U.S., British and French forces struck Syria with more than 100 missiles on Saturday in the first coordinated Western strikes against the Damascus government, targeting what they called chemical weapons sites in retaliation for a poison gas attack.
The US, UK and France have launched more than 100 missiles against what they say were Syrian chemical weapons facilities in response to a chemical weapons attack in a Damascus suburb a week ago.
The Pentagon said the strikes, which began at 4am Syrian time (0200 GMT), involved planes and ship-launched missiles and identified three targets: a scientific research centre in Damascus, a chemical weapons storage facility west of Homs, and another storage site and command post nearby.
Announcing the launching of the action in a seven-minute speech, President Donald Trump said the US was prepared to sustain economic, diplomatic and military pressure on Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, until he ends what he called the criminal pattern of killing his own people with 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.
The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, condemned the airstrikes, saying they would add to the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria, adding that Moscow was calling for an emergency session of the UN security council to debate the military action.
He called the strikes an “act of aggression” that had a “destructive influence on the entire system of international relations”.
China and Iran joined in the condemnations of the strikes. Syria’s president Assad said would increase Syria’s resolve to “fight and crush terrorism in every inch” of the country.
Highlighting the limited nature of the raids – and the desire to avoid a dangerous escalation – the US defence secretary, James Mattis, said: “Right now this is a one-time shot”. The French defence minister, Florence Parly, said Moscow had been warned by France and its allies about the strikes beforehand.
The UN secretary general, António Guterres, said he was closely watching reports of the attack and told the countries involved that they were obliged to act within the guidelines of the charter of the United Nations and “international law in general”.