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Trump hails 'mission accomplished' after US, France and UK launch airstrikes against Syria

In address to the American nation, President Trump announced that the US and its allies had launched precision attacks against the Syrian regime led by Bashar al-Assad.

Updated 1.31pm

THE US, UK and France have bombed multiple government targets in Syria in an early morning operation targeting alleged chemical weapons sites.

The wave of strikes against Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime is in response to alleged chemical weapons attacks that President Donald Trump branded the “crimes of a monster.”

Source: The White House/YouTube

In address to the American nation, Trump announced the action stating:

“A short time ago, I ordered the United States armed forces to launch precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapons capabilities of the Syrian regime led by Bashar al-Assad.

“A combined operation with the armed forces of France and the United Kingdom is now under way. We thank them both.”

“This massacre was a significant escalation in a pattern of chemical weapons use by that very terrible regime,” he said of the suspected deadly gas attack a week ago on the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Douma.

“The evil and the despicable attack left mother 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.”

In a later tweet this afternoon, Trump said that the operation “could not have had a better result” and that it was “mission accomplished”.

Tweet by @Donald J. Trump Source: Donald J. Trump/Twitter

Trump US Syria US President Donald Trump in his address to the nation today. Source: Susan Walsh

Yesterday, the Russian military said it had proof that an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta was staged on orders from London.

Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said the military had “proof that testifies to the direct participation of Britain in the organising of this provocation in Eastern Ghouta.”

The UK Prime Minister Theresa May said the Syrian regime has a history of using chemical weapons against its own people – and must be stopped.

French President Emmanuel Macron also confirmed his country’s participation in the operation.

“Dozens of men, women and children were massacred with chemical weapons,” he said of the Douma incident a week ago – adding that “the red line had been crossed”.

‘Heavy strike’ 

Explosions were heard in the Syrian capital Damascus, signalling a new chapter in a brutal seven-year-old civil war.

AFP’s correspondent in the city said several consecutive blasts were heard at 4:00 am (1am GMT), followed by the sound of airplanes overhead. Smoke could be seen rising from the northern and eastern edges of the capital.

Syria US Missile fire lights up Damascus sky. Source: Hassan Ammar

General Joseph Dunford, Washington’s top general, said the precision strikes hit three targets — a scientific research centre near Damascus, a storage facility and command post also near the capital and a chemical weapons storage facility near Homs.

He added that Syrian surface to air missile batteries had attempted to fire back, but there were no initial reports of any allied losses.

The strikes mark an escalation in force compared to a US strike launched a year ago, when only cruise missiles were used against a single airfield.

‘Proof’ 

In the days between the attack in Douma and the US-led response, Washington and Moscow clashed repeatedly in duelling press statements and US debates.

Moscow denied its ally Assad had any role in the outrage.

More practically, at the United Nations, Russia’s diplomats vetoed a US motion to re-establish an international investigation into chemical weapons use in Syria that could have established blame.

Washington, Paris and London have nevertheless insisted that their own secret intelligence points to Assad’s guilt, and on Friday, a US spokeswoman said they had “proof.”

The western leaders apparently found this convincing enough reason to launch a punitive strike, but other observers are concerned that the crisis could escalate.

The Russian military had vowed to respond to any attack, and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s administration had repeatedly warned that Trump was taking America down a dangerous path.

After the strikes, Moscow’s ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, said: “We warned that such actions would not be left without consequences.”

“Again, we are being threatened,” he said in a statement, adding:

We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences. All responsibility for them rests with Washington, London and Paris.

“Insulting the President of Russia is unacceptable and inadmissible,” added the envoy, after President Donald Trump directly called out his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin over his support for the Assad regime.

In a statement this morning, the Kremlin condemned the air strikes.

“Russia severely condemns the attack on Syria where Russian military are helping the lawful government in the fight with terrorism,” the Kremlin said in a statement, its first reaction to the strikes.

Moscow also said it was calling an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council, where it is a permanent member, to discuss the “aggressive actions” of the US and its allies.

“Without the sanction of the UN Security Council, in breach of the UN charter and the norms and principles of international law, an act of aggression was committed against a sovereign state,” the Kremlin said.

The security council is set to meet at 3pm today.

Yesterday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned the rival camps against “full-blown military escalation” and stressed the need to “avoid the situation spiralling out of control.”

Trump has long criticised his predecessor Barack Obama for failing to enforce a previous US “red line” in 2013 after earlier chemical attacks blamed on Assad’s forces.

And he set his own precedent just over a year ago when he ordered a cruise missile strike on a Syrian air base after sarin was fired at civilians in the town of Khan Sheikhun.

Syrian reaction

The government of Syria has denounced the air strikes as “brutal, barbaric aggression” that violated international law.

“The Syrian Arab Republic condemns in the strongest terms the brutal American-British-French aggression against Syria, which constitutes a flagrant violation of international law,” the foreign ministry said.

State news agency SANA also reported the attack, but said it was “doomed to fail”.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was set to begin its investigation inside the Eastern Ghouta town of Douma today, just hours after the strikes.

Syria’s foreign ministry said the strikes aimed to block their work.

“The timing of the aggression coincides with the arrival of the OPCW mission to Syria to investigate the alleged chemical attack in Douma, and mainly aims at hindering the mission’s work and preempting its results,” it said in comments carried by state news agency SANA.

The ministry said it was an “attempt to block the exposure of their lies and fabrications”.

It said the United States, Britain and France launched around 110 missiles on Syria, but air defences shot most of them down.

Three civilians were wounded in the Homs attacks, the ministry said, but it did not give a toll for Damascus or mention any combatant casualties.

Lebanese movement Hezbollah, an ally of the Syrian regime, sharply condemned the strikes, saying they would not achieve their objectives.

“America’s war against Syria, and against the region’s peoples and resistance movement, will not achieve its aims,” the group said in a statement published on its War Media Channel.

Several missiles hit a research centre in Barzeh, north of Damascus, “destroying a building that included scientific labs and a training centre,” SANA reported.

State media published images of a cloud of reddish smoke hanging over the capital and said that air defences were activated to block the attack.

But it said skies were clear over Aleppo in the north, Hasakeh in the northeast, and Latakia and Tartus along the western coast, where key Syrian and Russian military installations are located.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres , meanwhile,  hascalled for calm, delaying a planned trip to Saudi Arabia to deal with the aftermath of the military action.

“I urge all member states to show restraint in these dangerous circumstances and to avoid any acts that could escalate the situation and worsen the suffering of the Syrian people,” he said in a statement.

Iran also warned of the potential impact of the strikes on the volatile Middle East.

“The United States and its allies have no proof and, without even waiting for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to take a position, have carried out this military attack,” the foreign ministry said.

They “are responsible for the regional consequences of this adventurist action”.

© – AFP, 2018

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