Trump: airstrikes against Syria in response to chemical attacks

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(RNN) – The United States launched strikes against multiple sites in Syria on Friday night.

The strikes were in response to a suspected gas attack on the rebel-held city of Douma last weekend. They were launched just before 9 p.m. ET in coordination with Britain and France, according to Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

President Donald Trump announced the strikes in a televised address to the nation, saying the attack on Douma was “the crime of a monster” in his address.

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

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the goal of the strikes were to “destroy the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons research, development and production capabilities.”

He added no further strikes were planned: “Right now this is a one-time shot.”

Mattis said that Russia, which has allied itself with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, was not consulted or warned about the airstrikes.

Gen. Dunford said one target in the strike was a scientific research center located in the greater Damascus area – a center for research, development and testing of “chemical and biological warfare technology.”

He said the other two targets were storage facilities for chemical weapons and equipment near the central city of Homs, with one of the targets also containing “an important command post.”

In a thinly veiled swipe at Russia, Mattis also said there would be a briefing at 9 a.m. ET on Saturday morning with more details to address the possible misinformation campaign that will be waged by Syria and its allies.

Russian officials were quick to weigh in on the strike.

Russian President Vladimir Putin himself released a statement through the Kremlin on Saturday morning, condemning the “attack on Syria,” and calling it an “act of aggression against a sovereign state” that will worsen the humanitarian crisis in the country.

Putin also claimed the missile strikes were against the United Nations charter. He’s called an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council over the strike.

Putin’s subordinates had already had their say.

“A pre-designed scenario is being implemented. Again, we are being threatened. We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences,” the Russian Ambassador Anatoly Antonov said.

Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, said on her Facebook page that, “One must be really exceptional to strike Syria’s capital when the country finally got a chance for a peaceful future.”

Russia’s Defense Ministry said that none of the missiles entered zones guarded by Russia’s missile defense system.

“Not one of the cruise missiles launched by the United States and its partners entered the zone of responsibility for Russian air-defense divisions,” the ministry said in a statement Saturday.

The Russian military also said Saturday morning that the U.S. and its allies launched more than 100 cruise and air-to-ground missiles, and that Syrian air defense units shot down 71 out of 103 cruise missiles that the U.S., France and the U.K. launched.

A military spokesman also pointed out that Syria’s Russian-made air defense system shot down all 12 cruise missiles that were aimed at a Syrian air base, the AP reported.

Syrian state-run television reported that three civilians had been wounded in the missile attack on a military base in the city of Homs.

Early Saturday morning, State TV also broadcast footage of hundreds of Syrians demonstrating against the U.S. and its allies in the landmark Omayyad Square in Damascus. The demonstrators waved victory signs – and Syrian, Russian and Iranian flags – clapped their hands, danced and honked their car horns. Some demonstrators shouted: “We are your men, Bashar!”

The Syrian Armed Forces said in a statement that 110 missiles were fired, and that Syrian defense systems “intercepted most of the missiles but some hit targets including the Research Center in Barzeh.”

The statement went on the say that the Assad regime “will not discourage our armed forces and supporting forces from continuing to crush the remnant of terrorist groups across Syria.”

The Iranian government condemned the attack.

“The attack is the blatant violation of international laws, as well as ignoring the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria,” foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said, as Iran’s state news agency reported.

Officials from nations including Israel, Australia and Turkey expressed support for the overnight strikes in Syria.

“Last year, President 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,” an Israeli official said.

Australia Defense Minister Marise Payne praised the attack.

“Australia supports these strikes, which demonstrate a calibrated, proportionate and targeted response. They send an unequivocal message to the Assad regime and its backers, Russia and Iran, that the use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated,” she said.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry called the strikes an “appropriate response” to the chemical attacks in Douma.

“We welcome this operation which has eased humanity’s conscience in the face of the attack in Douma, largely suspected to have been carried out by the regime,” the ministry said in a statement.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also praised the strikes, calling them a “necessary and appropriate” response to the chemical attack.

French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May released their own statements on the strike late Friday.

May said, “We cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalized.”

On Saturday morning, May added that the U.K. took action against the Assad regime to reinforce international norms, and that the use of a “nerve agent on Britain’s streets is part of a systematic pattern of disregarding these norms” – a reference to a former Russian spy and his daughter who were poisoned in the U.K.; Russia is suspected to be behind the poisonings.

Macron said of the use of chemical weapons, “The red line set by France in May 2017 has been crossed.”

Both May and Macron said strong evidence pointed to the Assad regime committing the Douma massacre.

On Saturday morning, French Defense Minister Florence Parly said that French fighter jets took off from multiple bases in France for the strike. Parly said the French military used missile-equipped frigates in the Mediterranean for the strike, which she said targeted a “main research center” for chemical weapons and “two important production sites.”

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also spoke with reporters Saturday morning, saying that the operation was designed to target the Assad regime for its use of chemical weapons, and not Syrian civilians or Syrian allies.

There were widereports of further targets, including from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, and explosions at multiple sites in Damascus.

One was said to be the Syrian Republican Guard headquarters on Mount Qasioun.

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— ???? ??????????? (@ENAD_Alotaibi) April 14, 2018

Mount Qasioun, in the east of Damascus, is near where the palace of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad is located.

A Syrian opposition official, Hadi Al Bahra, also tweeted “the first missile targeted an area in Mount Qasioun.”

Wow. These are the symbols of the regime’s fearsome tools of repression. This is no doubt shaking the regime’s (popular) base.

Regime targets on Qasioun Mount are reportedly hit. That overlooks the Presidential Palace! https://t.co/Cvup2PF7Xg

— Hassan Hassan ?????? (@hxhassan) April 14, 2018

According to the AP, state TV said Syrian air defenses had responded. The Syrians claimed to have shot down 13 missiles.

Video circulated of the Syrian response.

local sources posted a video shows the #Syrian regime air defense trying to stop the #US missiles on #Syria#Damascus . pic.twitter.com/g5qzEcf7TC

— Abdalaziz Alhamza (@3z0ooz) April 14, 2018

Reports circulated that the Dumayr air base outside Damascus was one of the other targets hit. It was the base where helicopters were said to take off in the alleged chemical attack.

The Mezzeh military airport southwest of the capital was said to be a target, as well.

CNN reported U.S. ships and aircraft were used in the strikes. It was not known if U.S pilots were flying over Syrian airspace, however, Mattis did say “manned aircraft” were involved in the airstrikes.

U.S. Defense officials told CNN that air-launched cruise missiles were used in the strikes. CNN also reported that the U.S. used B-1 bombers, which are capable of firing cruise missiles.

British forces used four RAF Tornado GR4s, which launched Storm Shadow missiles at a regime chemical weapons facility, according to the British Ministry of Defense.

There are 192 signatories to the United Nations’ Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Syria joined the pact in 2013 as part of the agreement to destroy its chemical weapons stockpile, negotiated between Russia and the Obama administration.

There have been periodic allegations of chlorine attacks and other types of chemical weapons use by the Syrian regime since then, however.

According to the World Health Organization, the attack on Douma by the Assad regime may have exposed around 500 people to toxic chemicals.

Graphic images of small children being treated by medics and bodies foaming at the mouth circulated after the attack. More than 40 people were believed killed.

Russia claims the chemical attack was staged. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday that Moscow has “irrefutable information that it was another fabrication.”

Earlier this week, missiles were launched at the T-4 airbase in central Homs Governorate. Russia and Syria blamed Israel for the strikes.

Following a sarin attack on Syrian civilians in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in April 2017, Trump ordered strikes on the Shayrat air base in Homs.

In that strike, 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched from the USS Ross and USS Porter in the Mediterranean. They destroyed or damaged a number of Syrian military aircraft and infrastructure at the base.

#Shayrat Airbase: new video showng extent of damage after US strikes, several impact sites and remains of Tomahawks. #Syriapic.twitter.com/yLeM10aNbs

— Qalaat Al Mudiq (@QalaatAlMudiq) April 8, 2017

The Syrians said as many as 16 people were killed in the strikes, including nine civilians in the surrounding area.

Operations resumed at the air base just a couple days later.

Copyright 2018 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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