The United States has launched dozens of cruise missiles into central Syria, striking an Assad government-controlled air base from where America says the Syrian military initiated a deadly chemical attack that killed dozens of civilians this week.
Syrian state TV called the attack an ‘aggression’ that led to ‘losses’.
The UK Government has said today that the US missile strike on a Syrian air base is an ‘appropriate response to the barbaric chemical weapons attack launched by the Syrian regime’.
About 60 US Tomahawk missiles hit the Shayrat air base south east of Homs – a small installation with two runways, where aircraft often take off to bomb targets in northern and central Syria.
The US missiles struck at 3.45am on Friday, Syria time, and targeted the base’s airstrips, hangars, control tower and ammunition areas, American officials said.
They were fired from two warships in the Mediterranean Sea, in retaliation for Tuesday’s deadly chemical attack that officials said used chlorine mixed with a nerve agent, possibly sarin.
A military official quoted on Syrian TV said an air base in central Syria was hit early on Friday, causing material damage. Another statement, also attributed to an unnamed official, referred to ‘losses’.
Talal Barazi, the governor of Homs province, where the air base is located, said most of the strikes appeared to target the province in central Syria. He added that the strikes were meant to ‘support the terrorists on the ground’.
A Syrian opposition group, the Syrian Coalition, welcomed the US attack, saying it put an end to an age of ‘impunity’ and should be just the beginning.
Major Jamil al-Saleh commander of US-backed opposition rebel group the Alezzah Army, whose district was among those hit by chemical weapons, said he hoped the American assault would be a ‘turning point’ in the six-year war.
The bombing represents US president Donald Trump’s most dramatic military order since taking office.
Donald Trump’s speech in full
My fellow Americans:
On Tuesday, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad launched a horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians.
Using a deadly nerve agent, Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.
Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched.
It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.
There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention, and ignored the urging of the UN Security Council.
Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behaviour have all failed, and failed very dramatically. As a result, the refugee crisis continues to deepen and the region continues to destabilise, threatening the United States and its allies.
Tonight, I call on all civilised nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria, and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types.
We ask for God’s wisdom as we face the challenge of our very troubled world. We pray for the lives of the wounded and for the souls of those who have passed.
And we hope that as long as America stands for justice, then peace and harmony will, in the end, prevail.
Goodnight. And God bless America and the entire world. Thank you.
The Obama administration threatened attacking Assad’s forces for previous chemical weapons attacks, but never followed through.
Mr Trump called on ‘all civilised nations’ to join the US in seeking an end to the carnage in Syria.
President Bashar Assad’s government had been under mounting international pressure after the chemical attack in northern Syria, with even key ally Russia saying its support is not unconditional.
Turkey, meanwhile, said samples from victims of Tuesday’s attack, which killed more than 80 people in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, indicate they were exposed to sarin, a highly toxic nerve agent.
Syria rejected the accusations and Moscow had warned against apportioning blame until an investigation has been carried out.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday that ‘unconditional support is not possible in this current world’.
But he added: ‘It is not correct to say that Moscow can convince Mr Assad to do whatever is wanted in Moscow. This is totally wrong.’
Russia has provided military support for the Syrian government since September 2015, turning the balance of power in Assad’s favour.
Moscow has used its veto power at the United Nations Security Council on several occasions since the civil war began six years ago to prevent sanctions against Damascus.
Syria maintains it did not use chemical weapons, blaming opposition fighters for stockpiling the chemicals. Russia’s Defence Ministry said the toxic agents were released when a Syrian air strike hit a rebel chemical weapons arsenal and munitions factory on the eastern outskirts of Khan Sheikhoun.
‘I stress, once again, that the Syrian Arab Army did not and will not use such weapons even against the terrorists who are targeting our people,’ Syria’s foreign minister Walid Moallem said in Damascus.
Mr Trump said the chemical attack crossed ‘many, many lines’ and put the blame squarely on Assad’s forces. Speaking on Air Force One on Thursday, he said the attack ‘shouldn’t have happened and it shouldn’t be allowed to happen’.
Earlier, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he hoped Mr Trump would take military action, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency.
Mr Erdogan added that Turkey would be prepared to do ‘whatever falls on us’ to support possible military action.
US officials had said they hoped for a vote late on Thursday on a UN Security Council resolution that would condemn the chemical attack, but with council members still negotiating the text into the evening, the British Mission’s political co-ordinator Stephen Hickey tweeted that the vote would not take place until later.
The chemical attack happened in Syria’s Idlib province about 60 miles from the Turkish border and the Turkish government – a close ally of Syria’s rebels – set up a decontamination centre at a border crossing in Hatay province, where the victims were treated initially.
Turkish officials said nearly 60 victims of the attack were brought to Turkey for treatment and three of them died.
Victims showed signs of nerve gas exposure, including suffocation, foaming at the mouth, convulsions, constricted pupils and involuntary defecation, the World Health Organisation and Doctors Without Borders said.
The scene was reminiscent of a 2013 nerve gas attack on the suburbs of Damascus that left hundreds dead.
In Turkey, Anadolu and the private DHA news agencies quoted justice minister Bekir Bozdag as saying ‘it was determined after the autopsy that a chemical weapon was used’.
The Health Ministry said later that ‘according to the results of the first analysis, there were findings suggesting that the patients were exposed to chemical substance (sarin)’.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said it had ‘initiated contact’ with Syrian authorities and collecting and analysing information about the allegations.
‘This is an ongoing investigation,’ it said.
Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the US attack, saying he ‘fully supports’ Mr Trump’s decision.
Mr Netanyahu said ‘in both word and action’ Mr Trump ‘sent a strong and clear message’ that ‘the use and spread of chemical weapons will not be tolerated’.
Read more: http://metro.co.uk/2017/04/07/us-launches-air-strike-on-syria-firing-60-cruise-missiles-at-airbase-6559012/#ixzz4dYCa6UBS