The US, UK and France have launched air strikes targeting what they allege are Syrian chemical weapons facilities in response to chemical weapons attack in Douma, a Damascus suburb, last week.
The Pentagon said the air strikes, which began in the wee hours of Saturday, involved planes and ship-launched missiles, more than a hundred weapons in all.
US officials say the strikes were targeted at three facilities: a scientific research centre in Damascus, a chemical weapons storage facility west of Homs, and another storage site and command post nearby.
“I ordered the United States armed forces to launch precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapon capabilities of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad,” United States President Donald Trump said early Saturday at the White House.
“We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents,” he said.
Referring to last Saturday’s chemical weapons attack reported to have killed over 70 people, Trump said. “These are not actions of a man, they are crimes of a monster instead.”
After Trump finished his seven-minute address, Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron made separate announcements of British and French participation, stressing that the strikes were limited to Syrian regime chemical facilities.
May said there was no alternative to the action the three countries were taking.
French President Emmanuel Macron said he “ordered the French armed forces to intervene” after a “red line set by France” on the use of chemical weapons had been crossed.
The office of the French President posted a video of a squadron of French military jets taking off to launch their part of the strikes.
Décollage, cette nuit, des forces armées françaises qui interviennent contre l’arsenal chimique clandestin du régime syrien. Déclaration du Président de la République @EmmanuelMacron : https://t.co/HNSK0FmZIO pic.twitter.com/DEAW7R50aC
— Élysée (@Elysee) April 14, 2018
Photos showed missiles streaking over the night sky in Syria, and witnesses say they heard explosions in the capital Damascus as Trump was making his address.
Meanwhile, the Russian ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Antonov, issued a statement threatening “consequences”.
“A pre-designed scenario is being implemented,” Antonov’s statement said. “Again, we are being threatened. We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences. All responsibility for them rests with Washington, London and Paris.”
Russian news agencies however claim none of the air strikes hit zones where Russian air defence systems protect the Russian bases of Tartus and Hmeimim.