US, France and United Kingdom strike Syria's chemical weapons program

Alfred Osborne
April 14, 2018

A senior official in a regional alliance that backs Damascus told Reuters the Syrian government and its allies had "absorbed" the attack, and that targeted sites were evacuated days ago thanks to a warning from Russian Federation.

President Vladimir Putin denounced the raids as aggression that will make the humanitarian crisis in Syria worse and called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations' Security Council.

U.S. President Donald Trump announced Friday night that the three allies had launched military strikes to punish Assad and to prevent him from using chemical weapons again.

Dunford said the United States "specifically identified" targets to "mitigate the risk of Russian forces being involved".

He also said that the US had noticed surface-to-air missile activity from the Assad regime.

Syria's air defence system, which mostly consists of systems made in the Soviet Union, has intercepted 71 of the missiles fired on Saturday by the US, British and French forces, he added.

NBC News could not verify that claim. She described it as a "limited and targeted strike" aimed at minimizing civilian casualties.

As Trump deliberated, the Navy said the USS Winston S. Churchill, a destroyer armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles, was approaching the Mediterranean.

"Clearly, the Assad regime did not get the message past year", Mattis said.

Tonight, I ask all Americans to say a prayer for our noble warriors and our allies as they carry out their missions.

The assault came despite the lack of a definitive independent finding that chemical weapons were used or who had deployed them.

- Strikes were launched at 2am BST at three sites connected with the Syrian regime's chemical weapons programme. May said Britain and the West had an obligation to deter both Assad and others from using chemical weapons after the poison gas attack in Douma near Damascus killed up to 75 people including children. US Defense Secretary James Mattis said "right now this is a one-time shot and I believe that it sent a very strong message" to the Syrian regime. It's being blamed on the Assad regime.

U.S. defense sources said at least one United States warship in the Red Sea participated in the Syrian airstrikes.

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The French defense minister, Florence Parly, said the jets flew from bases in France.

The Associated Press reported that hundreds of Syrians gathered at landmark squares in the Syrian capital, honking their vehicle horns, flashing victory signs and waving Syrian flags in scenes of defiance that followed the unprecedented joint airstrikes.

Complicating any US response is the presence of Russian and Iranian forces on the ground in Syria, one official saying it has "grown and matured" since the United States carried out airstrikes again the Syrian government last April after a sarin gas attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun.

In a statement later on Saturday morning in London, May said the United Kingdom was "confident of its success". The government said there was a significant body of information indicating that the Syrian regime was responsible for this.

Mrs May has faced criticism from across the political spectrum for failing to recall Parliament and put the plans to a vote.

President Donald Trump has launched air strikes against Syria. "It's a question of finding the right form of response to send a message to a brutal dictator that continued slaughter of his people, particularly by means of of unconventional weapon that threaten the global order, is not acceptable". We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences.

Asked if the strikes had also been a warning to Russian Federation, the PM said: "The action that took place last night was an action which was focused on degrading and deterring the operational capability and the willingness of the Syrian regime to continue to use chemical weapons".

She and French President Emmanuel Macron spoke separately with Trump on Thursday.

The Russian media was spreading information on Saturday that the U.S. strike aimed at preventing the investigators from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), who arrived in the country, from conducting a probe into the alleged use of chemical weapons in Douma.

The French presidency issued a video on Twitter showing what it said were war planes taking off as part of the intervention.

The US President warned Russian Federation "missiles are coming" and the Kremlin responded by vowing to blow up US ships.

Assad's recent attack - and today's response - are the direct result of Russia's failure to keep that promise. On Friday night, Trump said that the USA was not seeking an "indefinite" presence in Syria.

Mr Antonov said: "Insulting the President of Russian Federation is unacceptable and inadmissible".

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