Syria: USA, UK, France Launch Air Strikes

Published April 14th, 2018 - 05:51 GMT
The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter conducts a strike against a Syrian airfield from the Mediterranean Sea on Friday. | AFP
The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter conducts a strike against a Syrian airfield from the Mediterranean Sea on Friday. | AFP

The United States and its allies waged up to 120 air strikes on Syria on Friday in a 'one time shot' that the Pentagon said followed conclusive evidence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was responsible for a chemical weapons attack using at least chlorine gas.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Marine General Joseph Dunford said three main chemical weapons facilities were targeted by both missiles from the sea and fired from aircraft, which triggered Syrian air defenses. 

The Pentagon could not confirm how many missiles hit their targets.

Syrian state-run TV said three civilians have been wounded on the attack on a military base in Homs

It says the attack was aborted by derailing the incoming missile but adds nonetheless that three people were wounded.

It says another attack with 'a number of missiles' targeting a scientific research center destroyed a building and caused other material damage but no human losses. The network says the building in the research center included an educational center and labs.

Mattis and Dunford acknowledged the strike was designed to degrade Syria's chemical weapons capability without killing civilians or the many foreign fighters in Syria's multi-sided civil war, particularly those from Russia.

We specifically identified these targets to mitigate the risk of Russian forces being involved,' Dunford told reporters, adding the U.S. military advised Russia of airspace that would be used in the strike but did not 'pre-notify them.'

The Pentagon said one of the targets was a scientific research center located in the greater Damascus area, which it described as a Syrian center for the research, development, production and testing of chemical and biological weaponry.

The second target was a chemical weapons storage facility west of the city of Homs.

'We assess that this was the primary location of Syrian sarin and precursor production equipment,' Dunford said.

The third target, which was also near Homs, contained both a chemical weapons equipment storage facility and a command post.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdulrahman said all the targeted locations were evacuated three days ago after the Russians told the government they had intelligence that bases including the research centers would be hit. He said there were so far no reports of civilian or military casualties.

According to CNN, at least one US Navy warship based in the Red Sea took part in the strikes. US B-1 bombers were also used. 

Mattis acknowledged that the United States waged the attacks only with conclusive evidence that chlorine gas was used in the April 7 attack in Syria.

Allegations of Assad's chlorine use are frequent in Syria's conflict, raising questions about whether Washington had lowered the threshold for military action in Syria by now deciding to strike after a chlorine gas attack.

Last year, the United States only waged strikes on Syria after determining that more deadly sarin gas was used and some U.S. media had reported that Washington was confident Assad had also used sarin on April 7.

Mattis, however, suggested the evidence of sarin was so far inconclusive.

'We are very confident that chlorine was used. We are not ruling out sarin right now,' Mattis said.

Mattis said the U.S. has no reports of suffering any losses during the initial airstrikes on Syria Friday. 

Mattis said 'right now this is a one-time shot' but is not ruling out further attacks. President Donald Trump had said earlier that the campaign against the regime of Bashar Assad could be 'sustained.'  

Syrian state TV claims Syrian air defenses shot down 13 missiles. It said the missiles had been shot down in the Kiswah area south of Damascus, the capital. 

President Donald Trump said Friday evening in a national address that he ordered precision strikes in Syria in retaliation for Bashar al-Assad's 'evil and despicable' poison gas attack that killed up to 75 people last weekend.

Speaking from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, the commander-in-chief of the United States said the strikes pummeled targets associated with Assad's chemical weapons capabilities.

'This massacre was a significant escalation in a pattern of chemical weapons used by the very terrible regime. The evil and despicable attack left mothers and fathers, infants and children thrashing in pain and gasping for air.' Trump said of the Syrian dictator's horrific April 7 attack on innocent civilians. 'These are not the actions of a man. They are crimes of a monster, instead.'

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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