia must decide if it will continue down this dark path."

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said during a press conference that "Today's response is in direct response to Russia's failure to keep their promise to guarantee the elimination of Syria's chemical weapons. We hope Russia and Iran will join with civilized nations as a force for stability and peace."

According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, Trump was unhappy with the options for Syria presented to him by advisers and wanted to pursue more expansive strike options.